Friday, January 02, 2009

...When Venus and Mars meet on Earth!

As a Human Resource Professional, I handle a number of employees who join the Company from different parts of the country and once they reach the base location, take their time adjusting to the new place. Here, I make it a point to interact with them within a few days of their coming on board. I ask them how they are adjusting to the new city and I have observed men and women having a similar pattern to their answers. If the new recruit is a woman, she will typically talk about how difficult it is to set up her new house, manage kid(s), commute to work, long work hours etc. If the new recruit is a guy, he will talk about how well he has adjusted, how he managed to clinch a deal with his landlord for a lower rent etc. On the face of it, I used to think men are more positive, looking at the brighter side of things whereas women are natural cribbers. Till I spoke to this married couple who had got transferred to the City. When I spoke to the wife separately, she spoke on similar lines about harassing auto fares, about finding the right house, setting it up, kids' school etc while on a one-on-one conversation with her husband, he raved about how he managed to pay low auto fares everyday, the long weekends where he had so much time with kids etc. Here were two people leading the same life, commuting in the same auto, facing the same issues but one spoke about hardships and the other talked about how much things were in his control.

**Poof** For guys, talk is more often a competition where there is one up-manship and they are conditioned such that any display of lack of control is weakness. (Boys don't cry... Mard ko dard nahin hota...) On other hand, we women approach situations, seeking support and consensus. We are very comfortable seeking help and sympathy for our hardships. For us, conversations are a way to reach out, vent out feelings and seek collective solutions.

There was this incident where this couple were out on a drive and the girl-friend asked her guy, "Do you want to eat pizza?". The guy, being his straight-forward self truthfully declined the offer and kept driving. Suddenly, there was tension in the air and complete silence. The girl, who had, in her heart of hearts, actually wanted to stop, became annoyed because she felt her preference had not been considered. The guy, on the other hand, was confused about her anger and then frustrated. "Wouldn't it be easier to just say what you want to do rather than talk in circles?"

**Poof** Girls ask questions, for a dialogue and process of communication, to communicate her choice and negotiate. And guys, being the way they are, just express their preference, which may / may not be a full and final decision but our instincts immediately pick it up as such and we get bugged, accusing him of selfishness and insensitivity. What probably is a better way to handle this is for both to remember this and try not to interpret the same interchange in such conflicting ways.

We both have tonnes of friends who keep dropping in at odd hours and I personally am always for good company. And we have it unsaid between us that before inviting people over, we check with each other, to know convenience and avoid clashes with other commitments. Once I was having this conversation with my friend (guy) who, very candidly, told me that every time he wanted to have people over to his house, he found it a big ego issue to check with his wife whereas she never had issues asking him while inviting her guests over and that how did it work so well between us?

**Poof** For guys, it is a hit on their ego since they feel a curb on their freedom and it seemingly is seeking permission. Whereas for girls, to tell someone that they need to check with their partners makes them feel more special and makes their lives intertwined with each other.

Another very common form of dialogue that happens between us goes something like this :

Me : It is just too hot today!

Him : Arre, just stand in the shade na...

Me : [A teeny-tiny bit of exasperation is forming in my mind] There is no sign of my bus coming. It is getting really late.

Him : Just take an auto then.

Me : [Exasperation levels are rising] I know I can take an auto but it is going to be very expensive.

Him : So then wait for your bus for some more time. Give yourself a deadline after which either take a connecting bus or an auto or check for the nearest train station...

Me : [Touching danger levels] Ok bye! Hmmmmppp!

**Poof** I completely lose my cool when a guy starts giving me obvious solutions which, with my minimal intelligence, I can figure out. All I want at that time, is some support, some sympathy for my sorry state and not A/C chilled solutions! But, looking from his perspective, a guy would want to help and solve the problem and once solved, he would not to discuss it since he thinks there is nothing to solve; hence nothing to discuss.

I had the great fortune of having my home being taken over by IIT guys for the last 24 hours - the occasion being a mini-reunion of sorts. Stress on IITians since they are known to be one group of guys who are perennially deprived of female attention for lack of their presence during their graduation hostel days and fortunate since I couldn't have asked for a better start to my New Year - that they can be such good fun to have around - full of laughter, jokes, leg-pulling and good humour. But here was one gathering where I perceived what would happen when these Martians would ultimately meet the Venusians (based on a variety of conversations, none of which I can reproduce here :) ) and the last 24hours became the inspiration for this post!


  1. so true :) Before I had a better understanding about these things, I used to almost always have frustrating conversation experiences with my male friends. Hope many people get to read this... it can help us avoid needless misunderstandings and frustrations.

  2. Gurl, you are very near to writing a 'Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus' sorts of book yourself !! And trust me it will be huge success !!

  3. I recently saw Helen Fisher(anthropologist) speech @ TED (available in youtube or"men and women are not the similar, never will be and never might be similar. why would anyone think/seek similarities is beyond understanding.!"