Working Your Relationships at Work

Back in 1992 Dr. Gray provided an easy way to understand how men and women communicated differently. Back then if we wanted better relationships, we were encouraged to learn the other’s dialect so we could speak the same language. Now, in 2011, we understand the research behind why we communicate differently. The message is now more urgent than ever. Not only are women not climbing the corporate ladder, but our actions of forcing women to assimilate into a man’s communication pattern cause irreversible damage to women’s bodies, and the families we are currently growing. It is imperative for a cultural shift to occur in the corporate world from the unexamined assumption and unrealistic expectation men and women should be treated the same. Dr. John Gray’s latest books explain the reasoning and research behind why men and women communicate differently based on our physiology, specifically the ways our bodies respond differently to stress, and solutions to keep our stress levels low.

Did you know when women are at work they produce testosterone just like men? Testosterone does not reduce women’s stress levels; women need oxytocin to do this. Men reduce their stress by producing testosterone. However, to reduce stress it takes longer for men to produce more testosterone in greater quantities than the oxytocin hormone women need to reduce stress. Men don’t have enough time to replenish their testosterone, and excess testosterone in women’s bodies and their penchant to care for everyone else before themselves first prevents women from producing the requisite oxytocin to banish low grade stress/cortisol in the body.

The easiest way for men to increase testosterone is relax their muscles by sitting down. Also, when men disengage and either “do nothing” or shift gears to another task they are producing testosterone. Asking a man to do something during this time when the stress-producing hormone, cortisol, is pumping through his veins increases his stress hormone cortisol, thus stopping testosterone production. After a stressful situation at work men must be left alone, rather than talk it out. Typically, men will resurface and reappear when they have done nothing or temporarily shifted gears (remember this replenishes their stress-reducing hormone testosterone). It is then they are able to talk and put forth a solution to the problem.

For women, when under stress, they reduce stress by talking it out, connecting, and releasing their emotions. This is counter-intuitive if they are dealing with a male co-worker. Likewise, if women are allowed to verbally work through the stressor sifting all the factors, oxytocin kicks in, cortisol exits her body, and she keeps going. This often makes men uncomfortable, because men tend to solve problems if a dilemma is aired. Women under stress do not need or want solutions. Women’s limbic system activates under stress making them more emotional. At work this is seen as unprofessional, but this is the way women are wired. And, their unique serotonin brain patterns under stress allows them at the same time to be more capable of problem-solving by multi-tasking and linking all facets of the problem to everyone involved in the decision-making process.

Previously, women lived in organic and connected communities engaged in rearing both their own and their neighbor’s children. The constant state of nurturing, and connecting through talking, incorporating one another in decision making, and helping one another out with similar tasks gave a constant flood of oxytocin. Not so today.

Today’s world is now so fast-paced, and full of daily low-grade stressors, both men and women have excess cortisol (fight or flight hormone) constantly in their bodies. When there is a constant flood of cortisol the body is unable to manufacture enough of the stress reducing hormones. Both disease and infertility are on the rise due to both genders at the end of the day being unable to re-generate enough stress reducing hormones to live a long, well-balanced life. All of these issues go back to one thing only, and that is how the current expectations of male-oriented patterns impact the quality of relationships both at work and at home. It should not be a question of women assimilating into a “man’s” world. It should be a question of how we can alter the culture in the corporate arena to best embrace the unique styles of gender communications to have the most productive and efficient company.

If men and women paid attention to the unique way they reduce their own stress, and respected the opposite sexes preferred method to reduce stress many problems would be solved.

Unfortunately, while women are constantly producing testosterone while at work, when they get ready to come home after a hard day they are unable to produce their stress reducing hormone, oxytocin, because of the excess testosterone and high levels of cortisol. When women are rushed, or when expectations are attached for her to nurture or give (instead of doing so freely) oxytocin is inhibited. When women get home, their stress levels continue to rise limiting oxytocin production. So while men are able to begin rejuvenating their stress reducing hormone (testosterone) when they stop work for the day, women are unable based on their physiology to increase their stress-reducing hormone (oxytocin). This is a problem we must fix. We need to let men rest, and let women nurture and be nurtured while at work and at home.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations

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