by Juli Burney – April 28, 2008
Growing up in the rural Midwest has given me several blessings. I have a strong sense of family, since they were the core of my life until I went to “town” school. I understand responsibility since I walked to the small one room country school two miles each day, whatever weather, uphill…both ways. I remember being embarrassed at one point or another by a parent’s behavior and thinking, “Wow, I am never going to act like that.” And I remember being surprised the first time I actually heard my Mother’s voice and words come out of my mouth as an adult.
That’s because they’re in there…in my brain. My parents, my five brothers, my matronly grandmother and my statesman grandfather have all made their imprint on who I am and the communication styles that I use today. Even my uncle who would tell us jokes every day, many times the same one he told us the day before, has had an influence on my communication style.
We learn our original communication patterns in our early developmental years and even though we refine them and adapt them as we educate ourselves, the original patterns remain in place. Our chemical make up also has an influence on our brain processing and communication. As much as we would like to think that we are intellectually in control of all that we do, there are several factors that have an impact on that communication.
I remember being quite confused when I first went to the larger class in town, as to how the girls had such difficulty communicating with the boys. They found them mysterious and (ugh) desirable. They giggled. I on the other hand, having spent my early years with a male majority, didn’t see the mystery. I became the messenger between the two groups. I recognized then that my communication style was different. That became the bigger mystery to me.
Thus I have spent my life studying that mystery. I have learned through formal education, mentors and life that men and women do have different communication styles. Not only our role models influence these styles, our biological calling influences them. These influences show some definite commonalities between the gendered groups, which can help us to better understand communication challenges between the two. Eminent psychologists and scientists (not just regular ones) have given us the guidelines to understand our behavior better.
Still, we are all unique individuals, which explains me. Studies show that we each have our own unique combination of gender characteristics. In fact, we are often attracted to a person with the opposite characteristics to be our partners for life. We are attracted to them because their strengths are our weaknesses. They are attracted to us because our strengths are their weaknesses. We are attracted to them…for about a year. Then we want to change them. It is understanding and humor that helps us to thrive in these relationships, otherwise it will continue to be an uphill challenge…both ways.