Busy day today -- meetings and more meetings. Have a great weekend. In the meantime, it’s Friday and it’s all about…
Are Women more Emotionally Intelligent than Men?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions. It is often assumed that women are more emotionally intelligent than men. This fallacy (myth) is one of my pet peeves because it serves neither men nor women.
I once developed a leadership development workshop and one of the fist things I addressed were leadership stereotypes. You see, in our society gender roles have a lot to do with leadership. For example, when I asked workshop participants what media images they most saw portrayed as leaders, both men and women participants came up with images and words related to masculine gender roles. Words such as strong, decisive, courageous, proactive, take-charge attitude, etc., were often thrown out as describing images as portrayed in the media as leaders. I call this the Rambo or John Wayne School of Leadership.
Words such as nurturing, empathy, sensitivity, and intuition -- words often associated with women's roles -- were hardly ever used, though these qualities are extremely important leadership characteristics.
However, that should come as no surprise since for the most part women in our society aren’t seen as leadership role models. The stereotype is that women are too weak or too “emotional” while men are strong, “rational.” This stereotype does a lot of harm to both genders. Relationship skills, or more specifically what is now called emotional intelligence (EQ), are often considered feminine in our society. Women are deemed as having a more robust emotional life than men, which is… bullshit!
Unfortunately, both men and women buy into this stereotype. You hear women complaining all the time that men are emotional cripples while men complain equally about women and their intense desire to “talk.” The problem is that we live in an emotionally illiterate society. Talking about emotions doesn't equal emotional intelligence just as not talking about them is evidence of a lack of emotional intelligence. The fact is that when this issue of emotional intelligence is looked at more carefully, what appears is a far more complicated picture. For example, when children are asked to take someone else’s point of view -- to imagine what another person is thinking or feeling -- boys are just as skilled as girls. Even in studies that show women better at reading facial expressions and body posture, tone of voice, etc., show very little difference between the sexes.
One researcher in the late 1970s examined the question of women’s intuition from an innovative perspective. The researcher asked thirty-six pairs to work on a task together, with one person assigned to teach something to the other. Both were asked how they were feeling and how they thought the other was feeling. It turned out (gasp!) that women weren’t more sensitive to their partner’s emotional state then men were -- but those playing the role of student were more tuned in how the “teacher” was feeling than the other way around.
The reason this makes sense, the researcher later noted, is because people in subordinate roles need to pay careful attention to their leader's state of mind. Their livelihoods and careers depend on it. In addition, because in real life our society is structured in a way that makes access to power easier for men, men are more likely to hold dominant positions while women have to defer to them. It's not surprising then that, “women have become the more sensitive sex -- Women's intuition' would be more accurately described as "subordinate intuition.”
Another aspect of emotional intelligence is how we respond to feelings. This is called empathy and it seems that the assumption among the Oprah Winfrey-watching circuit is that women are more empathic than men, more able to feel other people's pain and joy.
Here, some findings depend on who is doing the research. Interestingly enough, experiments performed by women researchers are more likely to find female subjects more empathic than experiments conducted by men. What seems to matter most, however, is how empathy is measured. One review of over 100 studies reported that there is “a huge sex difference in self report of empathy (emphasis added) as measured with questionnaires [but] little evidence of a sex difference in physiological response (emphasis added) to another's emotional distress.”
In other words, women are more likely than men to describe themselves as empathic, but when it came to actual measurement, there was no difference. This may be a reflection of how people see themselves rather than how they are actually responding. When researchers judge empathy by watching faces and measuring heart rate, men and women usually score about the same. It's wrong then, to attempt to make a case that sex differences in emotional intelligence are clear-cut -- let alone innate -- just as it's erroneous to argue that that intuition and sensitivity has more to do with gender than with power.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…