Men and women: Dancing the 'gender dance'
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Keith Merron
years, as part of Barbara
Annis and Associates, I have been leading workshops designed to help men and women become more
discuss the natural differences between the genders and how to use these
differences to collective advantage. In these workshops, a dance emerges — a
hidden play of fear, ego and intimacy.
beginning, the men show up a bit scared, though they do not know it. They mask their
fear with humor, bravado, distance and activity. They don’t connect, and if
they do, it’s on the surface.
want to connect to the men, but their efforts initially fall short. They are
disappointed, so they focus on the other women.
don’t know their fear and certainly don’t go inward to find out much about it. Fear
is ever-present to the women, and ever-hidden to the men. The women don’t speak
about it, because they have navigated the waters of the male ego for so long
that it’s just there. They have long learned what triggers the male ego and
have found strategies to avoid it.
The men fear
intimacy and being vulnerable. They fear being incompetent or losing control. Being
strong and capable are important parts of the male psyche and biology. I know
this because I’m a man and have those very same fears.
are, for the most part, curious but seeking to play it safe. They know there
are golden opportunities in the exploration of their inner selves, but won’t go
there until they know they will be heard, understood and respected.
like men, fear speaking their full truth because they don’t know if it will be
accepted. They fear the same intimacy that men fear, but for different reasons.
intimacy because they would be vulnerable and seen as weak. Women fear intimacy
because it may not be understood — especially by men who see it as a weakness, and
not the strength it is. Women are unsure if it is "okay to be me" in
a business world that appears to want them to act "like a man.”
beginning, there is some humor around the differences between men and women.
Some of the laughter is self-deprecating. Most of it comes from men
uncomfortable about the topic, but some women laugh, too. Others see the humor
for what it is — a mask to hide discomfort.
that emerges between the men and the women in our workshops is something to
behold. Each reaches out to the other with a desire to understand each other’s
differences. Most recognize that by understanding these differences they can
grow and develop.
little, the men let their guard down, admit their vulnerability and discover
they are not alone. And little by little, the women let their guard down and
meet the kind and genuine men beneath the surface. Over time, they share their
pain and find it met with understanding instead of judgment.
quickens as discoveries unfold. Each discovery brings a new appreciation for
the other gender, and a new acceptance of self. As this occurs, the initial
titters and small talk are replaced with straight talk and acceptance. And
finally we arrive, aware of our differences, welcoming those differences and,
every now and then, even relishing in them.
In our gender intelligence workshops, I’ve learned that men and women all want to be
heard, honored and valued for their unique gifts. Deep down, we all want to go
beneath the surface of our fears and find our true inner
Keith Merron is a senior associate at Barbara
Annis & Associates, part
of a team challenging the prevailing paradigms of business. An author of a
number of books, along with Barbara Annis, on leadership and organization life, he is co-authoring a
seminal book on gender relations in the workplace called The Gender Intelligent Organization. He also writes a column about
conscious leadership for Real Leaders.
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