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What Do We Know About The “Masculine Brain”? *

Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll tell you masculine brain is a misnomer that was used for years, describing a certain type of behavior and way of thinking. Now we use words such as black and white thinking, right brain thinking and rigid thinking.

Exploring behaviors is more helpful than assigning labels that often are presumptive, limiting and misleading.

Nonetheless, research shows that the following four behaviors more often and not always occur in persons identified as male and less frequently in persons identified as female.

However, maybe a more helpful way of looking at these behaviors is when we see them in our children or anyone else, including our partners, regardless of gender, is to think of them as “a certain type of brain” behavior.

Considering behavior in this way may help us be more compassionate and less judgmental, more accepting than hurtful, and more responsive than reacting.

4 THINGS WE KNOW about a certain type of brain:

1. It is single focused. This means it is always focused on something, consequently we are always interrupting it. Although we now know multi-tasking is the ability to quickly switch from one thing to another—instead of focusing on more than one thing simultaneously—this type of brain has difficulty doing that.

2. It needs transition time. It may need to finish doing what it’s focused on. If interrupted, it responds better if the interruption is polite or asking when a good time would be to talk.

3. It trusts facts and not opinions. If it does trust opinions, the trust is based on facts and not feelings; consequently, opinions are often written in stone.

4. Life is all about winning. It discounts process and focuses on earning points, end results, and only spends time on things that are winnable and make a difference. This impossibly high standard makes failure and mistakes almost intolerable.

The question this begs asking is: Does the person I’m thinking about have this certain type of brain or aspects of it, and what do I need to do so we can communicate, connect, and collaborate easier?

In the following recommendations, I will use masculine pronouns, recognizing that this type of brain is not necessarily gender based.

  • Anything you need from him; you need to tell him EXACTLY what it will provide you.

  • Recognize that he relates to his needs (and in ways to your needs) as ones that need to be fulfilled immediately (ex: eating and food).

  • Remember he can only do one thing at a time.

  • Ask for talk time instead of expecting him to immediately take a break to speak with you.

  • If you must talk to him during transition time or when he is embroiled in something, make sure or help him switch his total attention.

  • If he can’t give you his full attention, wait until you can have his full attention or give him a set amount of transition time.

  • Tell him there’s nothing wrong.

  • Express appreciation for him stopping what he is doing even before talking.

  • Ask what he thinks vs. feels.

  • Say what you need and what it provides – be totally specific.

  • Remember he is literal.

  • Ask him if there is anything you need to do for him to give you what you’re asking for.

  • When he provides what you need, show your appreciation – express what it does for you specifically.

  • REMEMBER: he wants to please you and make you happy.

  • Set him up so he can win and make you happy.

  • When you want something ask him for his HELP and/or tell him what you NEED.

  • Thank him for HELPING you and giving you what you NEED.


Please don’t try to do these all at once. Pick two or three at a time and try them out. Do what suits you.

I’d like to close with a story:

I was visiting my brother, whom I hadn’t seen in several months. When I arrived, he was on his computer and told me he’d be with me in a few minutes. I expected him to get up and give me a hug then get back to what he was doing. That’s what I would have done and was ready to feel hurt, then I remembered: his brain doesn’t think the same way mine does. It responds differently to interruptions.

I went downstairs and waited, talking with and enjoying my other family members. He could have come down within seconds, I don’t remember. I do remember he gave me a huge hug and we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out.

*Social Thinking®, Allison Armstrong, Non-violent Communication, and personal experience has informed this piece.

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