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nature nurture    I’ve posted several blogs on the roots, in nature and nurture, of masculine and feminine differences. In nature, I’ve covered brain structure, hormones, eyesight, tears and smiling, In nurture, I’ve talked about how we hold and speak to babies, what behaviors we reward, children’s books and how we play.  The point is not to debate whether nature or nurture shapes us most. Nature and nurture collaborate.

I am neither a neuroscientist nor a psychologist. But I am fascinated with brain science. I have learned that repeated behaviors lay down neuropaths, which get deeper and deeper, making those behaviors into habits or default behaviors. Behavioral norms are communicated to children both directly and indirectly. Examples of direct influences on children are parents telling little boys, “Big boys don’t cry” or little girls, “Be nice and wait your turn.” These influences from nurture may reinforce physiological differences in crying mechanisms or a natural feminine tendency to protect relationships that arises from the structure of the “female brain.”  Indirect influences from our culture include role models and nonverbal signals of approval and disapproval.

Whether Max and Fran are influenced by spoken or signaled expectations, when each is encouraged and rewarded to behave a certain way, he or she is more likely to do so. And continuing to behave that ways deepens those neuropaths and leads to more of the same behavior. Thus, nature and nurture collaborate to create differences in masculine and feminine approaches to life and work.

The point is not to suggest that men and women are “hard wired” or totally predictable and unable to learn new behaviors and change. Influences in nature and nurture set up a preference or a default “set point” on the masculine-feminine continuum. That set point may be altered by many factors, including emotional intelligence and the related ability to understand and manage our reactions and choose the behavior that works best in any given situation.

To see how masculine-feminine differences show up at work, we need a common understanding of what we mean by “masculine” and “feminine.” The point of exploring roots of differences in masculine and feminine ways of thinking and behaving is that these roots help us understand those differences. Awareness that masculine and feminine differences have deep roots can reduce resistance to and judgment of these differences.

Does understanding why Max and Fran think and behave differently help you accept and appreciate both approaches to work?