Recently, based on a recommendation at a conference, I read The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn. I’m skeptical enough (about most things in life) to question books that claim to have the secret sauce to much of anything, but I thought I’d give it a try. I was surprised to find I enjoyed it.
Of particular interest to me was a section on men’s ability to compartmentalize. According to Shaunti’s research, men have a very well-developed ability to segregate their thinking between work and home. Or to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others.
Having experienced the frustration of trying to talk to my husband when he’s deeply focused on something, I’ll have to admit that the description resonated.
Women, on the other hand, tend not to compartmentalize. While this is a generalization, Shaunti references brain research that indicates there are physical reasons – additional connections women have between portions of the brain – that make it more difficult for us to compartmentalize. Hmmm.
Discussing the book with some women colleagues of mine, they generally agreed that we have a tendency to focus on everything going on around us all the time.
For most of us, there is no work self and home self. We can focus on projects or tasks, but we always have other things going on, if only in the backs of our minds.
If we are mothers, there are concerns and worries, doctor’s appointments and sporting events, all hovering in the background at all times. Our work worries, the future of our careers, our progress on an in-flight project or interpersonal interactions with a co-worker regularly battle for space with family and friend concerns.
Thousands of minor or major worries, dreams, thoughts and tasks all bouncing around, competing for attention.
While this kind of connected thinking can be valuable – such as bringing additional insights to problem solving – it can also get pretty harrowing when work, home or both are in flux. Does anyone else wish for the ability to stick something in a box and have it stay there? Or to take certain thoughts out only when it’s convenient?
Whether we are men or women, having the natural abilities of the other gender would occasionally come in handy. If that’s not possible, recognizing the natural tendencies of others might be beneficial. Such as understanding the flash of annoyance you see isn’t really about you, but because he was pulled out of “the zone”. Or realizing that no, she really can’t just let it go.
I’m still skeptical that a book knows everything about anything and I don’t claim this one does. However, I did find the notion of compartmentalizing vs connected thinking to be very interesting and worth additional consideration.
What do you think? Are you a women who finds it easy to compartmentalize or a man that finds it challenging? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments and keep the conversation going.