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Different Brains, Different Approaches

Gender does matter when it comes to communication. Here are four pointers to help you navigate the gender maze effectively.

By Maggie Leyes

Women’s and men’s brains work differently—you probably don’t need anyone to explain that concept to you. What you may need is guidance on how best to “activate” the male or female brain to be receptive to what you have to say (clients, prospects and coworkers!). Advisors who attended the Women in Insurance and Financial Services luncheon at the NAIFA Convention and Career Conference had an opportunity to hear gender expert Kathy Stevens speak on this topic. Stevens, coauthor of the book The Minds of Boys, says that males and females are hardwired differently. This is not about better or worse; it’s about knowing the differences and using the techniques that best reach the other gender. Here are some of the pointers Stevens gave to help advisors navigate the gender maze:

1. Women are language driven; men are less so. On average, women use 20,000 words a day to express themselves; men use 7,000. So, if you are a woman, that means when men do not respond with words—or with as many words as you would like—keep in mind that they may be “all worded out,” or feel they have expressed themselves appropriately with the few words they have used. And Stevens advises that if you are a man, you have to remember that women use language as a “primary resource” of interaction. To get women to respond to you better, you might consider using a free resource: more words.

2. Men think; women feel. (Keep in mind these are generalizations!) Men who cross your threshold are often searching for answers, so their minds go into problem solving mode, says Stevens. Women, on the other hand, are often looking for someone to listen to them. It may be your job to figure out if they want the problem solved or if they just want someone to listen to what they feel they need to express.

3. Women’s brains mature faster than men’s. Stevens said that women are usually in their 20s when their brains have reached maturity, men are often in their 30s. That means if you have a young male coworker, prospect or client, he may need mentoring and guidance for a bit longer than his female counterpart.

4. Men’s minds reach “rest mode” faster and more easily than women’s. It’s the age-old gender exchange, says Stevens. The woman asks the man, “What are you thinking about?” The man replies, “Nothing.” While women may think this reply is evasive, Stevens points out that most likely it is truthful. Men, she says, have the capacity to easily go into a rest state—to power-down their brains. Women, however, have much more difficulty disengaging from the flow of conversation, work or the issues they are turning over in their minds. If you would like to avoid the mental shutdown with male clients, play music. Stevens says that music stimulates both sides of the brain, making it much harder for a man to tune out.

For more information, visit Stevens’ website at



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