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Another Gender Generalization

Another Gender Generalization

    Men are story tellers. Women are schedulers.

    That’s the sort of overgeneralization that drives people mad. I suppose that’s what attracts me to writing it.

    First, let’s all agree that there are plenty of exceptions to this or any other generalization. Perhaps you are one of the exceptions. Obviously there are plenty of great female authors and plenty of great male project managers. But that won’t stop me from generalizing.

    When I find myself in a conversation with a man, he often tells a funny story about something that happened to himself or someone else. Or he asks me a question that elicits a story from me, however brief. Or maybe one of us will tell a joke, which is a form of a story. Maybe one of us will mention a favorite movie we’ve seen recently, which is a reference to a story. And when men ask questions in conversation, it is generally to better understand the other person’s story.

    Women, on the other hand, sometimes appear to be telling stories, but they are actually recounting past events in the approximate order in which they happened. Men’s stories usually have identifiable beginnings, middles, and often surprising ends. When women describe past events, men are often left wondering why the beginning of the story started a full day before the parts that seem relevant. Women are sharing feelings, and for that you don’t need a neat story format. What matters is the sum of the experiences.

    I’m not implying that one approach is better than the other. Obviously a neatly organized story is the best way to convey a joke, whereas a description of recent events, in approximate order of occurrence, is a perfectly good way to share an emotion. And sharing emotions is probably more important than jokes. But I wonder if this gender difference is also related to how men and women store information as memories.

    For example, I can remember forever any situation that fits into a typical story form. But a woman can remember the dress she was wearing three birthdays ago, presumably because it made her feel a certain way.

    Do you organize memories as stories or as emotions?

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