Why Men Should Think More Like Women

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself. “
~ Robert E. Lee

6 Seconds, an international corporation invested in building emotional intelligence (EQ) around the world, presented a webinar on gender and leadership.  The online session examined the differing emotional competencies between men and women in leadership positions.

High performers of either gender displayed a high level of EQ.  But the breakdown between men and women were inverse images!  EQ categories in which men scored high, women scored low; and visa versa.

The women:

  • More empathic;
  • More reflective about their emotions;
  • Consider the impact of their decision in the future.

The men:

  • Make quick decisions, whether right or wrong;
  • Were not very introspective about their emotions;
  • Were less empathic.

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When looking at the events that have transpired over the past year involving deadly interactions between law enforcement and citizens, a glaring light shines forth.  The majority of the police officers were male. Let that sink in for a second.

Now I am not saying that these male officers did anything “wrong”…as many of these incidents have been justified through internal and criminal investigations, grand jury processes, and US Department of Justice scrutiny. Those are all objective, legal, and policy issues. But let’s look elsewhere — the emotional responses that may have allowed events to spiral downward, ending with a tragic outcome. Not a popular perspective from which to examine police actions!

Even in 2016, law enforcement is a still a male-dominated profession. When I entered law enforcement in the early 1980s, most every officer was a male…and a white one at that!  They all looked like me. In my agency, the only person of color was the animal warden; the only females were office records clerks or telecommunicators.  This changed slowly over time, but the culture change was not without stress (mostly to those non-white male minorities).

I was a Field Training Officer (FTO) for 22 years of my career. During that time, I trained several female recruit police officers. Those experiences surely confirmed my suspicions that men and women are wired differently! Many times while working with female recruit partners, the females chose courses of action that I had not even considered. It is not about right or wrong; it is just different!

This should not come as a surprise.  I was trained by male officers and worked with male officers. Until then, I had just not been exposed to females in law enforcement. When the female trainee’s decision seemed reasonable, I would let her put it in play. I had my “male approved” back-up plan ready if things broke bad.  By allowing female recruits to make their own decisions, I learned another way to do the job from them. At the same time, it provided the female trainees with opportunities to develop confidence in their decision-making skills.

The female trainees’ interactions with the public were different, including those suspected of committing crimes. There was a respectfulness that was missing from some of their male counterparts.  The female officers demonstrated an empathic understanding toward others.  Early on, and based on my male thought process, I may have thought they were not being aggressive or assertive enough. But we got the job done, usually without a lot of yelling, name calling, or cursing – staple police tactics at the time (and sadly still today in some places!).

During an amygdala hijacking, the decision making
part of the brain goes out to lunch.  You become irrational.

Being in control of your emotions (and more importantly being self-aware of your emotions) is becoming increasingly important. For male officers, this self-awareness includes knowing what pushes your “amygdala button.”  Once you can identify those emotional triggers, you are on your way to controlling how you respond emotionally. During an “amygdala hijacking,” the decision-making part of the brain goes out to lunch. In short, you become irrational.

This self-awareness lens of emotional intelligence allows you to feel and know what pushes your buttons. When you can identify either the cause or your emotional response to it, you can reduce the impact emotion has on your decision-making process. Being self-aware provides an opportunity to make conscious, rational decisions. A situation that requires a decision to escalate or deescalate an encounter can only occur when the thinking part of the brain is active.  Without that ability, your response is emotional, primitive, and relies on the subconscious.

So gentlemen: I’m not talking about shaving your legs or wearing a skirt… but it’s time to take a little side trip to Venus.  Be courageous and unleash the hidden women inside of you. Develop your ability to be self-aware of your emotions, to gain control of them, be more empathic in dealing with others, and consider how your decision may impact yourself and others in the future. It may save your career and possibly your life!

Thom can be reached on Twitter @DworakT.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.