Sept 11, 2023 – Men’s Relationship Skills
Gene C. Colman Introduction: Let’s continue with our examination of Prof. Neilsen’s work. We continue to present excerpts from Prof. Linda Nielsen’s latest book, “Myths and Lies About Dads”. As we progress through her book, we gain further insights. Wow – of course I knew that, we tend to say as we nod in approval to her findings. We come to realize that it’s those myths, stereotypes and outright lies about dads that tend to form powerful blockages against legislating a rebuttable presumption of Equal Shared Parenting. And while Prof. Nielsen not only shatters those myths, she expertly amasses a wealth of solid social science data that supports the key importance of both parents in their children’s lives. Throughout, the bolding and italics are mine.
Here is today’s highlighted myth – Dense and dumb: Men lack relational skills, even with their kids
From page 74:
How do you feel about this joke: “Why don’t men show their true feelings? Because they don’t have any.” And what messages do these book titles convey: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, 87 You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation.88 Now go back and substitute the name of any minority group in place of the word men. Are you laughing—or cringing?
The male-bashing myth underlying these kinds of books and jokes are pretty cringe-worthy: Men are inferior to women when it comes to communicating, empathizing, managing relationships, and being in touch with feelings—theirs or anyone else’s. In the school of human communication and relationships, men are in kindergarten. Women are in graduate school. Presumably this “dense and dumb” app has been installed in boys as well as in men.
These unfounded notions carry forward, of course, into insulting assumptions about men’s relationships with their own children. Dads can’t communicate, emotionally connect, or empathize with their kids like moms can. Dads don’t pick up on their children’s feelings and don’t know how to respond sensitively. They feel uncomfortable if their children turn to them to share their feelings or to talk about anything personal or emotional. If the kids want to talk about cars, sports, money, grades, movies, politics, or other relatively impersonal topics, then dad will do just fine. But if children have problems with a friend, have questions about dating, or just feel down, then dad is not their go-to guy. When it comes to empathy, communication and compassion departments, most dads are dunderheads.
According to more than 50 years of research on these topics, females are not more empathetic, compassionate, cooperative or concerned about other people’s feelings than males. 92, 93, 94,95, 97 It is true that males are more physically aggressive than females. But females are more aggressive than males when it comes to another form of aggression—relational aggression, which is more emotionally devastating than a physical fight. 81 In fact, relational aggression is one of the factors that contribute to teenage girls’ depression and suicide. This kind of female aggression includes: in person verbal bullying, insults and attacks, cyber bulling on social media, social ostracism, cruel text messages, hateful gossip, circulating embarrassing pictures, and “ghosting”—refusing to respond to any messages or calls, treating the person as if she did not exist and was not even worthy of a written response. As for the insulting belief that males are less concerned than females about how other people feel, how about this: In 109 research studies, young teenage girls did more cyber bullying than boys. It was only in the late teenage years that boys caught up with girls in cyber bullying. 98
As for men being inferior to women in communicating, maybe no book has done as much damage as John Grey’s best seller, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. 99 First published in 1992 and revised in 2012, accompanied by workbooks and hundreds of workshops for couples, the book’s message is clear: Men and women don’t communicate well with one another. Why? Because men are in communication kindergarten. No contest. Game over. Grey’s book has sold more than 15 million copies, spent nearly two years on bestseller lists in the early 1990s, and is still selling well and highly ranked on amazon.
What does the research say about this “Mars and Venus” research? Simply this: Nonsense. There are no significant gender differences in communication styles between men and women .93 100 101 Mocking Grey’s claims, Janet Hyde, a social scientist who has studied this topic for decades, sums it up like this: “Men are from South Dakota. Women are from North Dakota.” 94 Except for the physical aggression, researchers have not found significance differences between men and women on any behavior, including empathy and communication styles.101 102
Let’s not get off track here. The research is not saying there are no differences at all in how men and women communicate. For example, males are less likely than female to express their feelings by crying in front of another person. Why? Because our society drums it into little boys’ heads from the time they are toddlers that “boys don’t cry.” And are there men who are terrible at communicating or have very little compassion or empathy for others, including their own children. You bet. And the same is true for some women. But that doesn’t change the fact that, according to decades of research, males and females are far more alike than different in these regards.
Stay tuned to upcoming ESP Thoughts of the Day for more insightful excerpts from Prof. Nielsen’s book.
Gene C. Colman comments further
Prof. Nielsen in her own striking style, lays bare the nonsense of society’s approach of making ill founded assumptions about men’s ability to communicate and empathize. Buy the book and inspect her copious footnotes for yourself. As a family law litigator of over 44 years, I can say that understanding the lies etc that Nielsen exposes leads to an understanding as to why Gene C. Colman (that’s me!) as a family law litigator acting for fathers has to to bring forth way more quality evidence than does a mom. Those lies, myths and stereotypes like the ones that Nielsen explodes here – those canards tend to tie the father’s family law lawyer’s hands firmly and stiffly behind his back. After all these years of fighting for kids to have a close relationship with their dads, my hands and my arm muscles are heavily aching. It’s high time to discard the non sensical lies etc and do what is so obviously right for the kids of Canada. If you are a legislator reading this and want to do something about these problems, just give me a call: 1-416-635-9264, Ext. #101.