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They Are Not a Version of Me

Early on in my research, I had an insight into men that rocked my world. I kept watching and listening to the men I consulted and when their behavior surprised me, I'd try to figure out their motivation. When I thought I understood it, I'd check with them. It didn't take long for me to come up dead wrong.
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Early on in my research, I had an insight into men that rocked my world. I kept watching and listening to the men I consulted and when their behavior surprised me, I'd try to figure out their motivation. When I thought I understood it, I'd check with them. It didn't take long for me to come up dead wrong.

My client was talking to me about something he was supposed to do with his mother over the weekend. He didn't want to do it. So I coached him in ways that he could tell his mother that he was not going to do it, without hurting her feelings. I thought he was all set.

When I talked to him the next Monday, I found out he'd done what his mother had asked. So I was trying to figure out why he'd done it. And I thought, He must have done it so his mom wouldn't be mad at him. Then I asked him if that was true. His response shocked me. He said, "I would never do anything for that reason--and no self-respecting man would!"

I thought it was a great reason! Women do things all the time so someone won't be mad at us. But instead of getting defensive, I asked, "Well, then why did you do it?" His answer was the beginning of a new life for me.

He started telling me why he'd done it, and he was using words that were not in my vocabulary. I mean, I'd heard those words in movies from time to time. I'd read them in books. But I'd never used them--and certainly not as a reason for why I had done something. He used the words Duty, Obligation, and Honor. He talked about his duty as a son and fulfilling an obligation with his mother, and how it was a matter of honor that he do it--even when he didn't want to.

Whoa! I asked him, "Are other men motivated by these things?" And he said, "Absolutely. And if they're not, you don't trust them."

This was my first eye-opener that the people I was studying were not a version of me.

I realized that as a woman, when I looked at a man, I didn't see a man. I saw a hairy woman. I interacted with him like he was a hairy, more muscular, uncouth woman. I expected him to know what every woman would know and do what every woman would do. I expected him to be motivated by the things I was motivated by. I expected him to use words the way that I use words.

Ninety-nine percent of the confusion and frustration between men and women is because we assume we're versions of each other.

It goes both ways, although men are a little bit more forgiving. They allow for the mystery of women. But honestly, when men look at women they see a softer, more lovely, multitasking, emotionally-indulgent man. And they interact with us as if we're men!

Here's a great example of this: Men are single-focused. They do one thing at a time. They commit themselves. "I'm going to get this done." This is why they get frustrated. They've committed themselves, and then they don't have everything they need to get it done. But because to us he's a hairy woman, when a man gets frustrated, we give him what we think is excellent advice. We say, "Just do something else! If you can't fix the faucet, fix the fence! It's broken too!" He looks at us as if we're silly.

Women have "diffused awareness." Diffuse means "to pour in every direction." This is why we hear our environments talking to us like crazy, saying, "Do me! Do me! Fix me! I'm ugly! Beautify me!" This causes us to attempt to do eight to ten things at a time. And we get overwhelmed. We don't get frustrated, we get overwhelmed. Now, when we get overwhelmed, what do the men in our lives tell us to do?

They tell us either to prioritize, or they say, "Just do one thing at a time." When they tell us that, we think, That's stupid. If I did just one thing at a time I'd be even more behind than I already am!

We give each other advice from our different realities, from our different ways of thinking, because both men and women think that we're versions of each other. They're hairy, misbehaving women, and we're emotionally-indulgent men! These misperceptions are the source of most of our difficulties.

Realizing that we're not versions of each other meant that I needed to pay much closer attention to men than I had originally planned.

You know how men surprise you (and not in a good way)? You know . . . when they do something that a woman would never do if she really cared about another person? For me, when a man did something that I would never do, I thought, What a jerk. Or I'd think, He's so selfish or He's so immature. Or my very favorite one: He's so unevolved! Back then we didn't have the term "emotionally unavailable." I probably would have used it.

When men do things that we would never do, we usually explain it by saying it's because they're one of these things. This brings me to my second question:

What if there is a good reason for that?

After I had come up with this question, when a man did something--one of those bad surprises--because I'm human, I still had the same reaction. I thought he was a jerk or selfish or unevolved. And then I'd think to myself: Wait a second, Alison. What if there's a good reason for that? What if he's not a jerk? What if he's not ridiculous? What if he's not stupid? What if he actually has a sound motivation for the thing he just did?

So I started picking away at the new mysteries, asking: "Excuse me, would you mind explaining to me why you chose that?" And then I'd put the imaginary duct tape over my mouth and just listen.

The men around me started to tell me their motivations. It was cute because they'd say, "Well, this is obvious, but I'll explain it anyway."

Have you ever heard men use that word? We ask, "Why don't we talk about this?" And a man responds, "Well, because there's no point in stating the obvious."

Men's behavior is completely obvious to other men. That's one of the reasons they use so few words!

I started asking, and they started explaining. And it was shocking. They explained this whole world where they're motivated by very different things than what motivates me--and most women, for that matter.

What is really great about their motivations, though, is that they are good things. They aren't bad things or bizarre things or perverse things. They are good things. They are wonderful things. I started to see how sensitive men are and that what they're sensitive to is good for us. It was neat. And it was really, really exciting.

In this same period of time, I met my current husband. I met him and married him and lived with him, so I had a lot of opportunities to ask my second question: What if there is a good reason for that? My son, meanwhile, was growing up, which provided more opportunities for my second question. It's handy with a teenager!

I'm still in contact with the men that I studied back then; and meanwhile, there have been thousands of other men and hundreds of Panels of Men (I'll explain this to you soon) that I've been paying attention to with these two questions:

1. What if men are responding to women?
2. What if there's a good reason for that?

As a result of asking these two questions, I found out why the same man treats different women differently. And I found the answer to why men change after they catch us! The answer to both questions is one of the ways that men are responding to women--and they do have a very good reason for it!