What Women Can Learn from Men

In O, The Oprah Magazine, eight powerful and successful women were asked what women can learn from men.

Their answers may annoy you, but they probably won’t surprise you.

Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand – Women and Men in Conversation, suggests that women should take criticism less personally and reveal less of their feelings in the workplace. She also reminds women that it is ok to disagree: “Women tend to think that if you like a person, you express agreement with them. Men often use something I call agonism–ritualized opposition. For example, a man might explore an idea by tearing it apart, by playing devil’s advocate. He’s not literally attacking the idea, he’s exploring it. But a woman might just think, ‘He hates my idea’, or even, ‘He hates me.'”

Chef Kay Sparks agrees that it is important for women to keep “disturbing emotions” out of the workplace, and to blow off stress with a sense of humor – the way men do – rather than by shedding tears.

According to ABC Reporter and former Time Magazine correspondent Tamela Edwards, “Men carry themselves with an air of expectation – a sense that they have worthy contributions and should be mentored and appreciated” and that women would do well to adopt that mindset.

Jayshree Ullal, CEO and president of Arista Networks, advises the following: “In business, women should learn from their male counterparts and emulate their confidence and logical thought processes. If not, women are likely to be perceived as emotional and tentative.”

What impact would absorbing more of these traits have on your relationship, or on the dating process? Take a look at the article and weigh in with your comments.

Join our conversation (40 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I’m still waiting for GQ or Esquire to post “What Men Can Learn from Women.” Not holding my breath though 😉

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Sayanta. You shouldn’t speak until you have all of the facts. For years, Esquire had a very popular series called “10 Things You Don’t Know About Women”, where famous actresses make fun of men’s cluelessness about women.

      Here’s a sampling:





    2. 1.2

      That’s not even close to being true.   Where have you been for the last 40 years?   I’m not being snarky, I want to know if you lived in the US.   For as long as I can remember, I have watched men get lectured to about everything, and usually being told to be more like women.

      Be more open to showing their emotions.   Be better team players at work, like women. Don’t try to fix our problems, just let us vent. Do more housework, like women, etc…


      Why do some of you women always see life incorrectly, through the lens of victimized.   Thankfully, not all of us are like that.







  2. 2

    I am a woman but I have always preferred working with men for many of the reasons mentioned above.   In a work setting, men also tend to be much less controlling than women (in my 30+ years of work experience, anyway.)   Every office I have worked in has had at least one office b*tch that believes she must think for the rest of the group and, if you resist her attempts at control, will go to incredible lengths to get even and get her way.

    My question to all those controlling, I must think for you women (you know who you are) is this…
    If you are so much smarter than everyone else, and your way of doing things, be it working, living, loving, eating, child rearing, or whatever is so much better than everyone else, then why are you so miserable ALL THE TIME?   If doing things your way makes me just like you.. thanks, but no thanks, I think I prefer my happy, peaceful, productive life instead.

  3. 3


    The tone of those Esquire articles are completely different- written in a jokey, can’t take it seriously kind of way. The Oprah article talks about men’s particular gifts and discusses how women can use those gifts to enhance their own lives.

    Now if Esquire had published an article that in a serious tone discussed what women’s particular strengths are (compassion, emotional expressiveness, etc.) and had stated how MEN could adopt those things in their day-to-day lives, THEN I would take back what I said.

    I don’t think the Esquire articles and the O article can be compared.

    1. 3.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Yes, it’s a different tone, but the whole idea that only women get criticized and men are let off the hook is simply not true. Want to see an article about what men can learn from women? Write one! There’s plenty of material!

  4. 4
    Lisa M.

    I definitely agree with this article. As women, we really can learn a lot from men on how to control our emotions, especially, in public.

    I would also like to add one thing I have learned from men. Men usually end up with the woman they want. Men don’t compromise or settle. The woman they are with is exactly the woman they wanted. That’s why they don’t waste time trying to change them and are often afraid that they will change. She is who and what he wanted and doesn’t want her to change in any way.

    So, my goal is to get EXACTLY the man (while I’m still young enough and hot enough to get him) I want and I don’t care what anyone has to say about it. I believe most women don’t get the men we actually want because we are socialized to settle and compromise. So, we waste a lot of time trying to change the men we are with because he is not who we really wanted to begin with. This has been doing women a big disservice; we are often miserable and discontented in our relationships with men. All of that could be avoided if we were allowed to be with who we want to be with.
    Instead of listening to society telling us that we shouldn’t be so picky/choosy and just be with who ever will have us, in which, is complete utter bullshit and it’s time for us to do what really makes us happy. Most men do and they are never criticized for it.

    For me, I don’t and have never had the time to take men on as some project to be fixed or changed, if he’s not what I want in terms of looks, personality and goals (and he must be mentally and emotionally sound too)– I’m gone.

  5. 5

    I am the silent type, as mentioned in the article, and I have often sensed that my natural silence has power for the very reason given. I am also attractive, and this has enhanced that feeling I sometimes have around others: “What is she thinking?” 🙂 While it’s natural for me, I also recognize that I am not the kind of talker that a lot of women are.
    In the “will to win,” the “fairness” approach of letting everyone play, even when they are poor players, may stem, in part, from the way in which the public school system creates a cocooned environment where every child, no matter their weaknesses and/or failings, are celebrated and anointed just the same as the stronger children. I personally feel that it creates an environment in which children are not allowed to learn how to deal with failure which is critical later on in life. It’s the “Every child is special” method, and they take notice of every achievement, both major and, no matter how minor, at least where I live. Participating in team sports is great for many reasons.
    I think emotional detachment is something that comes with age and practice. While men are naturally more assertive and aggressive, women seem to care more about what others think. In the example given about the $1,200 wallet, she stood there because she had an emotional investment in what would the clerk think if she somehow gave them the impression that she couldn’t afford it. I would have simply said, “Thank you,” and continued on. I am sure the clerk was quite accustomed to the sticker shock.
    In the “thick skin” part of the article, I have found that most of the men I have worked with don’t actually play devil’s advocate and tear a part an idea to explore it. They seem to get tunnel vision and see the issue only in black and white rather than thinking outside of the box. I am the type that will take a process, etc. and break it down, so that perhaps a more streamlined, efficient process can be created. I missed my calling as a researcher. 🙂
    Men do seem to have a more penetrating gaze, if they’re confident. The looking away is something that I have learned to change, and this self-awareness made me notice how the majority of men and women don’t look directly at each other. I think that men are sometimes confused by my direct eye contact. They might misunderstand and think that by directly looking at them, I am giving something of myself to them. It’s kind of hard to explain.
    I have experienced the example provided about cockiness, as I have raised a daughter and a son. I have sometimes struggled with how to let my son know that while I admire his confidence in his math abilities, that doesn’t always match up with the outcome. The problem with cockiness is that if you do not keep your mind rooted in reality, which cockiness never does, there’s no easy way to improve on your weaknesses. It’s great to have confidence (which I don’t equate with cockiness), but confidence does not necessarily tie together with logical thinking.
    Men do have a greater level of entitlement because that is how society raises them to feel and to be. Imagine how people felt yesterday when the news reported that Americans prefer boy children over girls. I didn’t read it, but the wheels of motion seem to start before conception.
    Being able to persevere and continue on with your task and to successfully deal with the pressure, deadlines, setbacks, etc. in your work environment without allowing your emotions to get the best of you, thereby decreasing your productivity or alienating you from others is a skill that every person needs to learn. This isn’t a gender-based issue. I have seen plenty of men blow their tops over some pretty insignificant things at work, while the women remained calm and brought everything back together again, so the business could go on.

  6. 7

    In-ter-esting – especially when your viewpoint Mr EMK from Why He Disappeared (yes I did get it!) seems to encourage women to STOP adopting male characteristics and to embrace their femininity – unless you are saying one rule at work (as above) and one rule in personal relationships

  7. 8


    That’s not a bad idea- maybe I will :-p

  8. 9


    Whoa- what school did you go to? My teachers always made it a point to tell me I’m NOT special lol

  9. 10
    Karl R

    Lisa M. said: (#5)
    “Men usually end up with the woman they want. Men don’t compromise or settle. The woman they are with is exactly the woman they wanted. That’s why they don’t waste time trying to change them and are often afraid that they will change.”

    You’re partly right, but the other part is way off.

    My fiancée is the best woman I’ve ever dated. I would be foolish to pass her up and keep looking for someone better.

    There are certainly women who exceed her in certain areas. Even areas that are important to me. But those same women also fall short of her in other areas … areas that are at least as important, if not more so.

    So I don’t believe I could get a better partner. I could get a different one, who might be roughly equivalent, but I would end up losing about as much as I gained.

    Furthermore, I accept that she is who she is. She’s had most of her bad traits for decades. If she hasn’t gotten rid of them by now, she’s probably not about to change just because she met me. Therefore, I never considered whether she’d change. My thought was, “Can I live with this flaw for the rest of my life?” If the answer had been “No,” then I’d have to keep looking for someone else.

    My fiancée is 16 years older than I am. That’s not exactly what I set out to find. But in order to get this wonderful woman, I have to accept that she is 16 years older, and she’s not going to get younger.

    The woman I’m with is not “exactly the woman I wanted.” But she is the woman I want. So I can either make myself miserable because she’s not exactly what I wanted, or I can focus on all the wonderful qualities that make me want to be with her, instead of someone else.

    And that’s  the reason I am happier with my fiancée than I expect you will ever be with your partner. I am willing to let go of my fantasy of a woman who is exactly what I want, because it’s not as appealing as the reality of the wonderfully imperfect  woman I have. If someone is trying to change their partner, they’re still holding onto the fantasy, and that’s going to wreck their reality.

  10. 11

    haha – I disagree and think that women will turn this around soon enough. Women are starting to outnumber men in universities and they lost fewer jobs in the downturn. It is a matter of time before this is switched. I could think of 10 things that men could learn from women – including being about to read between the lines in conversations, really take care of a customer, land that sale, be more detail oriented, etc. I think this is “looking back”

    NOW – I can agree with women being less defensive. Of course there are always things we can learn – but this is NOT a one way street. It also does not apply to a lot of top-level executive women I know who are very professional, entrepreneurial, energetic and successful.

  11. 12

    One of the things I do clash with my boyfriend over is making decisions. I’m very easy going and  genuinely  happy to go along with where he thinks is good, so often I let him make the decisions about what we do, where we go etc. Occasionally he gets a bit upset about this and asks me to make a decision, and I do, but he’ll criticise it straight away, and then it’ll take another 20-30 minutes to decide where to go. That… gets to me. I honestly would prefer just going along with somewhere he recommends then having my idea chopped up and additional time wasted. I get hungry quickly :p

    About the emotions. I’m a junior doctor and work in the hospitals, and sometimes I’ve had an awful day and its beautiful to just be with someone and collapse, and feel awful. I don’t want to hide my emotions from him. I have to say when I get angry at him I usually toy with the emotion for a bit before revealing it to him. It might come out in a snappy passive aggressive sentence. He’s such a happy person that it doesn’t phase him that much. However last night he said he was amazed that I never got angry at him. I said I did, but didn’t often tell him :p

    I definitely think confidence and self worth is essential in any relationship. low self esteem –> why is he with me –> he’s going to leave me –> immense clinginess/actions to improve appearance. I hate to say it but I fell into this mysel when I dated someone who was very critical of my appearance. It was awful and I hated who I became. This goes both ways though, I really dislike low self esteem in guys. Its a huge turnoff.  

    I am definitely logical at work, (I have to be its medicine). I like embracing my emotions at home. Especially as I have it on good authority I’m pretty quirky. I like saying outlandish random things, and using emotion and caring to make someone feel better. I wouldn’t want to use logic more in my relationship. It would take the fun out of it.  

    Interesting exercise though.

  12. 13

    The first piece of advice in the article encouraged women to be akin to “the strong, silent type.” While I believe that women can benefit from sometimes editing their words and thoughts, it’s a bit presumptuous and old fashioned to assume that when women talk, it’s just “jabber”. Work place environments use to be more heavily male dominated. So it would only reason that “strong and silent” worked for men because other men more easily responded to their own styles of communication or non-communication. If more women are infiltrating the workplace, and women tend to solve problems differently then men, then talking them through isn’t a bad thing. We all know that women tend to use more of the language centers in their brain. Asking women to not approach work in a way that could be a huge positive, such as good and open communication; is like asking men to express their thoughts using the language women use to express theirs. All in all, I do think that there are positive ways women communicate and negative ways. If the advice was more about positively redirecting women’s skill set in using language and words, instead of asking them to be more like men in their approach, that would be different. But if a woman remains quite, no one is going to look at her and think “strong and silent”. That epitaph has been reserved for men.

    All in all, the rest of the article follows the same tone. Insinuating that men are more logical and able to brave situations better are diehard old stereotypes that aren’t even true. Men are not more logical. However, they can be more methodical. I personally thought we were past requiring women to do the same jobs the way men would. Both men and women bring different skill sets to the job environment. Perhaps instead of trying to make women more like men or men more like women, we learn to celebrate what the other brings to the work table even if those skill sets are different.

    Although I will say that the article got something right that I’ve encountered in relationships under “Thick Skin”. I often find guys I’m in relationships with do tend to dissect my ideas and I always hated it cause it did make me feel attacked or like he didn’t think I was very smart or was just trying to show me up. I never know how to deal with those situations.

  13. 14

    I have to agree with Sayanta and AQ. Why is it that the traits of men are the ones we should emulate, rather than the other way around? Sure there are “male” characteristics we might emulate, but there are “feminine” traits that it would behoove men to copy. Why aren’t they valued more?

    If women are discriminated against, is it our fault? Could it be that we behave in certain ways as a response to that discrimination? I seriously doubt that women naturally lack confidence, although I do believe there is something to be said in faking it until you make it.

    As far as relationships are concerned, it seems that we are being encouraged to embrace our femininity in romance, and our masculinity in the workplace.  

  14. 15

    As one of the women interviewed says ”  If you could be emotionally detached in negotiating and emotionally attached to your spouse and kids, you’d be perfect.”

  15. 16
    Dating Coach for Men

    Nice article…..men not are ready to comprosie easily atall…plz share the article on what men can learn from women.

  16. 17
    Lisa M.

    @Karl R.

    I want to know how many men you know who will marry a woman based on her “potential”.

    The fact is MOST men usually go for what they want in a woman and rarely settle without apology. And of course, there is exception to the rule–nothing in this world is absolute.

    You also used the word “fantasy” which proves my point. Any time a woman says out loud that she refuses to settle or compromise for what she is seeking in a man; she is accused of being unrealistic and engaging fantasy.

    I didn’t even list specifically what qualities I was looking for in a man. I just threw a few generalities. But by just the mere fact that I said that I want exactly what I want in a man, I’m engaging in fantasy. Really?

  17. 18

    Some takeaway from the O article that pertains to the dating world:
    If you’re on an early date and the man is dominating the conversation, don’t be afraid to interrupt and state your thoughts and opinions.   Men expect other men to speak up and contribute to the dialogue.   Women tend to have been socialized to hang back and listen politely while others share.   It can be frustrating, so if you find yourself with a talker, don’t sit there and silently stew about how rude he’s being — jump on in.
    If you feel your guy becoming distant, or if he poofs on you, the worst thing you can do is get all emotional and go chasing after him.   Men respond much more favorably to logic and calm than to emotion in these cases.   If you mirror his behavior, and take a step back yourself, and remain cool and collected, you have a much better chance of attracting him back to you than if you play into his expectations of “those hysterical, over-emotional women.”
    Men can synthesize a half hour of women’s ranting (sorry, sharing) into a pithy twelve or so words.   It’s a gift with them.   My husband does it constantly, which is how I know I talk too much.   🙂 Similarly, they can only hear so much verbiage before it becomes an impenetrable wall of words to them and stops registering.   So if you are upset about something, or have had a terrible day, the best way to make your upset known and understood without alienating your man is to try and state your case in as few words as possible, without a lot of repetition.   You’ll be surprised at how much better these conversations go for you.
    The Deborah Tannen book Evan recommended is fabulous — as are all her other books on communication.

  18. 19

    If women aren’t compromising to make men more happy, sacrficing our own needs and desires, we are being told that we must act more like men to make men happy. Because doing it like a man is apparently the “right” way to do it.

  19. 20
    Karl R

    Lisa M. said: (#19)
    “Any time a woman says out loud that she refuses to settle or compromise for what she is seeking in a man; she is accused of being unrealistic and engaging fantasy.”

    If I had refused to compromise on what I was looking for in a woman, that would have been an unrealistic fantasy, and I’d still be looking.

    For years Evan refused to compromise on what he was looking for, and he readily admits that he probably rejected many wonderful women along the way. Furthermore, he has stated that he would have rejected his wife as well if he hadn’t wised up and compromised on what he was looking for.

    It’s not going to be magically different for you just because your a woman. Reality is egalitarian that way.

    Lisa M. asked: (#19)
    “I want to know how many men you know who will marry a woman based on her ‘potential’.”

    Who is recommending that you choose someone based on “potential?”

    My fiancée is sweet and easygoing. She accepts me as I am.  I’m not hoping that she’ll become that. Like me, she doesn’t want kids. I’m not hoping I can talk her out of them. We’re sexually compatible. I’m not hoping that she’ll thaw out over time. We have fun together, and while that may take some effort to maintain over the years, it’s clearly an achieveable goal.

    So I’m willing to accept that she’s not the youngest woman I’ve ever dated, or the best looking, or the most intelligent. Because I can look at the youngest women I ever dated, or the best looking women I ever dated, or the most intelligent women I ever dated … and I’m happy that I ended up with my fiancée instead of any of them.

    But if I refused to compromise on anything, I’d still be looking.

    Can you seriously look at the things I did compromise on and say that none of them are important to you? Unless you are far luckier than anyone I know, you will have to compromise on something that’s important to you.

    Or you can refuse to compromise, and likely never meet anyone who meets your standards.

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