Why Do Boys and Girls Act Different?

Why Do Boys and Girls Act Different

This first person article by Jill Carlin Schrager (coincidentally, the sister of a close childhood friend) found its way into my inbox and was an honest, heart-wrenching read. It was written by a mother of four boys, aged 10-23, who, for the life of her, doesn’t understand them and their mysterious ways.

“I thought I was a good mom, a great one in fact. I fulfilled their needs oftentimes before they even knew they needed it. I taught them that love is a two-way street and that telling someone that  you care about them is not the same thing as showing someone that  you care about them. They just do not always behave that way. I know in my head it is not a failure, but my heart cannot understand or accept this misfire. It yearns for it. It gets broken every time it fails. I say words to these men and the words fall on deaf ears. Yes, I see the special place AND the reason we are provided that privilege.

The bigger question, however, is whether it is my job to change them? Am I supposed to fight for the women who are to come into their lives by explaining that this type of behavior is not appropriate, that women may have different needs than men and that they should begin their education about this with me, their mother? Or do I set them free, to make their own mistakes, get some broken hearts along the way because they fail to see or understand how to treat a woman?”

It’s not sexist to point out that – in general – women tend to be more sensitive and supportive and men tend to be more blunt and combative.

I feel for her. What she’s pointing out is what people have been pointing out – and fighting against – since I started doing this in 2003.

Men and women are different.

I don’t know why it’s so harmful to acknowledge this, but it sure trips people’s wires when you call attention to what anyone with two eyes can see. It’s not sexist to point out that – in general – women tend to be  more sensitive and supportive and men tend to be more blunt  and combative. Call it testosterone or biology or social conditioning, but it doesn’t change the fact that many women are perpetually baffled that men actually think and act differently than they do. An example from the author:

“I get a phone call from my oldest son. He is telling me about an argument he had with his girlfriend. She was getting dressed. As is usual for many women, no matter their size, she “felt fat” in everything she tried on. My son, not the most patient man, groaned and said “Are we going to have to go through this every time we go out?”

I reflected and said to him calmly, “Don’t you think a better approach might be to tell her she looked great in all the outfits, but that you liked the (fill in the blank) best. And when she puts it on, give her a kiss and tell her how beautiful she looks.”

Schrager, and other women who expect men to act like women, aren’t wrong for wanting men to be more sensitive; it’s more like setting unrealistic expectations.

Schrager is absolutely right that this would be an objectively superior way to handle things. It’s more tactful, sensitive, and effective than her son’s normal mode of communication. It’s also not how most men talk.

Thus, Schrager, and other women who expect men to act like women, aren’t  wrong for wanting men to be more sensitive; it’s more like setting unrealistic expectations. Hell, I give dating and relationship advice to women, have coached women every week since 2003, and am happily married – and I STILL take the “direct” route (what I’m actually thinking) over the tactful route (what she wants to hear) over 50% of the time.

Would love to hear your thoughts about whether it’s fair and realistic  to  expect men to act more like women…and be perpetually disappointed when  we don’t.


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  1. 21


    Not only are men being told to change, they are being railroaded into it! At least, that remains true if they are involved in corporate environments. HR, a typically female purview, pushes “soft skill” courses (and agenda) on men. That is turning out to be one of the many accumulatng reasons for men “tuning out”, as evidencced in a number of recently published books.

    In corporate worlds, men are producers. They make and deliver the goods. Communication is blunt, not sugar-coated, not soft and fluffy, and most men’s “girlish sensitivities” are not offended (nor could they be; unless really aggressive comments singling them out, men are none too big in the girlish sensitivity department). If you’re not pulling your weight or not doing your job, or not doing so competently, you will be advised, warned, and then let go! Simple! And this is creating a massive disconnect with the “trophy for participation” generation.

  2. 22

    Personally I prefer NOT to hear what I want to hear because I want to hear the truth! If I’m being annoying in a moment of trying on clothes, then maybe I’m focusing too much on being fat when it’s not the case or it’s irrelevant to the relationship. A woman who has confidence will wear whatever she wants and feel good big or small! I try not to talk about how I feel about my body to men, he’s there cause he likes it already, why show your insecurity? Talk about it with your girls or do things that are healthy so you feel better, whatever you need to do to make yourself happy, even if it’s telling yourself you look good any size 🙂 I don’t want to hear sweet nothings, I can see right through it. I want a partner who can be honest and supportive at the same time. Not every conversation will go perfectly but at least I know it’s real

  3. 23

    Would he speak to his boss or best friend this way?   Would he speak to a VALUABLE CLIENT this way?   No.   Of course not!   Maybe the title should be male entitlement emotional recklessness in relationships- why do men think this is OK in their personal life but would NEVER exercise this   lack of diplomacy in the business world?

    is this 100,000 years of social engineering since the last ice age in which women were domestic/ sexual & economic slaves up until only 100 years ago    Can the casual cruelty be undone in one generation?

  4. 24

    As a high testosterone woman, who has acted/responded like a man most of my life, I can say that I don’t think there is any way you can make a man act more like a woman. The problem lies in the way they think and feel (as I well know from personal experience, since I cannot relate to women). The “gee, eye-roll” reaction to her asking if she looks fat is exactly the reaction I would have. Seriously, do we have to go through this every time? I can absolutely relate to that.

    Now, we can teach boys to be more polite/respectful about things, and let them know that their initial reaction might hurt someone’s feelings. Those are skills that can be learned, and should. But to try and make them think like a woman is a lost cause. It’s not gonna happen.

    I’m a woman (although high-t), and I’ve tried for years to learn how to think and feel like a woman, and I still haven’t managed it. To think a man is even capable of it would be stupid.

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