I was working with a client recently who was expressing concerns about things not going as well with her boss as she would like. His approach was upsetting her. As she described his behavior, I saw that it was simply a male-female disconnect. I call this the X-Y Factor.
We know that men and women are designed differently. (Thank goodness!) And … this causes us to think, behave, and experience life differently. From a purely biological perspective, these X-Y designs are both opposing and complimentary and were intended for the survival of the species.
From an evolutionary (soul) perspective, we are meant to move beyond the biological. We are to balance both male and female internally as well as externally, so that we become stronger as individuals and stronger together. To do this, we must first deal with things the way they are.
One way I describe the difference is: men are designed to play basketball, women are designed for basket weaving.
Basketball players play hard. They run, posture, and compete. They call to each other in short 1-2-maybe 3-word directives. They interrupt, assert, and use force to make things happen, and they focus on one thing and one thing only: getting the goal.
Basket weavers play soft. They can’t throw their goods around. Toss the basket and it gets damaged. Toss the shears and someone gets hurt. So they sit calmly, cooperating, sharing their tools and supplies and ideas, focusing on their work and on each other. They ask for help using “please and thank you,” and they hand things over very carefully.
One is not better than the other, but you can see that they are VERY DIFFERENT. These designs are instinctual and automatic, running in the background all the time unless we are actively addressing them. When we interact with each other without awareness of and respect for our differences, we end up in an unproductive power play and we accumulate resentments and distrust that get in the way of true partnership. This happens at work and at home. A lot.
In the case of my client, once I explained the X-Y Factor, she saw that she was reacting to her boss’ instinctual male actions. He was not misbehaving, he was simply “playing basketball.” That small, new understanding took a lot of the sting out of the experience.
I suggested some ways to communicate with him to gain clarity around what he was trying to accomplish and to ask him to approach her in a way that was more effective for her. With greater understanding we can have successful and enjoyable interactions.
- Clarify: “Help me understand your perspective so I can better assist you.” And, “I notice you are doing _______. What is your thinking behind it?”
- Request: “When you call me at the last minute to ask for my help, it throws me off my game. Will you please give me more advanced notice?” Or, “It is my goal to do a great job. If you want me to do _______, it would help if you would _______. Is that possible?”
Armed with this new approach, my client had a conversation with her boss. It went very well. Both came out of the conversation with a greater sense of clarity and partnership and power. There is now more trust and respect, more focus on what needs to get done rather than “what is he/she going to do next?”
Had my client not seen that this was just a masculine trait, had she not had that important conversation, she would likely have grown more and more resentful and ended up in resistance, if not consciously then unconsciously. At best, it would have been a less-than-ideal situation.
This is an example of a woman stepping into a more powerful place for herself and a more productive connection with her male boss. In order to grow as a collective, both Xs and Ys must shift. Guys, you can provide a lot for the women in your life when you’re willing to do this work as well.
Remember, X-Y differences are instinctual and automatic, so it takes awareness and courage to do what is necessary to shift these dynamics. Small steps like these will change the course of your life. The good news is it works and it’s worth it!