The Male Factor Excerpt: Learning How To Let It Go
by Shaunti Feldhahn
Let It Go
This is one of the "little things" that men found the most inexplicable: the tendency of a worker (most frequently a woman) to essentially hold a grudge against another worker. Because men tend to think of Work World as a place where you essentially become your position and take your personal self out of it, men rarely show personal animus as the result of a workplace conflict.
What Leads to "Not Letting It Go"?
What leads to the tendency to not let things go? And why is this something that men don't seem to struggle with? From what I can tell, it appears to be an unconscious response to our multitasking female brain. Our research for For Men Only found that 81 percent of women have difficulty closing "mental windows" on issues that are bothering them. The concern tends to pop back up until whatever caused the concern is resolved. By contrast, men find it easy to compartmentalize and, if they judge this particular concern as unlikely to be a problem for the business, they can completely ignore the concern and let it go.
To men in business, therefore, a woman's "open mental windows" can easily look like holding a grudge.
As one man put it, "Women have very long memories. And those emotions often continue to gyrate long after the issue should have been put to bed"
My husband, Jeff, who coauthored and researched For Men Only with men, provided a helpful perspective:
As guys we tend not to talk about interpersonal conflicts to others. We clam up. If a guy is actually talking about it, that means it is such a big deal that he hasn't been able to stuff it, he hasn't been able to compartmentalize it. So if I see a woman talking about these conflicts, I assume this is such a huge thing for her that she can't not talk about it. But it's really just a difference in perception. I look at the conflict and think, "Why is this such a huge deal for her?" when she may actually be experiencing the exact same feeling as I am, but just handling it differently.
The problem is that to a guy, her reaction could look like a lack of self-control, or as if she could be letting this go but is choosing not to. Or that she is making something a big deal that shouldn't be a big deal. And unfortunately, any of those could be seen as a weakness.
Men's need to let it go appears to be heightened by social pressure. An executive of a multinational company described how men handle such concerns:
Among men, there is something unmanly about remembering something. It shows a weakness in yourself. It shows that your armor was chinked in that conflict and you remember it. Why would you want to bring something up that happened two weeks ago or two months ago or two years ago? You forget it because you move on. And you move on because to do otherwise shows weakness. It is like: You fall, skin your knee, shake it off, and move on. In business, it happened, it is done, there's no need to deliberate about it, forget it.
What is the solution?
In the men's minds, the solution is to address an issue of concern directly, and then simply not bring it up again. Three out of four men on the survey chose that approach. Another 22 percent said one should "stuff" the feeling of annoyance, or should never have allowed oneself those feelings to being with. Only 3 percent of men said it was acceptable to continue to express feelings of annoyance and let the situation naturally run its course.
But such a simple solution isn't always as easy to put into effect. How does a woman address something from the past that truly needs to be addressed for a business purpose, without being perceived poorly?
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Excerpt used with permission from The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn, (Multnomah Books). P. 154, 158-9, 162
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