Often men are considered to be insensitive and unkind — a couple of gender stereotypes that can be inhibiting. What if, instead a man is responsive and emotional? Could this potentially change his love life? What if a man believed it could change his love life? Would he be more willing to exercise those characteristics?
I believe men would become more perceptive if given the right situation and motivation. Throughout my years I have encountered many emotional, caring and responsive men. We often do not give men enough credit for their sensitive nature. In fact, due to many hegemonic masculine views, many see it as a weakness for men to have soft hearts. Countless times I have watched a man tear up at a movie or even cry, and each time I have felt they possessed immense strength in their abilities to empathize and express feelings that were built up inside. A sense of security is built when expression is encouraged in those moments, which gives new freedom to continue revealing emotions.
This strength is driven by something different for many individuals. Perhaps the reason we do not see a man’s “sensitive side” is due to a lack of effective motivation for them. It seems as though men need some kind of extrinsic motivation to help them feel comfortable expressing more insightful ideas about emotion. In the article, “Man, I Feel Like a Woman: When and How Gender-Role Motivation Helps Mind-Reading,” by Geoff Thomas and Gregory R. Maio, researchers looked at gender-role motivation and what could help motivate a man to perceive others’ feelings and ideas (i.e. mind-reading).
What better way is there to encourage a heterosexual male than the opportunity to impress a girl? Thomas and Maio concluded that “we found that there was no increase in mind-reading accuracy when we challenged men to disprove their traditional gender-role identity as poor mind-readers. In contrast, the motivated accuracy effect emerged when men were led to believe that being more empathic and in touch with their feminine side would help them to better attract and satisfy women.”
Interestingly, this means that men are equally capable as women at mind reading, but exercise their abilities with a completely different motivation. Another interesting aspect found in this study was that women are more accurate at mind reading when they are told that their own sex has a superior ability to mind-read. It turns out what we believe we are capable of influences the way we perform.
The adage, “practice makes perfect,” seems true in many cases as pointed out by Thomas and Maio, “Conventional wisdom dictates that highly motivated perceivers who devote greater effort to understanding others should reap the benefits of greater accuracy.” It seems that as women encourage men to be more perceptive (and men believe women want more perceptive men), they will exercise their capabilities more often, which will lead them to become more accurate in their mind reading as well.
Encouraging males to find their feminine side and to be more caring simply takes some girl power. It is incredible how one can affect another for better or worse. Apparently, women can be a helping hand in eradicating a misattributed gender stereotype. Having empathy and being able to communicate that is priceless — a true skill all people should work on.
Ladies, if you want your man to be able to read your mind, just reassure him that sensitivity is manly and attractive. Gentlemen, it’s ok to cry, understand and feel emotions. Most importantly, men and women are not as different as we think, and it seems that’s what truly brings us together in the end.