When we say someone is perceptive or intuitive, we are unknowingly referring to their ability to read another person’s body language and to compare these cues with verbal signals. In other words, when we say that we have a ‘hunch’ or ‘gut feeling’ that someone has told us a lie, we usually mean that their body language and their spoken words don’t agree. This is also what speakers call ‘audience awareness’. For example, if an audience member were sitting back in their seat with his/her chin down and arms crossed on the chest, a perceptive speaker would get a hunch that his delivery was not going well. Being perceptive thus means being able to spot the contradictions between someone’s words and their body language.
Who’s more perceptive?
Overall, women are far more perceptive than men, and this has given rise to what is commonly referred to as ‘women’s intuition.’ Women have an innate ability to pick up and decipher non-verbal signals, as well as an accurate eye for small details. Research by psychologists at Harvard University shows how women are far more alert to body language than men. They showed short films
of a man and a woman communicating, with the sound turned off, to a group of people who were then asked to decode what was happening by reading the couple’s expressions. The research showed that women read the situation accurately 87 per cent of the time, while men scored only 42-per-cent accuracy.
Female intuition is particularly evident in women who have raised children. For the first few years, the mother relies almost solely on the non-verbal channel to communicate with the child, and this is why women are often more perceptive negotiators than men—because they practise reading signals early.
It’s all in the head …
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) brain scans clearly show why women have a far greater capacity for communicating with and evaluating people than men do. Women have between 14 and 16 areas in the brain to evaluate others’ behaviour versus a man’s four to six areas. This explains how a woman can attend a dinner party and rapidly work out the state of the relationships of other couples—who’s had an argument, who likes who and so on.
The female brain is oriented towards multitasking—the average woman can juggle between two and four unrelated tasks at the same time. She can watch a television program while talking on the telephone plus listen to a second conversation behind her while drinking a cup of coffee
. She can talk about several unrelated topics in one conversation and use five vocal tones to change the subject or emphasise points. Unfortunately, most men can only identify three of these tones. As a result, men often lose the plot when women are trying to communicate with them.
Another area of strength for women is their ability to perceive micro expressions which typically flash across our faces for a few milliseconds. The right visual cortex in women is able to perceive these flashes and derive deep meaning from them. So never try fooling a woman; she can catch you in a flash! Men on the other hand base their perceptions on coarser body language like crossed arms, aggressive posturing and so on.
So, where does that leave men?
The differences between men and women are based on Darwinian Evolutionary factors i.e. those traits that helped humans to survive and cope, and eventually got passed on to future generations. Men developed from their role as hunter-gatherers and protectors. This explains their propensity for aggression, risk-taking, confrontation, visual focus, physical strength, etc. They even have thicker skulls (thick headed!) to survive cranial injuries, stronger joints and larger muscles
and bones for agility and endurance.
Behaviourally, male brains are wired for leadership and problem-solving. Female brains on the other hand are wired for intuition and relationships. When the behaviour of groups of boys and girls was observed in a maze, it was very interesting to note that the boys’ group quickly sprang up a leader and used scouts to explore possibilities by venturing far and communicating for centralised problem-solving, while the females tended to move in a group, relying more on intuition rather than depending on a leader. Their actions were based more on consensus.
So, now that you know what your strong points are, we hope you will find it easier to solve your issues when it comes to the opposite sex. Word of advice: when bending the truth, especially when you’re talking to a woman, do so with a straight face and minimal body movement!
About the author
An alumnus of BITS, Pilani, Parakram Mishra is a recognised human resource consultant and has been involved in the development of assessment tools and training programmes with the active participation of several leading psychologists, educationists, technologists and human resource experts.
Written By : Parakram Mishra