Sharon Roberts

Here is a question I’ve been asking audiences across North America for over a decade: “Do you believe men’s and women’s brains are different?” The question is guaranteed to stir up conversation - and sometimes a measure of controversy and/or concern.

To answer the question, our brains do not have the same hardwiring. They are, in fact, built differently. And, wonderfully so, I hasten to add.

Dr. Ruben Gur and Dr. Raquel Gur, two of the world’s premier neuroscientists, are experts on gender differences in the human brain. They have been studying men and women for over 30 years. We can thank the Gurs, a husband and wife team who work out of the Brain Behavior Center at the University of Pennsylvania, for being the first to show the world the first brain imaging scans of men and women that point out there is a difference.

This is good news, in my opinion. Now we have solid neurological evidence to help us in all our relationships, both business and personal.

Yes, yes. I know some believe it isn’t politically correct to speak about men’s and women’s brains being built differently. But, they are. If we concern ourselves with political correctness, we aren’t likely to learn a thing. Nor will we have a bit of fun. And, I hope we never quit laughing about the differences between us. They can be really funny.

It’s been my experience that men and women, in both business and personal situations, can drive one another more than a little crazy, and with very little effort. Thanks to brain scans, we have real help now.


Let’s begin with how our brain scans differed when men and women were solving problems. When men put their minds to work, the neuron activity in their brains lit up in highly specialized areas. When women put their minds to work, the neuron activity in their brains lit up throughout their brains.

OK, gentlemen, how many of you are confident that I’ve just provided you with solid, scientific evidence that women are scatterbrained? And, ladies, does it seem I have now provided you with irrefutable scientific evidence that men work with limited areas of their brains?

The truth be told, the brain scans prove that women are not flawed scatterbrains. Nor, are men flawed with limited access to their whole brainpower. Instead, it proves our brains are wonderfully different.

One helpful way to think about our brains is that men’s brains are like waffles and women’s brains are like a plate of spaghetti. Stay with me here. It really is an apt analogy.

We’ve frequently heard that men “compartmentalize.” And, women quickly relate to that notion. It seems that men’s brains are like a big Belgian waffle with defined compartments, each for one thing and one thing only. Examples: football, computer issues, work issues, family, and watching TV. Sometimes women work hard to hack down the walls in those waffle squares to “help” the man think along with them, to quickly jump from one square to another: football, work, family, etc.

On the other hand, when a husband asks his wife “Where do you want to go for dinner?”, she’s likely to cover five or six topics - from making a dental appointment to discussing the economic development report she’s working on - before she gets back to the dinner question. And, while he’s getting mental whiplash trying to follow this disconnected discourse, it’s all smoothly interconnected to her.

I compare it to being like a nice bowl of spaghetti. See how easily those noodles slide across one another? She easily slides from one thought to the next.

It makes perfect sense to her. Meanwhile, he’s working hard to shape those noodles into some nice neat squares to “help” her deal with one thing at a time and add some order to her “chaotic” thinking. Of course, it’s not chaotic to her. It’s easy and natural.


So what are the implications of a waffle brain when you’re on a sales call with a spaghetti brain? If you are a salesman who is compelled to follow a highly structured sales process, be willing to move out of your prepared routine to respond to her concerns.

Yes, yes. I know many have been taught to “control” the sales call and to never move out of your prescribed procedure. But, she’s a smart woman and she’s done her homework. She has concerns that she needs to have addressed. It will matter much to her how willing and able you are to respond to her specific concerns, rather than your own.

In short, address her concerns. Trust me. It’s very good for business.

Sometimes in the midst of addressing her specific concerns, it may seem she’s really slipping and sliding through the spaghetti. Let’s say you’re addressing her concerns about replacing the ducting, and out of the blue she mentions she has to pick her parents up from the airport next Thursday afternoon. Is she a deranged lunatic? My answer: Probably not.

You now know her seemingly random thoughts are anything but. They are interrelated and relevant to the discussion at hand. Please pleasantly confirm what she just said, “So your parents are coming in next Thursday?” She’ll probably smile and tell you about the family gathering at her house. And, furthermore, she’s concerned that all this ducting work can be completed before the big reunion at her house.

Now aren’t you glad you took that trip through the spaghetti? As I said before, it’s very good for business.

One more thing - and it is related. Why is it that your wife wakes you at 3 a.m. to tell you about random stuff? Answer: She just has to tie up all those pesky loose ends. After this, she can go to sleep. What is the husband to do? Well, he can get out of bed, go to the kitchen, and fix himself a super deluxe bowl of noodles. As he is noshing on those noodles, he can ponder this business building fact: Women do not gossip, they advertise!

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