He Said, She Said

Modern science tells us men's and women's brains are different in very significant ways. Let me give you some pointers to help you communicate more effectively with crimefighters of the opposite gender.

Dave Smith Headshot

Illustration: Sequoia BlankenshipIllustration: Sequoia Blankenship

It seems like these days everyone is shouting at each other, but no one is actually listening. I'd like to think that in our law enforcement family we do a pretty good job of communicating. Unfortunately, the feedback I get is that all too often men and women don't do a very good job of getting our points across to each other. This is something my wife, The Sarge, has been studying for years, and a topic she teaches to crimefighters all over the country. However, being a guy, I've sometimes attended her classes without learning as much as I should. So, the other day I thought to myself, Man, I've got to brush up on this stuff and write an article, because I sure wish I'd known some of these things much earlier in my career.

Modern science tells us men's and women's brains are different in very significant ways. Until recently, we never really studied the effect that this has on law enforcement personnel. Let me give you some pointers to help you communicate more effectively with crimefighters of the opposite gender.

First, to my brothers, when talking to your sister crimefighters, make a little more eye contact with them than you would with your male partners. Looking away, not looking at them at all, or looking somewhere else, like at your phone or computer, tells a woman that you're not listening. Also, when you ask a woman to do something, if she asks "Why?" she's not necessarily arguing with you or questioning you; she's trying to understand your reasoning. Women prefer a "back story" or an explanation. While I'm on that topic, women, when you're talking to one of your male coworkers, get right to the point. Guys don't generally want a back story, especially if you're discussing a task or a work-related situation; they need facts and action steps.

Guys, when you ask a woman what she "thinks" about something, be prepared to also hear how she "feels" about it. The female brain naturally attaches emotion to virtually everything, because both sides of her brain—the logic side and the feeling side—are connected by a superconductor. Conversely, women need to understand that if they want to know how a man "feels" about something, they have to ask him specifically, "How do you feel about that?" And ladies, realize that if a man asks you, "Are you OK?" and you answer with "I'm fine!" that no matter how aggravated you sound he's probably going to assume that you really are "fine." In other words, be direct with each other.

Men and women also process what they observe very differently. Ladies, don't be surprised when you're walking out of that domestic with your male partner and you say to him, "Can you believe the color of those curtains?!" if he says to you, "They had windows?" Men's brains process primarily the foreground; women's process both the foreground and the background. This is why a guy can give an incredibly detailed description of a suspect, but can't remember the color of the walls in his favorite watering hole.

Another hard thing for us guys to understand is that women just don't have the ability to "zone out" like we men do. Their brains are constantly processing, which is why so often the women in our lives suffer from insomnia. Ladies, when that guy in your life has a blank look on his face and you ask him what he is thinking and he says, "Nothing," he's not kidding. The male brain "reboots" 8 to 20 times a day, something that you ladies have a hard time understanding.

I guess that's the whole point of this article. It's hard to perceive what another person feels or thinks, or even the process involved. Modern science has given us some real insight into some of the key differences in the male and female brain; we just have to seek out the information. Look into researchers like Louann Brizendine and Barbara Annis; their writings are both entertaining and informative.

The beauty of all this is, when you put these two brains together, you have a remarkably effective crime-fighting team. 

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "J.D. Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

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Officer (Ret.)
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