Updated: Jan 28
Written by: Snježana Ana Billian, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
John Gray is the author of the most well-known and trusted relationship book of all time, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. USA Today listed his book as one of the top 10 most influential books of the last quarter-century. In hardcover, it was the #1 bestselling book of the 1990s. Dr. Gray’s books are translated into approximately 45 languages in more than 100 countries and continue to be a bestseller.
Dr. Gray has written over 20 books. His most recent book is Beyond Mars and Venus. His Mars/Venus book series has forever changed the way men and women view their relationships.
John helps men and women better understand and respect their differences in both personal and professional relationships. His approach combines specific communication techniques with healthy, nutritional choices that create the brain and body chemistry for lasting health, happiness, and romance.
His many books, blogs, and free online workshops at MarsVenus.com provide practical insights to improve relationships at all stages of life and love. An advocate of health and optimal brain function, he also provides natural solutions for overcoming depression, anxiety, and stress to support increased energy, libido, hormonal balance, and better sleep.
He has appeared repeatedly on Oprah, as well as on The Dr. Oz Show, TODAY, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America, and others. He has been profiled in Time, Forbes, USA Today, and People. He was also the subject of a three-hour special hosted by Barbara Walters.
John Gray lives in Northern California, where for 34 years, he happily shared his life with his beautiful wife, Bonnie, until her passing in 2018. They have three grown daughters and four grandchildren. He is an avid follower of his own health and relationship advice.
Today, gender diversity is an integral part of any forward-looking organization. Our pursuit to bring more women to the boardroom is often based on the assumption that women and men are no different from each other. In your book Work With Me, you challenge this conventional wisdom. What do you believe is wrong with the premise that women and men are the same?
The answer to this question is that women and men are very different. Being equal doesn't mean we're all the same. Nobody's the same. That's why certain people do bookkeeping, while others do sales or management. It's unfair not to respect our differences as human beings and expect everybody to be the same.
To me, equality means respecting our differences. But ironically, in a world where we're learning so much about inclusion and diversity, we're not respecting the differences between men and women. Many of these differences are biological and hardwired into our brains.
For the real shift to happen, we need to create a new awareness and develop our gender intelligence instead of trying to fix women to act less like themselves and more like men and criticizing men for behaving like men.
I would say it takes emotional intelligence to recognize that everybody you work with is different from you. You create inclusiveness by understanding that we all think differently, and we all have different emotional needs.
You've mentioned that the differences between women and men are not only behavioral but also biological. What are the most important physiological differences between the two genders?
One of the differences lies in the hormonal chemistry of men and women that influences each gender's way of coping with stress.
Few people know this, but science now tells us that men are only angry when their testosterone level is low. When a man's testosterone is low, his stress level is high, and his energy level and ability to have patience goes down. When men feel passive, grumpy, demanding, and angry, this is all about low levels of testosterone.
A woman, on the other hand, experiences stress when her estrogen levels are low. In the workplace, she needs to be walking around with ten times more estrogen than men; otherwise, she's stressed.
What can both men and women do to lower their stress levels?
Whenever a man is stressed, his estrogen is going up. And whenever you stress as a woman, your male energy is too high, and your female energy is too low.
A woman will reduce her stress level by asking for support in a non-demanding way. When a woman has the support to fulfill her needs, the female hormone estrogen gets produced, and her stress goes down.
A man's stress level will be lowered when he feels appreciated because, in this case, his testosterone level goes up. I'm not talking about sexual desire here, but about well-being for men.
Men are also designed to forget things because when a man forgets his problems, his stress level goes down. That's why, in ancient days, it was primarily men who did meditation. The goal of meditation for many is to forget everything. The reality about it is that when you meditate, you rebuild testosterone.
Women don't need testosterone to cope with stress. That's why women in ancient days didn't need to meditate. They were busy raising their children, loving their husbands, taking care of the family, and singing chants to God. They did a different kind of personal growth to manage their stress.
This worked in a world of low consciousness, where men were primarily testosterone machines and women were mainly estrogen machines, but today our consciousness has risen.
Today we all have female and male energy in us. But we also have a male or female body, and we need to respect our physiological differences.
What about the behavioral differences? You and your coauthor Barbara Annis have conducted a study with more than 100,000 women and men on gender issues in the workplace. What's one of the biggest misunderstandings between the genders?
One of the questions we asked women was whether they felt appreciated by the men at their workplace. A very high percentage of women said: "No, I don't feel appreciated." The men, on the other hand, were asked if they appreciated the women they worked with, and an extremely high percentage replied: "Yes, I appreciate the women I work with."
That's such a fascinating insight. What do you think is the reason for this disconnect?
Let me give you an example from a personal story. This experience is what launched me forty years ago to understand the differences between genders better.
Back then, as a counseling company owner, I had an assistant who ran everything for me. I basically just sat in my office counseling people, and on weekends I would also teach weekend classes. My courses were popular, and I had many volunteer assistants who could take the courses for free and who, in return, helped produce these classes.
The leader of all that was my assistant, Helen, and she was terrific. Helen handled the management of all my clients and all the assistants who helped produce the seminars. She also dealt with the hotels. She did everything that I couldn't do, and of course, I felt a massive appreciation for her.
Then, after about six years of us working together, she came and said to me: "John, I think it's time for me to move on." She said she liked her job a lot, but she didn't feel appreciated. And in that moment, my reaction inside was: "I think she's the best in the world. I could never find someone like her. I mean, recently I gave her this big raise. How can she not feel appreciated?"
So what was the problem here? The problem was not that I didn't appreciate her, but I didn't understand how to communicate to her what I genuinely felt.
As a counselor, I know that the first thing you do when you want to build a connection with someone is to ask questions, and so I said: "Well, help me understand why you don't feel appreciated. I mean, recently I gave you a raise. Do you think I'm not paying you enough?"
She said: "No, no, John, you're always generous. But John, I work hard, and you don't even know what I do."
I laughed inside, thinking: "That's why I appreciate you so much because I don't know what you do. That means I don't have to worry about anything."
I asked Helen to give me a couple of weeks before she made her final decision. During that time, every day, I took five to ten minutes to find out what she was going to do that day. I asked questions about what happened and what she was planning to do. I started to hear her frustrations and concerns, and I acknowledged some of her disappointments.
We're not talking about therapy sessions here. These were about just five-minute conversations. After two months, Helen said she felt appreciated, and she didn't want to move on any longer. She worked for me for another ten years. And the only reason she left then is she got involved with a guy and moved, but we're still good friends.
So what was the bottom line there? I always appreciated Helen, but she didn't feel appreciated. She didn't feel valued because I was showing my appreciation the way a man often wants to be appreciated.
A man wants to be given space. He doesn't want to be improved or given advice about what he should do or should have done. A man wants you to look at the results he produced and appreciate that. Helen wanted to be acknowledged not only for the results but for the journey towards those results.
How can women feel more appreciated and included at work?
Whether you're a man or a woman, we all can learn from these discussions. Men can learn to communicate better, and women can learn how to interpret men's behaviors correctly.
Let's take an example from our personal relationships. When a man's feeling stressed, he wants to be alone. If you're a woman who doesn't understand men, you might think he's mad at you, he doesn't appreciate you, or that he even doesn't love you.
In this situation, women will stop talking because they feel they don't trust their partner any longer, and men will stop talking because they need time to forget their problems—a completely different reason. Most of our problems in personal relationships happen because we misinterpret each other.
Let's apply that to the workplace. What are some of the most common scenarios where women and men misinterpret each other?
Let's say your manager is a man, and you come into his office because you have something important to discuss with him. Let's assume he's working on something urgent. He doesn't want to sound rude, saying: "Look, I don't have time for this right now. I'm busy with something, and I can't do two things at once."
It's more likely that he'll say: "Okay, what is it?" while still looking at his computer—because he can handle the pressure as long as he stays focused.
In his experience, he's listening. In your experience, he's not.
Men can't quickly shift gears as women do. When under stress, a man focuses on one thing and can't look at the bigger picture, while one of women's vulnerabilities is that they can't focus on the biggest fire. They look at everything, and everything has priorities. That's why women often feel overwhelmed. These are the biological differences between women and men.
A man will often record everything a woman says while still thinking about the problem he has to solve. It's as if he was half-listening to see if what she's saying is a bigger problem than the one he's focusing on at the moment.
If it is a bigger problem than what he's focusing on, he can shift gears and give her his full attention. That's when he'll say: "Would you say that again?"
In this case, she ends up taking his response personally, thinking that she wasn't important enough to get his full attention from the start. And in his mind, the problem is just a problem that needs to be solved right away.
This is what happens to men. We're not heartless, but sometimes our mind gets distracted because we've got this problem we need to solve.
We need to be considerate of the different sensitivities that people have. We can only have that consideration if we understand women and men are different and interpret things differently.
We've talked about women's complaints in the workplace. Let's flip the sides. What do men most complain about women?
The major complaint that men have about women when they work together with them is that women are too emotional.
Is that true?
Women are indeed more emotional than men in certain circumstances. But in other cases, men are more emotional than women. And again, this is where the knowledge about our biology changes everything.
Let me explain the way the brain is different in men and women. Scientists have measured that under moderate stress, a woman will have eight times the blood flow to the limbic system that stores long-term memories than a man under the same stress level. She'll tend to think about things that can go wrong based on what she has experienced in the past.
This means that a woman will have an eight times stronger emotional reaction to moderate problems than a man would because if a man has adrenaline—a hormone released when we're under moderate stress—his emotions temporarily go away. He has no estrogen being produced, and women have an increase of estrogen at that moment. Men also have far fewer neural connections to past memories.
That's why when a woman shows emotions around a problem, a man thinks she's overreacting—because, in a similar situation, he would be detached. Typically, a man would have to be under high stress to register the same blood flow level in his brain that a woman experiences under moderate pressure.
We have to recognize that these are not disadvantages but wonderful qualities in women because they give them the potential to build a team, be considerate, and think about what other people need. Women are more capable of immersing themselves in the moment and aligning with the other person's feelings.
If a woman doesn't talk about the emotion that came up or asks for help, her estrogen level goes back down, and her male hormones increase. She feels she needs to handle all the challenges herself, and she will go to her male side to solve the problem.
Now her adrenaline will turn into cortisol. Once you have cortisol, it doesn't go away very quickly, and it causes health problems and higher stress levels.
Today, women live in a world where we're all in a hurry, facing deadlines, and having to make decisions. All of these things produce testosterone. And when a woman produces testosterone, unless she also feels very much supported, she's going to have high-stress levels because her estrogen will be low.
Another hormone important for a woman's well-being is progesterone. A woman's estrogen levels go up towards ovulation. After she hits ovulation, the cycle changes, and to be happy, a woman needs more progesterone than estrogen. And one of the things that produce progesterone is helping people in a non-stress environment.
If she helps people in a stressful environment, she'll make testosterone, which uses up her progesterone. And that's when you get unhappy women at the workplace, and they often get labeled as bossy.
You've mentioned that in some circumstances, men are more emotional than women. When does that happen?
When a man is under adrenaline, his first reaction is to do something to solve the problem. That will make him feel good, and his emotions will go away. When a man can't do something about his situation, he feels threatened and loses his confidence. His testosterone goes down, and his estrogen goes up, leading to higher stress levels.
Under high, prolonged stress levels when cortisol is released, men have a greater emotional response than women. When men face a big problem, they'll get angrier, more argumentative, or defensive.
What advice can you give to both men and women who want to cooperate better and apply gender intelligence at work?
When in the presence of a woman, a man can listen more and ask more questions. Always give her more time than you would think is necessary to talk. Here are four questions to ask that will show her you're a good listener:
Please help me understand that better.
Tell me more about that.
The fourth question is the magic question: Is there anything more you want to say on that?
What women can do when collaborating with men is to realize that 90 percent of the time, when they're upset with a man, they're misinterpreting him. We covered some of these misinterpretations earlier.
The next thing a woman can do is to bring out the best in men. If you're a woman, don't try to change his point of view. You can have a different perspective, but you don't have to try to change his mind. And before you get to demonstrate your point of view, always give him a little of what he needs:
That makes sense.
That's an excellent idea.
I can see where you're going with that.
Any of these statements have a calming effect, and they make a woman a man's best friend.
In her bestseller Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, writes that she got to where she is because she didn't make men an enemy, but she befriended men. She gave them her appreciation, and she didn't complain about not being appreciated.
When you understand the differences between men and women, as a woman, you'll give more appreciation to men because you know that when men feel appreciated, their hormones change.
Thank you for sharing these important insights. As we approach the end of this conversation, is there any final advice you would like to share with our readers?
If you want not to accumulate stress inside, it's crucial to take care of your personal life. If you can anticipate getting the support you need when going home, then your stress levels will stay low in the workplace.
The workplace is not all about you; it's about being of service. When you go to your personal life, it's about you, and that's where you get your me-time.
To find happiness, you need to balance your hormones without depending on the workplace to change or the other sex to change. When women are on their male side, they often want to change the outer world. You have to learn how to find happiness by turning inside and taking care of yourself.
To learn more about John Gray, his work, and his mission, visit www.marsvenus.com. Make sure to check out How to Get Me Time, a course for women in relationships offered by John's daughter Lauren Gray, to lower your stress as a woman, balance your hormones, and find happiness at work and in your relationships.
Snježana Ana Billian, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Snježana Ana Billian is the founder of Workmazing, the go-to career platform for people looking to leave a mark and do amazing work in the world. Workmazing's online summits are devoted to sharing thought-provoking feature interviews of people who are authorities in the field of leadership, happiness, money management, and relationships at work.
Ana is the co-author of the bestseller Inspired By The Passion Test – The #1 Tool For Discovering Your Passion And Purpose. She was featured in Business Insider, Thrive Global, Brainz Magazine, and other media outlets.
In the past decade, Ana has been leading numerous human resources programs for large-sized multinational corporations, helping executives and high-potential professionals step into more prominent roles. She graduated with a degree in Economics and holds multiple certifications in the field of personal and leadership development.
Ana is, at heart, a citizen of the world. Born in Bosnia Herzegovina and having lived in Italy and the United States, she now spends her days in Germany, with her husband Thomas and their son Tim.