Emotionally Restrained Women Are Seen as Less Intelligent
Separating our behavior from how we feel is near impossible. We react to how we feel almost without thinking.
It makes people unique. It’s also why human behavior is so fascinating to study and read about. Emotions are what really make us tick. It’s our motivation.
Having emotions, and interpreting those emotions, makes effective communication tough. Two people can react to the same thing differently and for different reasons. So we can interpret them in a number of ways.
For example, you might see a girl crying. I might think she’s crying out of emotional relief. Maybe they’re really crying because they’re happy. Or they might genuinely be sad.
And that’s just one fictional emotional scene!
New research also has discovered that our perceptions of emotions are affected by gender. When we see a man or a woman have an emotional outburst, we view them differently.
Or more accurately, we will judge their reactions differently based on their gender.
Don’t Hold It In
Research published in the journal Emotion gives us a view into how we view and judge gender stereotypes when it comes to emotion.
The scientists were curious about how people would react to another person’s emotional restraint.
For instance, someone coming into your office and delivering news your project had been scrapped. Or maybe that you lost an important client due to a team member’s error.
Common sense would have you believe that we look favorably on someone who can control their emotions in these situations. It shows a measure of control, good judgment, and cool headed thinking.
The overall findings from the study showed a difference between men and women who restrain themselves after receiving bad news.
From the paper, here’s what they found for men:
“When restraint was manipulated by delaying the onset of the emotional reaction to a purported emotion elicitor, men were rated as both more emotionally competent and more intelligent in general…”
Almost exactly what you’d expect. But for women, the result was different. They continue:
“For women, however, the opposite pattern emerged, in that they were considered more emotionally competent and intelligent when they reacted immediately rather than when restraint was induced.”
Why the Difference?
Here’s what the researchers believe is going on.
We expect men and women to react differently when it comes to emotional reactions. We generally think women react more emotionally and men don’t.
So when we see women react with restraint, it’s different from our expectations. It doesn’t seem genuine or authentic. Instead, it feels calculated.
Coming from a man, we see restraint with emotional competence and higher intelligence. But it’s the opposite for a woman. When we see women react immediately, we perceive them to be more emotionally competent and more capable.
The study shows how gender colors our perspective of what we think is appropriate and what’s not. Case in point. Another study recently showed how angry women seem less persuasive, when angry men can actually increase their influence.
I’m not saying this is right or wrong, but it can arm you with knowledge. About how you see others, but also how others might see you.
As we’ve all experienced before, communication can be a tricky thing. But effective communication helps you relate to others and bring you success in life.