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Why the Republicans and Democrats Don't and Won't Listen to Each Other is an elaboration on something I recently spoke about at the Fortune Growth Summit 2013)

Simply stated, Republicans and men (especially entrepreneurial/ambitious/successful men) run on adrenaline (which is about power and conquest) and testosterone (which is about aggression); Democrats and women (especially those who are more about family and home than career) run on estrogen (which is about creating and building a home and family) and oxytocin (which is about connecting and bonding with people vs. competing with them).

People who run on adrenaline and testosterone also love to develop momentum and that is why they can be like "steamrollers" in their approach to others.  Rather than being concerned with connecting with anyone or creating a home, they are more interested in conquering the competition and conquering more land to build a bigger house, estate and empire.  They are more concerned with quantity than quality (which is why they want their cars to have a zillion horsepower and astronomic acceleration that they will rarely ever be able to use).

People who run on estrogen and oxytocin are more concerned with the connecting and  "relating" part of relationships.  It is estrogen and especially oxytocin that is responsible for empathy, tenderness, being loving, patience and joy.  It is also what gives women a sixth sense and enables them to know what an infant is doing in another room, whereas men have to go see for themselves.  And they are more into quality, especially in relationships than into quantity (they don't usually care about having thousands of linkedIn connections).

Sadly, the adrenaline and testosterone approach to life is overtaking estrogen and oxytocin and that is why empathy, tenderness, being loving, patience and joy are leaving the human landscape.

Adrenaline and testosterone are also impatient, bottom line, ROI driven, results-are-all-that-matters and once they are on a roll can't stand anything that stands in their way.  They are fine with talking, but become annoyed and irritated with having to listen, especially talking that doesn't quickly get to the point.

Now many of the ambitious of you might snarkingly say, "Why should we care about slowing down to listen? What's wrong about having the fastest car and biggest house?" You may poo-poo the idea of "belonging" or having a "home" to come home to.

I might have been tempted to join in on one of my adrenaline pumping days, but having done house calls to some very powerful dying people has caused me to not so quickly climb on or stay on that runaway train.

I remember one very powerful man I visited before he died that admitted to me, "I don't think I have done anything important in my life and think I might have blown it."

When I told him that was nonsense and reminded him of thousands of jobs he created, the hospital named after him and a very appreciative and even adoring public, he replied with a wry smile, "Don't con a con man, especially when he is dying.  I have all the love that money can buy and that's all it's worth.  I also have ex-wives that I got the better of, a pile of kids and grandkids -- a couple of which may go through their trust funds before I die -- and not too many people who care a lick beyond what I could do for them.  And being master of the universe, I thought I could outsmart hard drinking and hard smoking.  Well guess what? I couldn't and didn't.  So maybe, just maybe, I blew it."

Maybe his cancer had not just metastasized through him, but went through all his adrenaline and testosterone and he was left feeling some oxytocin laden pangs of what he missed out on.

SEE ALSO: Why so many high-achievers feel unfulfilled - the syndrome of disavowed yearning (to contrast the downside of conquest and upside of connectedness)

Reader Comments (5)

Pure psycho babble, a view formed from a single perspective and imagination also most likely not tested in the real world. Maybe Mark needs to get out of his liberal world and meet real Republicans who work, pay bills and raise families he may learn something.
Since the sixties we have been under verbal attack by the liberal media, entertainment world and academia; what he sees has testosterone induced rage is nothing more than being feed up with the lies and not taking it anymore.

October 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterEd Zenzol

Thank-you for the wonderful post. As a working, bill paying citizen I was stunned by the juvenile behavior displayed during the recent government shut-down. We need to find a way to listen and better communicate in order to move ahead positively.

I so enjoyed your book "Just Listen" . It should be required reading before any elected official is sworn into office.

October 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterAmy Dee-Kristensen

Thank you Amy for your kind words.

Ed, With regard to your words. I appreciate your adding your comment, because I think spirited debate gets to better answers. However I do have a question for you, if I were to ask the women in your life if they feel listened to and heard out by you, what would they say?
I will do a trade with you. I'll work on the liberal side of the tracks not being so judgmental, bleeding heart and attacking of the conservative wing, if you'll work on being a better and more patient listener to the people in your circle (unless of course your adrenaline and testosterone makes that too difficult).

October 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterMark Goulston

Mark, once again you've eloquently explained one of the many reasons our government has become so gridlocked and polarized. However, this has been in evolution for years when somewhere along the way it became acceptable to personally (civilly?) destroy another person through verbal assault, conjecture, debate and scandal in order to win debates, elections or an office. One could argue none of this helps solve problems or create progress for our country and the founding fathers would be disappointed into how things have dissolved.

The fact is, we need a collaborative - and diverse - government. Diverse can take many forms and contain as many labels as one desires. Both Democrats and Republicans need to realize that splitting the country in half in pursuit of an ideological monopoly is destructive. Listening closely to a variety of perspectives and genuinely considering each is the best way to draft legislation that promotes broad-based acceptance by the electorate. Alienating half, and perhaps more, of the general public over the course of the last 20 years has resulted in an extremely angry general public that wants real and permanent change.

The zero-sum games have created a corrupt government bent on destruction. However, the politicians aren't the only ones to blame. The general public has been drinking from a fire hose of poor reporting and spin from the media whose sole purpose is to create ratings to fuel their business. The unintended consequence has been the utilization of the media to create fear in the public to rush to irrational decisions. In short, we've all been duped and dumbed down.

I'll close by noting an observation that the way out of the shutdown was a collaborative effort by six women - 3 republicans and 3 democrats. I daresay it was their abiliity to decentralize their ego in favor of centralizing the good of the populace through collaboration. That might be real evidence of what you wrote above, Mark!

October 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterKelly McInroy-Edwards

Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to defend ourselves from each other....

Problematic is that the "steamrolling" seemingly works ( in the short term). Inevitably, it encourages more the same.

Of what great benefit might it be for there to be a pause or gap in the action for us to come to our senses and better understand rather than just react. When we don't give our adversaries space for that, so much less likely is it to happen.

It's important to encourage dialogue and decorum. Especially to those we share ideologies with because certainly no person or group can be right all the time. Plenty of grey areas meriting collaborative efforts. There has to be sufficient cooperation for government to function. Stimulus for that to occur.

As unfortunate as things are, an opportunity has been presented us. On the large scale things are awfully dysfunctional. Though, a smaller but growing number people are seeking truths that are in all of our collective interest. A most worthy endeavor.

Right now we're in between a rock and a hard place in the same boat where motives are essentially is to destroy the other. The more we attempt to control, the more unfavorable the experience. When we get behind what is common within us, this takes the place of what won't budge, is threatening to our livelihood and ultimately is an insult to that we are.

Only you or I can do that. Nobody else can for us. Group or individual.

The person(s) who we think might be one thing may prove to be quite something different if when sought after. Who knows...we could discover a wrinkle that's good for us!

October 30, 2013 | Registered CommenterMark Johnson
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