We chat to the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus author Dr John Gray
It’s just over 20 years since the launch of Dr John Gray’s revolutionary relationship self-help book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. First published in 1992, the controversial release was met by a storm of criticism for perpetuating gender stereotypes. Since then, Gray has written more than a dozen books and sold 50 million copies. He continues to apply his theories on how men and women communicate to different relationships and scenarios, touching on everything from dating to raising kids – and on Tuesday February 26 he will host a talk here, at Dubai’s Ductac theatre.
‘Throughout history, men have misunderstood women. Prior to being politically correct, men thought women were overly emotional. But now men see women as just being incompetent, and that is wrong,’ he says. Yet as Gray acknowledges, the world is a vastly different place from the one he addressed during the writing of his first and most famous book. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the workplace – which is the subject of his latest book, entitled Work with Me, The B.lind Spots Between Men and Women in Business, due out in May.
‘The issues are changing. When I wrote Men Are from Mars, there wasn’t as much of an establishment of women in the workplace,’ he explains. Surprisingly, he looks to liberal Scandinavia for an example of how gender equality is actually failing both sexes in society. ‘They’ve achieved pseudo equality by declaring that men and women are actually different. It’s un-PC to acknowledge there are differences between men and women, but we should honour them, respect them and appreciate them.’
He reveals his new book includes a huge study that proves the importance of treating men and women differently, particularly in a corporate environment. ‘We did a test with more than 100,000 people. Everybody filled out forms and was interviewed,’ he says. ‘What we found, in terms of gender intelligence, was a tremendous lack of it. It surprises everybody, because people don’t even realise it’s a problem, and we call it gender blindness. For example, 80 to 90 percent of women feel that men don’t appreciate what they bring into the workplace, and 90 percent of men report that they do appreciate what women bring into the workplace. You suddenly have this huge gap.
‘It’s not an argument, it’s just men feeling appreciated and valued, and assuming that women feel the same – and they don’t.’ As a result of personal experience with a former assistant, Gray has learned that an enormous part of making women feel valued is to know the process. ‘Women value the journey as opposed to the goal. A man goes, “Look, see what I did,” and he doesn’t care as much about giving you the details of what was difficult for him. But for a woman, sharing the tribulations demonstrates the value of what she brings to the company, which is the caring. Women have a tremendous caring process, and they make efforts to ensure it’s done that way, and they value that. So if I can’t value what she values, she doesn’t feel valued.’
The key, he laughs, is not to say ‘thank you’ a lot, but to know what you’re thanking them for. Ask questions, and show as much interest in and gratitude for the process as the outcome. But this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Gray’s findings and theories are many, and have all kinds of applications in the office alone. Ultimately he is adamant (and backed by a number of studies) that the key to success in any workplace is for men and women to work together, and not in an environment that is exclusively either gender. ‘When you combine the male and female tendencies, in a way that respects both sides and includes both sides, the outcome is better. Fifteen years ago, when I first talked about this, there was no research to [prove it], but since then much has shown that when men and women are on board together, a company has a better bottom line.’ See Dr Gray on Tuesday February 26, 5pm-9pm, tickets Dhs645. Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, www.rightselection.com/events.
Relationship support in Dubai
Lighthouse Coaching Evelyn Heffermehl d’Emilio offers life and relationship coaching, to help people improve their communication both at home and at work. Price and location upon request. www.lighthousecoaching.ae (055 667 4335).
Lifeworks A range of counsellors and psychologists offer marriage and relationship advice to all. From Dhs700 per session. Al Wasl Road (04 394 2464).
Counselling & Development Clinic Pre-marriage and couples’ counselling is available with Dr McCarthy. From Dhs500. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 394 6122).