Neither. They just handle stress differently.

The differences are not great, but they do create misunderstandings.

Women tend to draw on their relationships in times of stress

I remember a manager protesting that a colleague would come into his office, take a seat uninvited and vent her stress without him saying a word. 'Then she'd leave and we'd both feel bad.'

No. He'd feel bad. She'd feel better. He should have felt complimented. She was doing what women are more inclined to do - draw on their relationships in times of stress and she was trusting him enough to include him in her network of supporters.

He thought that to be any help at all he needed the chance to offer some solutions. Most women don't want solutions - and certainly not at that early stage. They want a listener.

Other differences between men and women?

The American Psychological Association reports that men are more likely to find work stressful. For women, it's more likely to be money. Women are also more likely to say that family relationships are important to them, yet fewer women than men feel they are doing a good job maintaining those relationships.

Married women report more stress than single women.

Both men and women tell researchers that they choose sedentary activities such as reading or television to reduce their stress - rather than healthier strategies such as exercise.

Women are more open about lacking the willpower to exercise more - mostly because they are too tired. Six times as many women as men say that having more help with household chores would allow them improve their willpower to exercise.

Stress-busting technique: the two-minute rant

My wife and I have an arrangement you might find useful at home or in the office.

The two-minute rant gives you two minutes (or thereabouts) to sound off, before moving on. I'm not very good at it. (10 seconds and I'm done.) My wife is and will often end with a laugh and, 'Ah, I feel much better now'. 

  • It's a rant about the stresses and frustrations of life, not the listener.
  • Listeners: No judging, correcting, analysing or offering solutions.
  • After two minutes it's time to move on. Going on and on about the causes of stress is rumination and nothing prolongs stress more effectively.

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