Full transcript of author John Gray’s TEDx Talk: Mars Brain, Venus Brain at TEDxBend event.
John Gray – Relationship counselor, lecturer and author
So I asked him to turn up the lights so that I could see you as well. We are talking about relationships after all. And the most important thing in a relationship man is to see your wife. You can see who is married in a restaurant or who is dating. If a man is dating a woman, he is looking right at her. He’s got one goal. And once he’s climbed that mountain you can relax. So you see the married men they’re looking around. Quite often somebody else catches their attention, I haven’t seen her before. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her, his wife; it just means he never saw that before. Like we all do this, that’s why we go on vacations to lovely spots, new places, getting off the plane here and then it was blown away by the beautiful mountain. It’s exciting.
You go somewhere new and different, it stimulates the brain chemical called dopamine. And dopamine gives us motivation, it gives us pleasure, it gives us focus and it gives us happiness in our relationships: passion. When we fall in love with somebody, it’s literally like we’re high on drugs. Maybe you don’t remember if you’ve been married for 28 years like I have. But I am reminded of it with my youngest daughter who is in that first falling in love stage with her live-in, they’re planning – they’re planning but she is a modern woman, she wants to be completely financially self-sufficient before she gets married. As the new woman she wants to be sufficient. Yes, yes I mean we all want to be self-sufficient. We all want to be independent and then from place of wholeness come together, it’s a new world. I’m going to talk about that new world today.
But one of the most important things is to understand this brain chemical dopamine. Because when you haven’t met someone before and you’re getting to know them all the ingredients are there to stimulate dopamine, newness and there is no history, you’re complete: where we’re going with this, what’s going to happen and that stimulates his brain chemical. And in men dopamine stimulates a hormone called testosterone. So suddenly men’s testosterone levels are surging, the average man at 50 has half the testosterone levels he had as a young man. It starts to drop. A lot of things contribute to that. But one of the things is marriage. You know, I’m 62 but I went to the 50s with my friends and several of my friends got divorced and they came alive. Not that I’m not recommending divorce to come alive. But I’m recommending learning new relationship skills to come alive in your marriage.
But it’s like suddenly when you were somebody new, just going somewhere near, being with somebody new, it stimulates dopamine and for men dopamine stimulates testosterone. And for men testosterone lowers stress. Stress – I don’t mean stress in your life. Life is always stressful, problems everywhere. But how do we react to life is dependent on our hormone response to life. And for men testosterone is the hormone that helps men keep their stress levels down. Most people don’t know this but I learned this when I started — I mean it was like 30 years ago, I was reading — 20 years ago maybe 30 somewhere in there – I was about to go see the movie Grumpy Old Men and I was also reading that one of the differences between young men and old men was that men’s testosterone levels go down. And then I made the link: Grumpy Old Men.
Think about men when they haven’t been laid for a while, they get grumpy. They’re irritable. And yet we always thought that testosterone caused all that irritability. But actually for men it’s estrogen. It’s all those Grumpy Old Men have super high estrogen levels and low testosterone, who knew? One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, prostate cancer for men is low testosterone. All men with depression have low testosterone. And that’s why depression is very different for a man than for a woman.
Depression for a man is that feeling: ‘nobody wants me, I’m not needed anymore’. Basically I’m out of work, nobody there to respond to me, nobody there for me to fix, help, serve, support. So being out of work is the major depression for men, or being in a marriage where you feel you can’t do anything to make your partner happy. I get to see as a marriage counselor for over 30 years, people often on their last exit, because I’m famous, people say, yeah, you go see him, so I get the tough cases. But it’s a challenge.
And what I hear again and again for men, I take them in aside: what is the problem here. Okay, what’s going on here? What’s the — if we could fix one problem what would that be? ‘John, the only problem here is my wife’s not happy’. That’s it.
Now I do these seminars, workshops at my ranch for like four days and we start out men in one room, women in the other. Without my influence, I have the men write down their complaints about their wives, relationships, women in one room. Women do it in another room and then we spend the whole four days working on that. And men have one sheet and women have five. And men’s list is one or two words, critical, complaints, nags, punishes, not interested in sex. That’s the longest one they come up with. There’s that list over there.
And women got all these lists, so it gets a big long list, everything is a long sentence and if this, then that, all that stuff. And men go see. Now I got a few claps for that which I’m not asking for but that’s what excites men. I made a difference. So men love their dogs so much. When I come home, my dog is happy I’m alive. It touches — it touches something so deep inside of every man, to the whole evolution of men, men were like out there in the dangerous world. If you came home alive they celebrated. Now you’re always back. You left the lights on in the living room last night before you left. That’s what I get.
So men got — you know she was just happy and what’s the man thinking if she was just the way she was when I married her. When men get married they want you to stay the same as if you came. And I realize that women will never be the same, they’re like the weather. It’s always changing, it’s sunshine, blue cloud, puffy cloud, blue sky, puffy clouds, rain storms, lightning strikes, hurricanes, tornadoes.
Now if you’re from Mars you have these instincts that you’re the worst thing when you’re with the Venusian. See on Mars when there’s tornados what do we do? We find a ditch and lie low. It’s not what women expect you to do. That tornado comes in, you’re supposed to like stand there. It’s something to matter. And if you read any of my books anyway you have to say when every cell in your body says I can’t take it anymore, I got to find a ditch and lie low. Let me get my car and drive somewhere. Instead you stand there and just keep looking. And when there’s a break you say, ‘Huh, tell me more’. She feels like I’m married to Superman. After that you could do that and I teach people how to do that, it takes but you have to at least know what you’re trying to do here, because men who have been married, they say no matter what I say or do it makes it worse. And I say that’s because what you say and do is wrong. It just doesn’t work. You’ve just told me it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But what does work — nothing. Nothing. You cannot make a woman happy. You cannot change the weather. It changes by itself.
Women are grownups, they can feel better, they can get happier, they know how to do it. Just their way of doing it is different from ours. All I have to do when I’m stressed out is sit down. Men have a switch back here. As soon as you sit down, blood flow stops to your brain. They did some experiments on that. They put women at the end of the day sit down, men on the way sitting down and they measured the brain activity. Women sit down their brain speed up, more blood flow. And you say what are you thinking? And she says which every woman in this room can predict, well while sitting on this couch I’m thinking about all the things I should be doing that I’m not doing, while I’m doing this silly experiment.
And then they did to man and the man sitting there and you look at the scans nothing is happening. Is it broken? What is this? And she’s like what — so you ask him, what are you thinking? And you know the answer of that question, if you’ve been married. He says nothing. And now he’s got evidence, see honey, I’m not withholding from you. I don’t have big secrets. I’m not hiding my problems from you. I’m trying to forget them. Why do we have to talk about them, because one of the primary ways that men cope with stress — and remember what’s the harm on the lower stress for men, testosterone. So what’s the harm on the lower stress for men is testosterone, if I’ve got all these problems in my life and I’m solving them, I’m releasing testosterone, it’s keeping my stress levels down.
At the end of the day I still have all these unmet problems, right? All these problems I haven’t solved. So now I am not solving problems, my stress level goes up. I can’t do anything about it. I’m home, I can’t do anything about it, so stress goes up. So how have men adapted to deal with problems you can’t do anything about once you’re sitting? Forget it. We can turn our brains off. We have an off switch; women don’t. They cannot forget anything.
Here is a simple test in Gender Intelligence: who has a better bigger memory? Women or men? Women. This is proven. The hippocampus in a woman’s brain is twice as big as in a man’s brain. The second stores like a library recording everything on the first floor. On the second floor she records every mistake you’ve ever made. And something she can’t do much about is when she is stressed. When she is stressed, blood flow goes to that second floor. The elevator, she goes up, she forgets every good thing you’ve ever done and remembers every mistake you made. And how does she get off that floor? She’s got to lower her stress, she cannot forget it. So what does she do? What’s a woman’s reaction? Just measure the brain, there’s wonderful brain studies now.
Under moderate stress, women’s brains have eight times more blood flow to the emotional part of the brain which then goes to the hippocampus. She’s bombarded with memories. For man, he forgets everything. So I’m not saying that women are more emotional than men. I’m saying that under moderate stress women have a stronger emotional reaction. Under big stress men have a stronger emotional reaction. And what’s big stress for men? A problem you can’t solve and can’t forget. That’s big stress for men. A problem you can’t solve and you can’t forget. No matter how many football games you are watching, no matter how much news you’re watching, how much pressing blades in the gym you’re doing, you can’t forget that problem. So now your stress levels are shooting up. So for men that’s a big problem.
So historically evolutionary wise, that’s lions, tigers, bears – lions, tigers, bears, men have a big reaction. And by the way biologically what’s happening? As soon as a man feels powerless, his testosterone converts to estrogen and floods his brain with fear and anger. It’s when men got their female hormones they lose control of their masculine hormones, their testosterone levels drop. Literally testosterone converts into estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase. So if I’m a man, testosterone driven every man has to have 30 times more testosterone than your average woman to get up on stage to do anything. Without that, he’s like a — I don’t want to work anymore, I just want to go play, watch TV and do nothing. Every loser I’ve ever counseled, I said why’d you do that? I felt like it. Why you’d get up and do this? I don’t feel like it.
What we do want — feelings, it’s a wonderful evolutionary lift. Men have to always reason first and then check it out with your feelings. Why do I say that? Because I counsel losers a lot and they follow their feelings instead. But does that make sense? I don’t care. You’ve got to start caring if you’re a man about what makes sense and then check it out with your feelings. And for women you’ve got to check out what is my feeling first which will access your intuition and then what makes sense. We’re complements to each other and we see the wiring in the brain is the same. The intuitive center over here, the emotional center over here called the right anterior parietal lobe in a woman which has to do with personal relationships, has to do with: what are you eating today? What should we have for food today? What should I wear? Look, what she’s wearing. What do our children need? What do the people need? What does the earth need? What does our family need? How can I bet improve this relationship, that’s all relational activities.
I discovered that on vacation with my three daughters and my wife in Hawaii. As we were sitting around with nothing to do, I listened to their conversations: Where we’re going to eat? Where we’re going to eat, what are we going to wear? Did you wear, can I wear that? Not that when they’re limited that at all but when they are relaxing. See, that’s what I’m talking about. This is how women relax. They go to the right part of the brain that stimulates estrogen. It also stimulates a magic hormone that most people are not aware of called Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is the hormone that lowers stress in women. This was an amazing discovery. It was — 12 years ago they started finding this out. Just to brag a moment because I’m from Mars, talking about it 30 years ago. I discovered it when I read an article about Oxytocin is what women produce when they see babies. You know, back in the day we’re learning about being their bonding with your children at birth, huge amounts of oxytocin comes out and you bond. Well, then I went to this mall, just watching women, and watching men, I used to sit there and just watch. There was a chair.
And in those days when women had a lot more oxytocin than they have now. In those days a woman carrying a baby along like this, women would gather: oh, oh, ah. The same responses my wife would make when I brought her a rose. And when I put my arm around her we saw something sweet in a movie and I realized aha, this is what makes women smile. Now we have the science behind it: oxytocin lowers stress for women. Then we found out oxytocin allows women to have climax in the bedroom. That perks up men’s ears. There is a pill — there is a pill, oxytocin pill, synthetic oxytocin you can give it to her, she’ll be really turned on and has been proven next day she shoots you. Because the drugs take you up but then they bring you down.
So by understanding these two dynamics, we’re living in a world today where there’s lots of stress. What we want to do is have equality, mutual respect, mutual appreciation. But we’re facing a new challenge as women are more in the workplace, feeling more independent, testosterone gets produced. There’s nothing wrong with testosterone in women’s body. Some women are just born with more. So they’re over here saying, “John, what are you talking about? I don’t care what I wear.” But most women have – 90% of women have this low testosterone, high estrogen and oxytocin is the hormone in all women that lowers cortisol for them. Cortisol, the stress hormone.
Well, what if you give a man an injection of oxytocin, he goes to sleep, because after climax as well — after he has climax that’s a release of oxytocin; what does he do? He goes right to sleep. So the bottom line is anything that’s oxytocin producing after you’ve done it three or four times, kind of puts a man to sleep — which puts a real damper on relationships unless men figure out if I do oxytocin things from my wife, I’m not just doing oxytocin producing things for her, I’m solving a problem. And when I solve a problem, testosterone levels go up. So if my wife is talking, I’m in the storm. I say tell me more, my testosterone stays up, because I know how to make it work. And I know what I’m doing is helping her create more oxytocin – planning dates, bringing flowers, giving cars, all the symbols of Valentine’s Day you do regularly on a little score, just a little bit. She’s always looking ahead to a special time that causes her oxytocin levels to rise up, to lower her stress so that her stress levels don’t shoot up, because right now women stress levels by studies are on average twice as high as men’s and four times higher at home. It’s shocking, it’s shocking.
And what we can do is realize our relationships can help us to lower the stress levels in women by learning new skills — learning new skills to create oxytocin in her better communication does it, see her, hear her, notice when she gets her hair cut, those little things.
So I’m going to finish here. The little things are so important. Men’s testosterone is so important. I’ve never given such a short talk in my life. But I will finish with three takeaway — simple easy takeaways. I didn’t even do my slideshow. It was going to be staying focused in a hyper world but as soon as somebody laughed, it brought out the best of me. So you got the best of me and you’ve been the best. And I want to just give you three thoughts to go away with.
For men — there’s something man-made formulas, we need systems, that’s the left brain by the way for men. Left anterior parietal lobe is twice as big for women, that’s solving problems, fixing the toaster, arranging the computer, technical things where you’re fixing things, that stimulates testosterone, solving problems, nurturing things. That we have a combination of male and female in all of us but here’s how you nurture the female hormones, the male hormones.
A secret most men don’t know: you can bring her two dozen roses. In a man’s brain he calculates on the left brain, that’s 24 roses, that should be 24 points. If roses caused oxytocin that should be a huge surge. It’s one point of oxytocin. So we have to know. If you were to bring one rose, guess what happens, one point of oxytocin. Six roses, guess what you get one point of oxytocin. 100 roses, maybe two points of oxytocin. Little things make a big difference for women. So it’s not the big stuff – the big stuff is fine — you go to work and you do better and better at work, you think like okay I’ll never have to bring roses again. You go to work, you get one. You come home, you get one point. You’re married, one point for that, that’s it; three points a day. And she’s doing the same thing, so the score is even when you get home. And she’s made you dinner and there’s candle light burning, oh my god, you’re in big trouble, because she gives herself a point for matching napkins with plates.
If she says I made your favorite meal, you’re in big trouble because she gives herself all these points for knowing what you like, going to the store and buying what you like. Now when she likes, you like all those little selfless sacrifices she’s giving herself points and she looks at you 33 to 3, she’s going ‘who is this guy’, is a zero 33-3 is 0. So do lots of little things, hugs four times a day. Affection, compliments, try to notice things, plan dates, these are all big oxytocin producers. I’ve written 17 books on this subject.
Now for men — what can you do to keep his testosterone levels up, women? You want that man alive, dynamic. Here’s three little things. Remember their little things but little things sometimes have a big effect on men too. When he’s talking, he pauses, find authenticity inside, here’s three phrases to use every day and you will watch him, chefs will pop up like this. You say to him as he’s paused, you go: that makes sense. He’s walking around like — and in his mind he’s thinking what did I say.
The next phrase: good idea. I think I’m ready for my next TED talk, he’s going good idea, worth sharing with others, right, right.
And then the magic phrase every man craves to hear once he gets married. Oh my gosh it’s such a deficit for us. Whenever you can say it, say it women, don’t hold it back, you don’t realize how important it is: just with a big smile on your face, say you’re right.
Thank you all so very much. I hope this is an idea worth sharing.
Thank you. Thank you very much.