The feedback conundrum: why are women nice, and men ‘challenging’?


From the blog

The feedback conundrum: why are women nice, and men 'challenging'?

Posted 18 August 2010 14:50 by martin

We get lots of feedback, in fact loads of it.

It comes in a variety of flavours – friendly, bizarre, angry, delighted, tricky, helpful…you name it.

But at least we get it.  If no-one was communicating with us, we'd definitely be doing something wrong.

One of the most gratifying things about working on over all these years has been the number of people who bother to write in and say something nice.  A positive piece of feedback can turn an average day into a good one.

And much to my surprise, not only do these comments come in on a daily basis, but there's been no let-up – they keep on coming.

But here's the thing – I'd say about 95% of the unambiguously positive comments come from women (e.g. “you're just FABULOUS!!!! ALWAYS!!!!!” – not very blokey is it?), whereas the more hostile, challenging or equivocal ones are more in the region of 75% men : 25% women.

We rarely receive a clear and simple piece of praise from a man.

Why so?

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  1. Jackie Hancock says:

    August 20th, 2010 at 11:23 am (#)

    Men always need to say something to stand out from the rest,even if they really don't believe it themselves, there is a deep need to be noticed, it is classic attention seeking behaviour. Poor souls,they constantly need to push themselves into a position where they can't be missed. Probably to do with self esteem. Women don't care, as it's not high on their agenda to be noticed, unless they are wearing the latest fashion that is…..

  2. Tom Austin says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 11:34 am (#)

    Oh, how wonderful, splendid and delightful it is to be granted this opportunity to sidle away from my, all too deserved, egregious nature and say something pedestrian to my fellow pedestrians. But how can this, the simplest of things, be done?
    Am I to take a side-swipe at '' only with the utilitarian hand-bag I don't have? [not that I would dare]
    I had best stop here as I am sure whatever mundanity that is out there is not (by nature?) heading my way any time soon.
    I wish all at the very best for the future, do keep up your good work and your thought provoking and comment inducing feed-back blogs.
    Women may not care, but they sure do matter.

  3. David says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 11:53 am (#)

    I love being psychoanalysed and pathologised!

    As a man – or at least as someone who is under the impression that he's a man – with direct access to manly thoughts & stuff, I reckon the absence of overtly friendly and encouraging comments has to do with being technically and service-oriented.

    Would I be wrong if I supposed that about 75% of the technical suggestions came from men? If it's somewhere in that region, I reckon you could do an analysis of gender constructs in relation to how each sees themselves as being supportive.

    Some of us see critique as a positive thing…

    There are some otehr wider considerations, such as whether men are aware of the value of praise. If you're a man, how often does someone give you direct and enthusiastic praise? In my case, it's about once a fortnight… often enough to be noticeable, but not so often that it's part of the fabric of existence.

  4. Spiny Norman says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 11:57 am (#)

    Maybe because men want to improve the website?

    Praise is nice, but it doesn't move things on. Constructive criticism is what leads to improvements.

  5. David Miller says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 12:03 pm (#)

    I sent you some unreserved praise about your excellent site, so don't tar us with the same brush. You never thanked me for it by the way, but perhaps you poor souls have issues surrounding classic attention seeking behaviour blah blah.

  6. Jamie says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 6:02 pm (#)

    We certainly need (and get) constructive criticism, and plain criticism. Both are really valuable. I was trying to explore the feedback gender differences – but obviously I don't think I phrased this very well! Apologies to any offended men out there…

  7. Tom says:

    August 26th, 2010 at 9:53 pm (#)

    I love you all.

  8. Spiny Norman says:

    September 6th, 2010 at 8:19 pm (#)

    Just to be a bit technical, gender is a property of words, sex of living organisms. The misuse of gender to mean sex is a product of US squeamishness about using the S word.

    It is a mistake only possible for monolingual English speakers. In French, a desk has the masculine gender, a tabble the feminine. Neither has the male or female sex…

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