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As we close out 2006, one thing I've noticed is that today's technology seems to help men embrace their supposed "feminine" brain traits for connecting without being considered "unmanly"....

You've likely experienced the women talk/men don't phenomenon to some degree. But women aren't necessarily the only ones with empathic brain traits driving them to share stories and connect with others. According to psychologist and author of The Essential Difference(Basic Books, 2004), Simon Baron-Cohen, the average male brain has both empathic and systemizing traits, with a leaning toward the latter (and vice versa for the average female brain). So, most of us have a mid-range interest in connecting - women just have the reputation of following through on that interest with dedication.
Thanks to always-on phones, text messaging, email and social networking sites (among other things), it seems like men may be getting more comfortable with what has traditionally been seen as a female trait - connecting. Perhaps it is the cellphone screen or computer monitor inherent in the technology that make it easier for more people - and especially those with typically male brain traits - to give in to their empathic, story sharing, intertwined tendencies. Does the physical barrier or distance between humans in technology-based conversation make each person feel more protected/less vulnerable in interactions with one another? I'm no psychologist, but I wonder.
Anyway - the trendwatching authors of The Future of Men (Palgrave, 2005) point to a shift in society's definition of what can and should be considered masculine, loosening the reins on male behavior so that more of them can be who they are and do what they want "without fear of being 'outed' as unmanly."
Technology seems to be serving us well in this transition. More behind-the-screen connecting will likely lead to more comfort with the whole idea and then, perhaps, more interaction of that sort without the screens. Who knows?
But, back to my New Year's prediction: Whether through technology or otherwise, there will be significant future marketing implications in inspiring both men and women to more fully embrace and utilize their empathic brain traits. Read Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind (Riverhead Books, 2005) again, if you still aren't convinced.

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.