Therapy That Works...

Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Gender Politics - Jan 10, 2008

Gender Politics: Hillary's Tears in New Hampshire

January 10, 2008

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With Hillary Clinton's stunning win in New Hampshire, political analysts are asking how her emotional display may have affected her unanticipated win on Tuesday. Are powerful women held to a higher standard than men and do Americans expect different behaviors because of gender? Here to shed some light on these questions is TXA 21 Contributing Psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: Did this emotional moment seem scripted to you?

Dr. Sylvia: When people are lying, they typically use excessive emotion and detail and hit their audience hard. When people are being honest, it doesn't occur to them that they would be doubted. Manipulators and performers provide too much emotion, too many details and too much impact. Hillary's statements caused her emotions, not the other way around. Such a pattern lends support to her credibility in this instance.

Q: Do we expect different things from female leaders than we do from men in power?

Dr. Sylvia: Without a doubt, we have vastly different expectations due to our own gender stereotypes. We expect our leaders, regardless of gender, to be decisive, analytical but warm and periodically reassuring. In leadership at the presidential level, we expect emotional self- discipline. Many of us still operate with the male rules of communication that rarely include emotional displays. Women in power, even at the presidential level, are more apt to be misinterpreted as weak or undisciplined because they commonly include emotions in conversation.

Q: What does neuroscience say about this issue?

Dr. Sylvia: We know from neuroscience that men have less access to their emotions. They will naturally constrict in emotional situations while women express emotions freely as a way of connecting to their audience. However, there are striking exceptions to the rule as in the emotional speeches of our current president following 9/11. I predict that we are going to see more public displays of emotion in politics and in all sorts of leadership as women take the helm.

Q: So how do you explain the positive effect Hillary's emotional comments had with the voters?

Dr. Sylvia: Americans expect emotional disclosure from their leaders since it builds trust. We love those special moments that stand as a "window into the soul." However, we don't like excessive emotion since is shows a lack of control regardless of gender. Consider Howard Dean's screaming during the primaries several years ago. It was risky but Hillary seemed to have an acceptable level of emotions in her comments.

Q: So why didn't Hillary's emotions compromise her political standing to some voters as such displays have with other candidates?

Dr. Sylvia: Because her emotion was strong but was directly tied to meaningful content. It was different from someone who loses it. She didn't scream, rant or rave. She kept talking about a meaningful subject that was significant to her and the emotion flowed from what she was talking about. Many of the women in that diner also teared up with her. Whether it was emotionally relevant probably was determined by the gender of the voter.

Q: What should our viewers take away from this story?

Dr. Sylvia: Remember that the language differences between men and women are vast. Both men and women seek to create influence but will use language in different ways. A man will use a public forum to display skills and knowledge while a woman will emphasize connection and consensus. She will be more likely to use her own private experiences to create a public connection with others. Be careful not to misinterpret comments from men or women with your own gender bias.