I'm writing a short essay on gender undercurrents of conversations, i.e. how do different people approach communication and problem-solving in their relationships. One way to phrase this is in terms of power dynamics, gender psychology, etc. My statement is that we associate the female dynamic with a strong internal dialogue, seeking problems from within (inward-looking), and guilt, while the male beginning is more reactionary and action-based. So one party is prone to fix problems by analyzing their behavior, and another party is fine completing a specific action to avoid a confrontation, when a problem arises in a relationship.

While I like the essay, I don't like expressing this social pattern in terms of gender. There are many men that look inward for solving problems in their relationships, and plenty of women that look outward when faced with a problem. I label these tendencies as male and female beginnings, but I wonder if there is a better way to express this pattern without referring to gender. There are so many stereotypes with gender that I wouldn't want to contribute more bias and confusion by claiming these things.

Is there a more universal, not-gender-binding analysis available? Can I express this analysis in a different/more general way, without assuming something first about gender?

P.S. First posted on psychology.stackexchange.com. Comments suggested moving it here as the question is more about wording than about an alternate line of analysis.

  • "writing a short essay on gender undercurrents of conversations" - Do I understand it correctly that you want to switch your topic to being gender-neutral?
    – Alexander
    Apr 10, 2018 at 18:21
  • @Alexander Yes I believe the analysis would be better if it wasn't gender-oriented.
    – Buddhapus
    Apr 10, 2018 at 19:02

2 Answers 2


In psychology, the tendencies you have described are termed internatlizing and externalizing behavior.

In extreme cases those tendencies lead to internalizing disorders, which were long thought to be more prevalent among women, and externalizing disorders, some of which still appear to be more prevalent among men. These disorders might be helpful for you to better understand the tendencies of which they are extreme forms.

I do agree with you, and many psychologists will, that internalizing and externalizing behavior are not exclusively male or female. Our culture has long rewarded internalizing behavior in women – the demure, quiet housewife – and externalizing behavior in men – the aggressive businessman –, but those times are on the wane and the social roles for men and women and their corresponding behavior, while not yet completely alike, are certainly no longer as distinctly opposed as they once where.


I've always considered the two poles as cooperative and competitive.

Cooperators want to do things in a group, to get the opinions if not the consensus of others, and consider their own wants secondary to those of others.

Competitors want to come up with a solution individually and then impose it on everyone around them. Their wants are the most important.

Let me give you a non-aggressive example which still includes gender: A man and a woman are in a room. The woman feels chilly. She thinks I feel chilly. I would like it to be warmer in here. Does he feel chilly too? If we both feel chilly, it's genuinely cold in here, and we should turn the heat up. But if it's just me, I'll put on a sweater so he's not too hot.

The woman asks the man, "Is it cold in here?"

The man thinks She is asking me a factual question about air temperature. He gets up and looks at the thermostat, and says "No, it's 72 degrees." (72ºF is not considered "cold.")

The cooperator wants to get consensus before changing the group environment. The competitor is only concerned with being "right."

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