Empathy is critically important when trying to maintain a healthy relationship.
Being able to read a partner’s emotions is useful because it allows an individual to adjust his or her behavior and communicate more effectively. For instance, if you recognize that your partner is feeling frustrated, taking a moment to acknowledge his or her feelings can sometimes make all of the difference in the world. A lack of insight into how a partner is feeling, however, is most certainly going to result in more hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and negative outcomes.
We signal our feelings primarily through our nonverbal behavior, especially through our facial expressions. In fact, we often look at our partner’s eyes in order to get a sense of what’s going on behind the curtain.
New research using fMRI technology shows that men had a more difficult time reading the emotional state when shown female eyes. The key finding of the research is best summarized by the following quote:
“We found that men actually had twice as many problems in recognizing emotions from female as compared to male eyes, and that these problems were particularly associated with a lack of activation in limbic regions of the brain.”
It is somewhat ironic that men may be better at reading other men’s emotional states.
What’s the advantage in men being able to read other men, but being less accurate at understanding what a woman is feeling?
Did men’s survival somehow depend on being able to sense what other men were thinking?
Maybe this research helps explain why women sometimes feel that men are less sensitive to their needs: Men are less good at reading feelings when expressed through female eyes.