Tag Archives: relationships

Are women attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes?

Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes claims a research which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent. This made me ponder on my attitude towards benevolent sexism. 

The concept of benevolent sexism was first developed in 1996 by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Peter Glick is a psychologist who studies benevolent sexism — “the paternalistic belief that women are pure, fragile flowers in need of men’s protection.” Benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, feels positive and well-intentioned. According to the research, the warm feeling surrounding benevolent sexism come at a cost – and that cost is gender inequality.

So does that mean opening the door for a woman, paying the bill for a dinner, pulling the chair for the lady to sit – a display of benevolent sexism? Well the old-fashioned way of describing this exact behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry! It reminds me of the SRK style of wooing women (and of course the women adored it :))  But things have quite changed with the millennials and Gen Z in terms of the gender equation and expectations. The good ol’ SRK wooing style would probably freak out the millennial women. Check the two videos below and one can find the transition in  the male – female equations. SRK in the first one is flattering while Irfan in the second one seems much more relatable, vulnerable and hence more authentically humane. You get the vibes of an equal relationship between the characters in the second video.

The old-fashioned way of describing this exact same behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry!

But according to the research  women are still attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitude.The study proposes an explanation drawn from evolutionary and socio-cultural theories (parental investment theory) on mate preferences. As biologically woman’s reproductive success is tied to her ability to complete months of gestation and lactation –  she is wired to choose a mate who was able and willing to assist in this process – by providing food or protection from aggressors to increase her reproductive success. Evolution, therefore, shaped female psychology to prefer mates whose characteristics and behaviors reveal the willingness to invest (i.e. protect, provide and commit). Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Hence there is a conflict between the evolutionary response to benevolent sexism and her current state of autonomy. Probably that’s why women tend to send conflicting signals on how they would like to be treated.This leads to confusion for many men. Should they pay the bill  on a dinner date or should they go dutch? Should they open the door or should they not? Would she feel being treated as less equal or would she consider it being rude? 

Recent studies show men are acting less like a “gentleman” and that has to do with the conflicting signals they receive from the society and women. 

The new generation of independent women certainly are not expecting a knight in a shining armor. So should we consider chivalry to be dead?  Probably yes in the way it used to be defined earlier but chivalry could be redefined.  It could be redefined as kindness and thoughtfulness. Holding a door for someone with hand full of grocery irrespective of the gender is chivalry. Being emotionally supportive and supporting her growth can be the new age chivalry. Chivalry now may look a lot less like FLATTERY but more like genuine RESPECT – oh boy! that definitely is attractive.

What are your thoughts on this? Would like to hear from you.

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Understanding the Quiet Ones

We all know someone in our respective circles who would prefer a quiet weekend reading books, someone who often makes an excuse when asked to join an office party, someone who seems to have ideas but isn’t necessarily the one who speaks the loudest in a brain storming session. We often call them the “serious types”, the loner or even a snob. They are the introverts amongst us. And believe me, most of them are used to being misunderstood, misinterpreted and probably have been asked to change their behavior since an early age.

Our school system favors and promotes extroversion making introversion seem like a personality flaw. Extroversion becomes the standard that all of us feel we need to conform to. To put things into perspective, until recently left handedness was also frowned upon, and left handed kids were forced to become right handed (sounds weird now)! Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

Our prejudice comes from our ignorance about human behavior and our inability to accept the diversity in behavioral pattern.

It becomes important to understand where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum – because introversion and extroversion are at the heart of human nature. When we make life choices that are congruent with our temperament, we unleash vast stores of energy. With a misunderstanding about introversion and the social conditioning of extroversion being a desirable behavioral trait, most introverts end up spending their life emulating extroverts to fit in. The stress of not being “true to yourself” results in a feeling of void.

“Isn’t it refreshing to know that what comes perfectly natural for you is your greatest strength? Your power is in your nature. – Laurie A. Helgoe, Introvert Power

Understanding Introversion

Neither is introversion shyness nor are introverts anti-social or arrogant people. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, while introversion is simply the preference for less stimulation. Famous personalities like Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Elon Musk, Emma Watson and Mark Zuckerberg are all introverts. It just proves that – you don’t have to be the loudest personality in the room to be at the top of your game.


Carl Jung brought the terms `intro vert’ and `ex trovert’ into the spotlight in the 1920s. He defined an introvert as a person who gets his energy from within. An extrovert, however, is charged due to external stimuli. So while introverts need solitude to think things through, extroverts are stimulated by activities, people and places around them. As per Jung’s clinical studies, there are no pure extroverts or introverts – most people fall in different ranges of the spectrum.

Recent scientific research have found that the brains of introverts and extroverts are activated  differently. Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, so they need more of it to feel happy. While introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, so too much of it makes them feel overstimulated. Also, the Introverts prefer to use a different neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Like dopamine, acetylcholine is also linked to pleasure; the difference is, acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward.

 Introverts & Relationships

One of the gifts of introversion is that we have to be discriminating about our relationships.  We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.

~ Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power

It’s a misconception that introverts are not interested in people or relationships. The truth is they actually crave intimacy more than extroverts do. They are built for deep connections. They usually avoid small talk. They  love to share emotions, feelings and ideas.

Does an introvert – extrovert relationship work? Yes, it can. An introvert – extrovert combination can be a complimentary relationship as long as the extroverted partner understands the introverted partner’s need for recharging and downtime and the introvert partner respects the extrovert partner’s need for significant social interaction.

Relationships make everyone happier and that very much includes the introverts too.

Here is a TED talk from Susan Cain who is the author of the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She is also the co-founder of Quiet Revolution, which empowers introverts for the benefit of everyone.

Ich and Du – in the times of technology

I am part of a generation that was raised with bare minimum technology and the one who is raising the next generation that calls out “Alexa” for anything and everything. I understand – the transition seems a bit too much to take in, but more than anything else I quite too often wonder about “What relationship would mean in the long run?”,  “Is it okay to refer Alexa as a “it” or Should Alexa be referred as “she”?  Is it possible for someone to fall in love with a virtual assistant like in the movie “Her” and if so is it indeed love? We are still grappling over the what’s okay and what’s not okay about a Human-Machine relationship.

We are still grappling over the what’s okay and what’s not okay about a Human-Machine relationship.

No wonder the AI circle still is debating as to whether bots should present themselves as humans or machines. This is because the more they resemble humans the more complicated our interaction with them gets. For instance, speaking to Alexa doesn’t require a “please” or a “thank you”, being rude to Alexa doesn’t lead to a confrontation. So, are kids who have been interacting with Alexa getting the cues that it’s okay to be rude to a female voice in general?

Definitely personification is good for the businesses as it leads to more stickiness with the customer but isn’t it also important to look at the broader impact? Unlike Siri, Cortana or Alexa, Google virtual assistant deliberately has no humanized identity – it’s simply called Google Assistant.  This was a conscious decision to align its functionality with a broader concept of helpfulness (Google Assistant gets things done) as opposed to friendliness (Google assistant isn’t your friend).

Am I mulling over something that’s too trivial? Or should we be more careful while we build and interact with intelligent machines?

Sherry Turkle, a professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT in her book “Alone Together” examines the world of robots, especially those designed to be friends, companions, pets or helpers to human. She writes that from her extensive observation, when children grow up with “sociable robots,” such as Furbies, they learn to be content with “relationships with less.” They are shaped by and satisfied by relationships that are completely uni-directional.

Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. – Sherry Turkle 

They get used to relationships that are fully tuned to make them feel good without demanding anything in return. But real relationships don’t work that way. Real relationships are messy. The capacity for real intimacy is measured in one’s capacity for handling conflict and vulnerability. So here we are now seeking  intimacy, but without the mess.

The capacity for real intimacy is measured in one’s capacity for handling conflict and vulnerability.

However, if relationship with machines are more hassle free – why not have friendships and companionship with intelligent machines? Human relationships are way too complicated. Is that a fair enough counter argument? 

To understand why human relationships are important, let me refer to German–Jewish philosopher Martin Buber’s  classic book Ich and Du, usually translated as I and Thou (you).

In this book, he makes a radical distinction between two basic kinds of relationships of which humans are capable of – described as “I-Thou”  and “I-It”.

  • I-Thou designates a relation between subject and subject, a relation of reciprocity and mutuality. We relate with the entirety of our being to another whole person.
  • I-It is the relation between subject and object, involving some form of utilization or control. In I-It type of relationships we relate to others as members of  a certain category, as instruments of achievement or to be used for one’s own benefit. These relationships are superficial and need based. So many of our human relationships if we closely observe would be the I-It relationships.

True love is always a I-Thou connection. Quoting Martin Buber – “Love does not cling to the I in such a way as to have the Thou only for its ” content,” its object; but love is between I and Thou. The man who does not know this, does not know love.” 

Coming back to our relationship with intelligent machines, let’s be aware that we can only have a  “I-It” relationship with our social-intelligent machines. We cannot have a deep “I-Thou” relationship with machines no matter how intelligent they get. Even if we “thou” the machine, the machine won’t “thou” us back because it just runs on machine learned algorithms.

An  AI  engaged life is  the way forward – there is no second thoughts about it. We as mankind would definitely benefit from the advancements in AI. But let’s be careful as we surround ourselves with more and more “I-It” relationships, that there is a chance of our capacity for “I-Thou” relationships getting diminished. The capacity for “I-Thou” relationships is what makes us truly human. As we create and shape these intelligent tools, let’s not forget – we are also getting shaped by these tools. Amen!

“We are shaped by our tools.” ― Sherry Turkle

Loving the “Work- In-Progress”.


“What do you want to become?” – a question I have been asked often as a kid, and for me it was an easy answer – just that my answer changed as every year passed. The response held true for my state of being at that point in time. The reason why my response changed wasn’t because as kids one is so fickle minded, but rather my inability to accurately predict my future self. Honestly, this is the most irrelevant question we ask kids who are  sometimes as young as 3 years of age. 

I find it irrelevant because I have come to a point where I strongly believe I would never “BECOME”, but my whole life is a process of “BECOMING”. The moment I start believing I have “ARRIVED” would be the point where I literally put a “full stop” to my BECOMING. To quote Leanardo Da Vinci – Art is never finished, only abandoned. So is the case with us humans. The moment we start believing we have figured it all out is the moment we stop giving life the chance to change our minds and evolve beyond our “current” comprehensions.  

Psychologist Dan Gilbert states that “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change”. We are all work-in-progress.

Accepting ourselves as “Work in Progress” also means accepting our imperfections, accepting a bit of confusion that just hangs in there, accepting uncertainty, impermanence and the unknowns in our lives. The reason we find it challenging to accept ourselves as “Work in Progress” is also because the ego soaked society values the illusion of perfection – the so called “arrived/ figured it all out” state and not the imperfect evolution phase.

To accept individuals as “Work in Progress” is critical in relationships as well. We all are bound to evolve – shedding our barks, growing deeper roots, spreading our branches and sprouting new greens. Understanding that people change has to be a basic component of our emotional intelligence. Letting people shed their barks, spread their branches, grow deeper roots and evolve becomes part of the relationship. Expecting people to stay the way they are forever is quite similar to having a “Bonsai” tree at home.  

Waiting for a perfect state of self or waiting for the perfect person to get into a relationship is a delusion. As individuals we are always a “work in progress”, there is no perfect state – we are always in the process of  BECOMING. So when someone says, “I am working on becoming something or somebody before I settle down in a relationship” – Relationship just seems to be a point when you quit your “Becoming”.  This is a “fixed” mindset and it’s always better to have the “growth mindset” in a relationship. Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”. It’s not just unnatural its highly stressful if one is loved for one’s perceived “state of perfection” that needs to be kept in tact forever.

Love is the unconditional acceptance of being part of each other’s “BECOMING”.

Like mentioned before, we are bad at predicting our own future self. We don’t know the extent of change that would happen to us. Hence relationships often fail when the love is for a certain “fixed state of a person” – ultimately breaking up because one has outgrown the “fixed state”.

Our inability to predict our future self  has been studied by a group of psychologists and they term the phenomenon as “End of History Illusion”. “End of History Illusion” states that while we remember our past selves to be quite different from who we are today, we nevertheless believe that we won’t change much at all in the future and hence take bad decisions for our future self based on our current projections.

When we are bad at predicting our future self, let’s be in love with the “work in progress” we are, accepting it wholly devoid of the illusion of perfection. Like in agile development, let’s have a “forever beta” mindset – evolving into something better iteration after iteration. And when in love – accepting being part of each other’s BECOMING, embracing the “Work In Progress”.

The Psychology of your Future Self – TED Talk – Dan Gilbert
















A valuable piece of advice on Life Choices from Shikha Sharma, CEO Axis Bank.

Not everyday do we hear people talking about finding the right life partner at a convocation speech.  Axis Bank CEO Shikha Sharma’s recent convocation speech at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A),   touched upon the three tough choices one has to make in life. According to her, finding the right partner is one of them. 


Here are the key takeaways from her speech.

“When you are out there looking for a partner, look beyond their looks, their success, their style. The durability and strength of your relationship is not going to come from your partner’s personality—it is going to come from their character. So remember to look well beneath the surface.”

Adobe Spark122

“Sanjaya and I are very different people. He is widely read, divergent (in) thinking, and creative; I am a lot more linear (in) thinking and introverted. But on the most important thing, we are not different at all—we have very similar core values. If I were to point out the one thing that has made our partnership successful, it is just that—the alignment on core values.”

Adobe Spark120

“The principles of what makes for lasting relationships with your work team or with your organisation aren’t terribly different from those that make lasting personal partnerships. It is easy to get enamored by the visible but superficial details of a new job you are considering—the money, the fancy title, the foosball table in the break-room. But in most cases, that is not what makes for a fulfilling career. You want to join an organization that has values that match yours; that has people you can be yourself with; that gives you the space to be who you have the potential be as a professional.”

Adobe Spark121

Listen to her speech here:


The “Feels Too Much” Tribe in a “Just Chill” World.

Have you felt like a sponge soaking up all emotions around you – from people around you, characters in a movie you just watched, the books you read or a tragic news you heard? You carry these feeling as your own and it takes you hours or sometimes days to get over it. When you have tried explaining your state of mind to someone you would have quite often been advised to – “Just chill”.  In a generation that considers the “chill” factor as a mark of being uber cool and is considered as an attribute most desirable, you sometimes tend to feel like a total misfit and you wonder – “Is something wrong with me?”. You might even have tried forcing yourself to play along being the “uber cool” but deep inside it doesn’t feel quite “you”.  And that is simply because you are a special breed called the “empath” – and there is nothing wrong being one.

Just like some people have better hearing or vision, empaths have a more acute sensitivity to emotional signals – which indeed is a strength. But every strength comes with its own complexities.

According to research conducted by Elaine Aron, PhD, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York, 20% of the population are genetically predisposed to be more aware and empathic. She and her research team have found physical evidence in the brain that empaths respond especially strongly to certain situations that trigger emotions than the rest of the population.

Empaths tend to feel a lot more, compared to other people –  the highs as well as the lows. Many great artists, writers and authors have all been empaths. Their art becomes their medium to pour these emotions. You will find empaths working with people, animals or nature with a true passion and dedication to help. They are often seen as great teachers, healers, volunteers for causes and are ready giving up personal time to help others without any pay or recognition. Empaths may be excellent storytellers with their endless imaginations and can be hardcore old romantics at heart. They are the greatest listeners you would ever find in life. Even complete strangers find it easy to talk to empaths about their most personal matters.

Now, those of us who are familiar with the movie – this might sound like the character sketch of Dulquer Salmaan straight out of the Malayalam movie “Charlie”. Yes, the empaths look really good in movies – the storytellers, the arty free thinkers, the volunteers. We see Charlie helping the suicidal doctor, celebrating birthday with the HIV positive sex worker, rescuing the little girl about to be sold into prostitution, and more – absorbing the traumas of each one them as if the pain were his own.

This sponge like absorption of emotions makes being an empath quite emotionally draining. Empaths see the world differently from the majority of the population leading their heart to get broken constantly for cruelty, injustice and inequalities that they see around them. To recoup, and keep their emotional balance they need their  “alone” time  – and probably that’s why we see Charlie drifting out of people’s lives after an emotional event, leaving no trace of his where about.

The crazy wise maverick  – that was Charlie’s highlighted characteristics in the movie and that’s probably because we as viewers only come to know about Charlie through Tessa’s (the actress) search for Charlie leading her to people who tell their experiences with him which are absolutely magical. But that’s a one dimensional magical persona created. The rest of him for everyone is a mystery and not quite elaborated in the movie. There were only very subtle hints of him too having his needs for help.  Charlie as a child never had a real father-son relationship. This to a large extent resembles real life, the childhood of an empath could be very challenging because quite often their parents or teachers don’t understand the nuances of the child’s emotional framework and are unavailable to guide them. Often times as a child their abilities go overlooked, left to cope with overwhelming emotions and asked to fit in.

It’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned.

So to all the Tessas or the ones in love with an empath – it’s true that a connection with an empath can be a blessing as it offers the opportunity to look at the world through the lens of a kaleidoscope. Everything that may have once seemed normal for a relationship will be turned upside down as new perspectives are learned. But what one needs to understand is that along with the magical connection is also a human being who could be just drained out absorbing feelings from all around. Here is a person who would hardly prioritize their self-care. Someone who is always on the giving end and the last one to ask. Someone who has chances of turning to addiction like alcohol or drugs to tone down their life. So loving such a person would mean – reminding them of prioritizing their self care, showing them your love because they might never ask for it, giving them their extra space in a relationship for them to balance out their emotions, giving them the extra time to heal. The one thing they would need from you is to be  authentic and honest  to the core because they can easily see beyond the superficial.


And to all the  empaths out there, it’s okay if you feel too much. That’s just how you are and a self awareness of your highly sensitive emotional construct will help you handle it. Make peace with it – “Just Chill” , I mean “Just Feel”  🙂


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