Woman's feelings are different. So are men's

Dr. Alfred R. Kriegler as quoted in Barbara Schweder's bestseller

Dr. Alfred R. Kriegler is a divorce attorney. He is a star in his field, famous not only for the “accuracy of his fire” and tough arguments in front of the court but also for his humanity. “I strive for solutions everybody can live with”. That's the title of the magazine “Anwalt aktuell”. Next to it Alfred flashes a sympathetic smile into the camera all the while creating confidence in what he does. Our friendship testifies to his talent as mediator and his fanatical belief in fairness.


I still appreciate him as a human being and an expert even though he represented my ex-husband during the divorce proceedings. We meet in his office. I have asked him for a brief interview and have his book “Divorce Advice for Men” under my arm. Alfred greets me in his overcoat sporting a fashionable velvet collar. He is a gentleman through and through. He laughs when I ask my first question: “Typical gender differences in divorce situations? There is no question.” While we are driving through Vienna and Alfred is looking for replacement for a colleague who got sick, he tells me about significant differences between man and woman he's found over the years practicing family law.


As divorce attorney I experience people in highly exceptional circumstances. In that sense there is no gender difference. It's nevertheless interesting that behaviour varies dramatically in these extremely emotional situations. Alfred's opinion is that women are more goal-oriented. Once they have decided to get a divorce they tend to be able to set aside their emotions and achieve their objectives. To the extent feelings do play a role they are subtly nuanced. Women tend to know exactly where her-still-husband's weaknesses are and how to carefully plan for the final "death-blow".


In contrast men are much more awkward and much louder. They yell into the phone that “he will show HER who's the boss”. Alfred holds his cell-phone away from his ear as if to demonstrate the volume of the man on the other end and indeed you almost hear the noise coming through. When it comes to specifics, i.e. to solve the estate and income situations women are more astute. In most cases they are much better prepared, come to the meetings fully armed, and strategically march toward their goals - without mercy. Even though men are equally excited, offended, revengeful, or, as the case may be, demonstrate generosity or superiority, they seem to be much more removed from rational execution.


Only at first glance is this a contradiction relative to the supposed greater emotionality of women. The picture becomes clearer if one assumes that women and men do not differ in relation to their emotions but rather how these emotions are being processed. Women's emotional centres are better aligned with the speech centres in their brains. Therefore, they are better able to conceptualize and evaluate their emotions. They are also better at canalizing and using them like instruments. Thus women have an easier time in rationally organizing extreme emotions and in using them as a “weapon” to their advantage.


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