Newswise – Women are the comforters in our culture and they are notforgiving of other women who lack comforting skills. They’remuch more tolerant of men who lack the skills to becomforters. Communications specialist Brant Burleson says,”We think these women are paying [more] attention to thegender of the person giving the message [than to] thecontent or effectiveness of the message.” Now that men aretaking jobs that involve comforting others, in areas likenursing and teaching young children, we need to shed theold-fashioned perception that men have less empathy thanwomen.

Burleson, along with colleague Amanda Holmstrom, conductedtwo experiments. In the first one, 137 people answeredquestions about stories they read regarding comfortingmessages given by either female and male helpers. In thesecond study, 44 men and 43 women discussed an upsettingevent with either a female or male comforter, whointentionally used ineffective comforting messages.

An example of a good comforting message: When a personconfides in you that he or she has broken up with a lover,you should say something like, “Don’t worry, you’ll meetsomeone else.” A BAD comforting message is something like:”Don’t worry, you’re better off without him (or her).”

Amanda Holmstrom says, “These [experiments] show that it isworse for women than men to be inept when providingemotional support, especially to other women.” In otherwords, we EXPECT men to be less capable of giving comfort toothers, so we don’t hold them to the same high standards.

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