Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Dr. John Gray
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

John Gray, Ph.D. (, is the author of fifteen best-selling books, including Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, the number one best-selling book of the last decade. In the past ten years, more than thirty million Mars and Venus books have been sold in more than forty languages throughout the world.

An expert in the field of communication, John Gray focuses on helping men and women understand, respect, and appreciate their differences in both personal and professional relationships. He offers practical tools and insights to effectively manage stress and improve relationships at all stages and ages, based on a clear understanding of the brain chemistry of health, happiness, and lasting romance. We asked him right away for a clue about why men and women handle their emotions so differently. “Men and women have significantly different styles of communicating and of coping with stress. For example, one of the best things for a man under stress is a pleasant diversion that doesn’t require him to control anyone or anything else in order to achieve his purpose. Thus the lure of TV – he can relax, get a little stimulation, and forget the problems of his day. In contrast, a woman will often cope with her stress by sharing the details and issues of her day, seeking support from her partner. These conflicting approaches create an ongoing challenge for many men and women. She may feel that her partner doesn’t want to talk to her. And he may feel that she is bothering him with more problems just when he most needs to unwind. Evolutionary biology offers many possible origins of these behaviors. But without even resorting to historical speculation, biochemistry can provide some powerful insights.

“The major stress hormone for women is oxytocin, which lowers stress in a woman’s body,” John explains. “Oxytocin is like a love hormone; it gets generated whenever you give of yourself to somebody. So when women are under stress they tend to start giving and their stress levels go down. It’s so easy for women to do this. Often women give and give until they end up feeling victimized that others haven’t given to them. On the other hand, oxytocin doesn’t lower stress in men. So, it’s not automatic for men to start giving to other people as a way to combat stress. Women may find that they’re giving and giving to their men without a lot of reciprocation, and then they feel very justified in being resentful. The root of the word resent is resentir, to feel again. In resentment, a person is refeeling her pain and her misery and her victimization: ‘See what I’ve done? I’ve given and given and given and I haven’t gotten anything back.’ The woman’s challenge is, in the process of being there for other people, she has to make sure she’s equally there for herself. She has to be able to give to other people, but she has to be able to give to herself and create the life that she wants for herself. Women who are happy with their lives give freely and willingly, which further increases their happiness and helps them cope with stress.

“Another important hormone that lowers stress in women is serotonin. Talking about problems and sharing feelings stimulates serotonin. Men typically have plenty of serotonin; they make it fifty percent faster – and store fifty percent more – than women. Under stress, the emotional center in a woman’s brain tends to be eight times more active than a man’s, which causes her to run out of serotonin very quickly. So serotonin provides the biochemical incentive for women to talk through their stresses… an incentive that men do not share.”

How can men respond effectively to this situation? “The problem stems from biology. And it’s not even a problem; it’s a reality. Women experience stress differently than men do. Period. Regardless of culture. It’s physiology. The primary hormone involved in a man’s experience of stress is testosterone. Men are motivated to achieve – especially things that have big value or impact – because that’s going to raise their testosterone levels and lower their stress levels. Whereas a woman’s testosterone levels hardly affect her at all. As a result, men tend to give in different ways than women, and they’re surprised when their gifts seem to go unrecognized,” says John. “But what has a powerful effect on women is not big things but little things, like signs of affection, giving her flowers, helping with the little errands that stress women out. I often have to explain to men that big stuff like buying cars or paying for vacations, having a big night out, all that stimulates testosterone and testosterone lowers stress in men. But women experience stress reduction by receiving little things that help her have a consistent feeling that He thinks about me, he cares about me constantly.

“Men, don’t make her out to be wrong if she doesn’t seem to appreciate your gifts. Don’t assume, ‘She just can’t be made happy.’ Reevaluate what and how you’re giving. Because you can often be much more effective giving less – but more often and more along the lines of what she’s looking for. Little actions that maybe take two or three minutes can give a woman a sense that she’s cared about, that she’s understood, that she’s not alone, that she’s seen. These habits stimulate oxytocin and lower her stress levels. Affection stimulates oxytocin. A card on an anniversary stimulates oxytocin. Calling from work stimulates oxytocin. Even letting her know that you may be late stimulates oxytocin.

“Some men will say, ‘Well, I still want to do the big stuff.’ That’s okay. Just realize that it’s not really about her at that point – it’s about you. And don’t get all grandiose about being The Great Provider. Realize that you’re achieving the big stuff primarily for yourself.

“What makes a woman feel special is personal interaction on a regular basis. And that’s simply something that men need to learn to do. They don’t have to change who they are… just reinterpret the situation so they can solve the ‘problem’ more effectively. It’s very easy for a man to do such little things once he understands that these actions have a big value. And his partner’s happy response will stimulate testosterone in him, reinforcing his behavior. It’s really quite wonderful how men and women compliment each other.”

But what happens when one partner feels that all of the change needs to come from the other partner? “A forced makeover can really ruin a relationship,” John cautions. “It’s a very immature approach. For example, some women go on a crusade to open up their men and get them ‘in touch with their feeling self.’ This approach makes sense to her, but telling him, ‘What I want and need is for you to open up when you’re ‘in your head,’ that’s asking him to change himself and fight his own biochemistry. It’s doomed to failure. The exact opposite approach is what’s required.

“Trust that as you love someone they, like yourself, do tend to grow in life. Women can contribute to this process, not by trying to get the man to go to the feeling place within himself, but by asking him to enter into her feeling place and giving him a lot of reward for doing so. It’s actually her opening up that’s going to draw him into the relationship and not her trying to get him to open up. In all likelihood, he wants to be there for her but he doesn’t know how to do it. Gradually, by connecting with her feelings in a respectful way, he reaches the point where he can respond more sensitively and respectfully to others. He comes to trust and feel appreciated for his ability to honor someone else’s sensitivities. His own sensitivities naturally emerge along with these new-found strengths.

“The most important things to recognize are that we can’t change our partners and that we can learn to love them. We find our happiness through good relationship and communication, not by changing each other. As a man, I can learn what my partner’s sensitivities are, and I can learn a way of interacting with her that doesn’t hurt her. But to say that I should be like her and I should have the same sensitivities – that’s wrong, and that doesn’t work.”

Does this mean that men are more resistant to feeling their emotions? John doesn’t think so. “I don’t see any difference between the genders in terms of being in touch with authentic feelings. Some people are more emotional than others, but the differences are not gender-based. I see women who are just as shut down as men, but women are often much more talkative than men. They’ll talk about other people and all their problems, but they don’t necessarily talk about what their authentic feelings are underneath it all. In such a way, people can easily be very talkative and not reveal anything personal about themselves or be the least vulnerable. I can talk about fifty subjects and not really get to what’s going on inside of me. I can even be upset with somebody about a variety of things and not really come forth with what I’m upset about.

“There is another form of authenticity that is equally critical. It’s about living a life of integrity. Am I living up to my standards, values, and how I want to accomplish and achieve in my life? Am I just pretending to be happy? This integrity has less to do to do with authentic feelings. It is more about being the person you’re here to be, doing what you’re here to accomplish, and not letting your fears hold you back. For men, particularly, success in this arena is going to raise their dopamine levels and help them to cope with stress more effectively.

“In terms of being articulate and being able to express how they feel, men can be very articulate. But again, men have different chemistry than women. There’s strong hormonal feedback for women when they talk about feelings; for men there’s not as great a need to talk about the feeling part of himself when his serotonin levels are normal. There is a greater need for a man to raise his testosterone and dopamine levels and he does this through achieving his goals, overcoming obstacles, meeting challenges, being truthful to what his purpose is in this world.”

Apart from gender-based chemical differences, does John see an evolution in male and female cultural roles? “Without a doubt. Today, men want more from their relationships. Men are interested in developing the romantic and nurturing sides of themselves, whereas women are interested in developing the assertive side of who they are, including their leadership roles.

“But there’s some fallout when either side goes too far. And that’s always going to be the case when growing and evolving as our society is, trying to find balance. Women went way over to the masculine world when they tried to carry the banner, ‘We can do whatever men can do and we can do it better.’ Then they realized that they can do all that, but it’s hard to be men and also be happy women. So eventually they find the center, which is the attitude, ‘We can do what men can do and we can do it like women, and we can be happy.’ The solution is to create a culture that supports her, a more benevolent kind of company with a more nurturing environment. Then women can thrive in executive positions. The workforce is changing and evolving and becoming much better for both men and women. Likewise, men can be sensitive and nurturing, yet still be good providers, strong and confident, at the same time. I think we’re evolving into a society focused on the freedom of individuals to discover and be themselves. We are learning to communicate and adjusting our styles of relating accordingly. The connectedness that comes of honoring other people and their uniqueness helps us all to grow.

“Regardless of biochemical and cultural differences, we can teach men to be more respectful of women and teach women to be more appreciative of men. That’s something that culture can educate us all to do.”

We asked John why men have historically been so much more prone to violence than women, and if he sees that changing. “Women can feel hurt without seeking violence. But men, when they get really hurt, unless they’re very strong within themselves and confident, they often become seekers of revenge: ‘If you hurt me, I’ll hurt you back.’ The good news is that we can all – male and female – rise above that reptilian brain response. The key is empathy. When we’re grounded in compassion and can actually feel the pain of others, the brain is released from righteousness. Instead of being right, it can work to remedy the situation.

“When I’m coming from a place of empathy, I can sense that what I’m saying or doing is hurting someone. As I feel the effects I’m creating, I begin to experience them as cruelty, and my authentic self says, ‘I’m not here to be cruel to other people.’

“If I can feel your pain as easily as my own, then even when you’re being mean to me, I don’t need to inflict pain on you. I don’t have to seek vengeance. When I feel compassion, the need for punishment goes away. The need for solving problems and having clear boundaries doesn’t go away. But I can now find a heartfelt way to draw my boundaries and achieve what’s fair.

“As men and women come together with compassion and appreciation for each other…as they work out their differences with love and keep returning to that love…. so can cultures. We can all come to value resolutions and solutions over than punishment and revenge. And that’s what gives me hope for the world.”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

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