Drum Like A Woman

Women get into it faster than men, it’s a fact. Cultural differences? I’ve run teambuilding sessions around the world. There are none. Sorry guys.

Even in the warm up the women are just out there, bright eyed, curious, excited about what’s coming next. On the other hand, the men look like a bunch of footballers standing in front of the goal just before a free-kick. Protecting themselves individually as best they can, while expecting imminent humiliation for their team.

Why is this?

What I see in the faces of the men is, “Oh no, I knew I should have taken annual leave or called in sick today”. But in the faces of the women I see, “Thank God they’ve booked something vibey, I was just dying to move and this will set us up for dancing at the Gala dinner tonight”.

Don’t get me wrong, I like men, and I’ve devised ways of getting them involved, mainly with humour. Like a stand-up comedian I let them know pretty quickly that I know what they’re thinking and I don’t mind their judgements about the activity or my appearance. Both are pretty weird after all. My undisclosed mental strapline is team building for intelligent sceptics.

There’s something about rhythm though that just speaks to women straight away. If you’ve ever done any scuba-diving you’ll have seen when the current moves underwater everything moves in one direction for a couple of seconds. Then it moves in the other direction… before going up and then going down. Synchronised, instant harmony, everything is in tune without even trying. You’ll have also seen some rocks on the sea floor that haven’t moved for centuries. I won’t labour this metaphor, you get the picture.

Simply, I think women are more in touch with their bodies and their emotions. They’re also ready to make eye contact with each other across the drum circle in a, “Blimey, aren’t we suddenly good at this!” way. The men, in contrast, keep their heads down, concentrating on their drum skin while watching their hands, getting their rhythm technically correct.

In a 50/50 group the other day this was so noticeable I pointed it out to them and then invited them to reverse roles. The men were instructed to play focusing mainly on connection around the circle, whether they got their part right or not. The women were instructed to play in a blinkered way, looking only at their drum and listening only to the rhythm they were playing. The men, bless them, took to this quite well, seemingly liberated by the instruction, laughing and waving. The women looked like they were being tortured though, and some even stopped playing. A couple were bemused, looking down at their drums and laughing in disbelief at how hard it was. It was indeed a surreal scene, if you’d walked in the room at that time you’d have thought, “There’s something seriously wrong here, I’ve entered a parallel universe”.

However, when we ALL went back to playing naturally the atmosphere in the room had totally changed. There was a lot of amusement yes, but there was also a lot more easy accuracy, which meant I could say, “OK, some of you will want to stay with the rhythm we’ve learned, but for others if you want to improvise – feel free to play whatever you want”.

This is always where I’m heading. Freedom within a structure. Sometimes you’re in the backing band, and sometimes you’re out front being the soloist (in your head). At this point there is no gender difference, most people enjoy adopting both roles. I breathe a sigh of relief. We have arrived at our destination, and now we can begin the journey.

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