Firecracker and Kettle: How Men and Women Process Anger Differently

by Caroline Leaf

Due to the many differences in the physical makeup of male and female brains, men and women experience anger differently. Men, on average, fire up quickly but cool down in a shorter period of time. Women take longer to get upset, but once fired up its much more difficult for them to calm down. So, men are like firecrackers on the 4th of July: they light up quickly, but their anger does not last very long. Women, on the other hand, are like kettles: they take some time to boil, and once hot, the “water” stays hot for some time.


So, ladies and gents, your reaction to an argument or a fight is different! Don’t try to see your partner’s feelings in light of your own. The same emotional response in the brain motivates men to take action and women to walk away. He needs to fix it. She is sick to her stomach and can’t eat or sleep.


Here are some more fascinating points on anger from my new book “Who Switched off YOUR brain? Solving the mystery of he’s/she said:


When males and females get into an argument cortisol, which is a really important chemical but should only be released into the body by the adrenal glands in small, intermittent amounts, is released in abundance. Cortisol takes about twelve hours to subside in a female and about one hour in a male. The female brain, however becomes more stressed in an argument than the male brain, which often causes a female to overreact–this releases more chemicals at a higher rate than in the male brain, which in turn makes a female feel terrible.


Fights for women are on par with them having a seizure!


Men, however, can go from zero to a fight and back again quickly, while ladies cannot–just the thought of a misunderstanding or a fight stresses a woman out. We will try anything to defuse a conflict, won’t we? And despite the fact that a woman’s bigger prefrontal cortex gives her the advantage in sparring with words, his bigger amygdala means the impact of these words are going to really hit him hard and fuel the fire!


The important point here is that when we can recognize our differences and shape our expectations, we are free to receive the benefits that properly processed anger can provide – greater understanding, greater honesty, greater connections, greater health and, most of all, greater love.


Ephesians 4:6 says ” In your anger do not sin…”


Postscript: Men and women rest differently, men by withdrawing and women by talking. The question was asked whether this is the same if the woman is an introvert and the man an extrovert. The answer is that the brain wiring of females functions by resting through communication–if someone is more introverted and intrapersonal then she will still talk but more to herself and quietly. A man who is an extrovert will still rest by going into his “man cave”, thus when he talks he is operating under his personality, which may be more interpersonal and linguistic. I handle this in depth in my book and DVD set called “The Gift in You”.

For more information about Dr. Leaf’s research, go to

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