some-unspoken-rules-about-butt-slapping-in-sports2Ever wonder about all those butt slaps players give their teammates and opponents at the end of a football game?  A new study examines this post-game affection as an essential component of a good fight. In a good fight, you compete. Then you make up. Then you move on without any hurt feelings, ready to cooperate if needed in the future.

The groundbreaking research examines how men and women patch things up after competing and finds startling differences that have implications for life beyond the game. After a good fight on the field, court or in the ring, men spent a longer time than women talking, touching or embracing their opponents.

Women tended to exhibit reluctance in post-conflict reconciling. Lead researcher Dr. Joyce Benenson of Emmanuel College and Harvard University said, “What you’ll see is that many times females brush their fingers against each other.” Men, in contrast, tend to go all in and, yes, regularly practice the art of the affectionate butt slap.

The research shows these moments of reconciliation may be transferable to men’s success in the workplace where the boundaries between competition and cooperation are just as clear as on the field. What happens in the cubicle or the boardroom stays there. Then there is a reconciliation, a pivot back towards future potential cooperation.

This fluid transition isn’t as likely for women who generally don’t trust the concept of a good fight. There are myriad potential reasons for this. Women are relatively late to organized sports (Title IX which paved the way for 50/ 50 girls in sports was passed in 1972). Women haven’t had as many female role models showing us how to have a good fight. There can be fear that others will label any conflict between women as a “catfight”. Women are still subject to a culture whose gender norms narrowly define what’s acceptable.

But things are changing. The US Women’s Gymnastics Team showed their camaraderie and exquisiteness in the recent Olympics. Hillary Clinton’s a nominee for President. There is more of a sense that as women we are all in this together — I’ve got your back for the next round. Pat. Pat.

****** Maggie Ellis Chotas is the coauthor of Power Through Partnership: How Women Lead Better Together. She writes and speaks about women in partnership with Betsy Polk at The Mulberry Partners, LLC. She coaches leaders and partners to make the most of a good fight and currently has openings for a few coaching clients ready to step into the ring.