Gender Differences in Communication

It’s an age old discussion and problem; men and women communicate differently. You’ve heard it in the best seller from Dr. Gray, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, you hear about it on the talk shows and you definitely hear it from males and females alike; “He just won’t listen. “ “She complains too much.” It isn’t all in our minds—there’s scientific evidence that we just don’t talk the same ”language”.

From body language and facial expressions to the way we speak to one another; the differences are drastic. According to Dr. Deborah Tannen, who wrote the book You Just Don’t Understand, “Communication isn’t as simple as saying what you mean. How you say what you mean is crucial, and differs from one person to the next.”  She goes on to say childhood is where most of our communication skills are learned and boys and girls are from two very different subcultures.

Body Language

Men

  • Desire space
  • Tend to be withdrawn rather than engaged bodily
  • Do not touch, unless with same gender in playful aggression
  • Tend to move around and shift body when conversation is uncomfortable

Women

  • Body alignment, face the other person
  • Use more hand gestures
  • Use more bodily contact
  • Sat relatively still


Facial Expression

Men

  • Don’t use a lot of eye contact
  • Use more head motion
  • Conceal and control facial displays
  • Smile less

Women

  • Use eye to eye contact
  • Use less head motion than men
  • Tend to express emotion through facial expression
  • Smile more

Speech

Men

  • Use talk to assert their independence.
  • Sitting and talking is not an essential part of friendship
  • Hear talk of problems as a request for advice or help.
  • Give orders as a way of gaining social status.
  • Use more small talk.

Women

  • Use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy.
  • Talking is the essence of intimacy; sitting and talking means friendship.
  • Speaking about problems is the essence of connection.
  • Rule by consensus; get the input of others to make a decision.
  • Go in-depth on a topic.

Online communication within the sexes varies as much as it does face-to-face, according to the experts. Researcher, Susan C. Herring conducted a study on male/female email communications that produced some interesting results. In the data she collected, there was an apparent difference in the language used by males and females online. Aggressive expressions used in emails by males far outnumbered those used by females--12 to 5. In online communication, whether it be through email, IM or in a forum, men tend to seek a way to be authoritative and gain valuable information, while women tend to see the Internet as a way to nurture existing relationships and develop new ones.

Some experts, such as Dr. Gray, have come up with a few solutions to the communication battle of the sexes, but unless both parties are willing—there’s not much hope of change. The jury and the science community are still out on the perfect solution to this age-old dilemma.

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