Difference between Men and Women Communication

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The concept of gender differences in communication has been studies for decades now, with a consensus reached to the effect that men and women communicate differently. Deborah Tannen states that “there are gender differences in ways of speaking” (Tannen, 9). This principle of the existing difference in the manner of communication between men and women has largely been overlooked, due to the need to emphasize that both men and women are equal. Nevertheless, accepting and acknowledging that there is gender differences in communication can indeed be empowering, because it would help individuals to accept the natural communication styles and even help men and women to complement one another in their communication. The difference between men and women’s communication style is largely created by the fact that the boy and the girl child are brought up differently. In this respect, “gender communication differences begin during childhood” (Mohindra and Azhar, 18). Consequently, having grown up anchored and oriented to different ways of communication since childhood, the styles of communication developed by men then become quite different from those of women.

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Men and women apply different communication styles, with often different communication outcomes. The male gender communication style is largely a communication style bent on refusing to be put down, with the high tendency of wanting to assert one’s position and space. Thus, men’s communication style is that where “conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can” (Tannen, 11). Therefore, at every situation of the communication, whether it is a communication between men themselves or a conversation between a man and a woman, men will always apply the negotiated communication style, to try and ensure that the other communicator does not push them down.  The negotiation style of communication applied by men is informed by the cultural upbringing differences between the male and female genders.  Therefore, the major difference in the communication style between men and women is that for men, the cultural bringing has set out everything in life as a competition. For young boys and even grown-up men, everything is life is a contest of winning or losing, and communication is no different. The major problem for young boys becomes losing out in this contest of life. In the end therefore, even once they grow up to become men, they will “develop a competitive style of communication interaction” (Mohindra and Azhar, 18).

On the other hand, the communication style for women on the other hand is very different. While women are also interested in safeguarding their position and status, they do not apply a confrontational or competitive communication approach. Thus, “women are also concerned with achieving status and avoiding failure, but these are not the goals they are focused on all the time, and they tend to pursue them in the guise of connection” (Tannen, 11). Position and status maybe the major goals that women are pursuing, but they do not pursue them in an open and apparently forceful manner that will make their goals such open. Therefore, women communicate in an intimate communication style, which seeks to avoid making the differences between the communicators visible, rather seeking to create an interconnection that would tore down such differences, and unite the communicators in a world of consensus. “Intimacy is key in a world of connection where individuals…try to reach consensus, and avoid the appearance of superiority, which would highlight differences” (Tannen, 12). It can therefore be concluded that women’s communication style is that of an intimate nature, always seeking to create a connectedness between the communicating individuals in a way that is relatively non-confrontational. Thus, when a conversation between a man and woman turns argumentative, it is not because the woman feels her personal space, independence and position threatened as does the man, but rather because the woman feels that space intimacy as being intruded.

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The communication culture of men, as set out in the world of little boys when they are growing up, provides that consensus is barely a means to settle scores. Instead, boys are culturally nurtured to claim their space and settle scores in an open and confrontational manner that asserts dominance once the personal space is acquired. During their upbringing, boys are less restricted culturally and thus “it is okay for boys to use rough language, play loudly, and be rambunctious” (Mohindra and Azhar, 18). Consequently, men will develop a rough and forceful attitude due to the extensive open space of communication they offered culturally as young boys during their upbringing. Such boys will interact with their peers on the basis of negotiating for their personal space and position within the peer group, with the sole intention of keeping a favorable position in the peer group. Therefore, even after they grow and become independent men, men will always apply a communication style that seeks to “protect themselves from others’ attempts to put them down and push them around” (Tannen, 11). Further, boys are nurtured to be tough and to become the protector of their own space, position and interest, because the society treats a boy’s act of losing out in a confrontation as a sign of weakness. The cultural upbringing has set out for men to pursue life in a linear dimension where they have to win in every situation of life they face. Therefore for men, “life, then, is a contest, a struggle to preserve independence and avoid failure” (Tannen, 11). Men will therefore always develop a communication approach that will seek to defend personal space and position in the hierarchy of order within the peer group, once the space has been secured.  Thus, when men communicate with their peers or with women in a manner that is competitive or even assertive, it is not because such men are assertive or competitive as individuals. Rather, they communicate in such a manner because culturally, they have been tuned to remain dominant in all situations.

On the contrary, the communication culture of women is shaped differently since childhood. The cultural manner in which women are brought up shapes them to avoid direct and confrontational means of expressing themselves, and instead orientates them to “negotiate complex networks of friendship and minimize differences” (Tannen, 12).  Naturally therefore, women will not seek to impose their will or their perspective on different communicational issues on the other party in the communication. Instead, women will seek to create a framework of connectedness that will eventually bring the two parties in a position where they perceive the situation in the same way. The cultural upbringing of girls provides that girls need to be modest in every aspect of their lives, including in the manner of their communication. Therefore, during their upbringing, “girls are told to use their manners, play quietly, and be ladylike” (Mohindra and Azhar, 18). Additionally, when a girl is hurt during the play or in another context, the society does not regarding the crying of a girl as a sign of weakness. Therefore, girls are allowed to get emotional and to express their feelings more freely, and thus culturally, girls are nurtured to be expressive of their emotions and feelings. After growing up, women continue to follow the trajectory that was created early in life, where women continue to nurture the connectedness communication, resulting in “women developing a relational style of interaction” (Mohindra and Azhar, 18).

The gender communication differences create problems between men and women, because it is like men and women take opposite paths during a communication. Women exist in a world of connection, while men exist in a world of independence (Tannen, 12). In the world of independence in which men exist “independence is key because a primary means of establishing status is to tell others what to do” (Tannen, 12). Therefore, men will always seek to communicate with women in ways that implores on women to do that which the men are saying. On the other hand, in the world of intimacy where women exist, women feel that “lives are intertwined” (Tannen, 12). In this respect, women feel that it is important for each party’s side in the communication to count, because both parties are interconnected and intertwined such that the only way out is to arrive at a consensus. Under such different approaches to life, where men upholds independence decision-making while women are in pursuit of collaborative decision-making, conflicts and confrontations will always arise between men and women. The conflicts will arise from the fact that men will always seek to make independent decisions, while women will always seek to make joint decisions. In situations where men make independent decisions, women will always feel left out. On the other hand, where women seek collaborative decision making, men will always feel their status and position of power undermined. The outcome is that there will always be communication problems between men and women.

Deborah Tannen has attributed the communication differences between men and women to the American socialization process as opposed to the differences being as a result of biology. Tannen states that the gender difference in communication arises from “the traditional alignment by which men protect women” (Tannen, 16). Men will therefore always seek to hold a position of authority and power over women as their protectors, and will resist any attempt by women to reciprocate protectionism (Tannen, 16).

My opinion in relation to the communication between men and women is that the cultural upbringing and nurturing of boys and girls impacts directly on the communication differences outcomes between men and women. In the course f interacting with both genders, I have discovered that whenever men communicate, they are simply interested in conveying certain information. On the other hand, I have noted that when women communicate, they are both conveying information and building some connection with the recipient of the conveyed message. These observations agree with Deborah Tannen’s findings about the communication differences between men and women, because Tannen holds that women live in a world of connectedness, while men live in a world of independence (Tannen, 12). These findings affirm my observation in that; men living in a world of independence simply convey information independently of any relationship building with the message recipient. On the other hand, women living in a world of connectedness convey information through building connection with message recipient.

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  1. Mohindra, Vinita and Samina Azhar. Gender Communication: A Comparative Analysis of Communicational Approaches of Men and Women at Workplaces. Journal of Humanities and Social Science 2.1: (Sep-Oct. 2012), 18-27.
  2. Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Harper, 2007. 1-156. Print.
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