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Communication: Different for both genders?

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Gunveen Chadha:

Communication is one of the most important elements distinguishing people from one another in the world of today. It is becoming an area of attention, as people from around the world have to understand different linguistically styles in order to communicate effectively. Communication can be effective only if the speaker and the listener are able to comprehend the same information from the conversation, and not have different inferences from their conversation.

Deborah Tannen, Professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C, in her article “The Power of Talk” suggests that “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, because using language is earned social behavior. How we talk and listen are deeply influenced by cultural exchange”. Each individual possesses a different style of communication. It is crucial the way we say things, as we clearly want to reach out to the listener. We want the listener to perceive the correct information, hence it is important that we make sure that the way we say it does not result in miscommunication. It is not always about the content, it is also about the style and language one uses to communicate. Often, communication can be misunderstood as we human beings think less about how we are projecting what we are speaking.

Tennen says that “Linguistic style is a set of culturally learned signals by which we not only communicate what we mean but also interpret others’ meaning and evaluate one another as people”, as she believes that our communication styles have been formed by the culture we have lived and grown up in. Communication style’s are different all around the world as there are different norms in different parts of the world. Two people could want to say the same thing but can say it in completely different ways than each other as each of them posses their own style of communication depending on the culture they are a part of.

Women have a different distinct style of communication than men. They may have to say something with the same meaning to infer but there would be a different way for each of them to put the same thing in words. Tannen says “In my research in the workplace, I heard men say “I” in situations where I heard women say “We”, to elaborate a small difference of the choice of pronoun by both the genders.

Robin Lakoff, author of the article “You Are What You Say” says that, “Women Language” is that pleasant (dainty?), euphemistic, never aggressive way of talking we learned as little girls”, to illustrate that since childhood girls are taught to be polite and not aggressive of their opinions.

Girls and boys differ in their linguistic styles as they grow up. When they play in their groups of boys alone and girls alone, they communicate differently among their groups. Tannen says, “Girls tend to play with a single best friend or in small groups, and they spend a lot of time talking. From childhood, most girls learn that sounding too sure of themselves will make them unpopular with their peers”, to acknowledge how girls like to discuss little matters and confide in a few people. They are taught to be open to others views and not be too proud of themselves as there is always room for achievement and learning more. On the contrary, Tannen says, “Boys usually play in larger groups in which more boys can be included, but not everyone is treated equal. Boys with high status in their group are expected to emphasize rather than downplay their status, and usually one or several boys will be seen as leader or leaders.” She says this for us to understand the comparison between they way girls and boys are brought up differently. Boys would show off the skills they possess and boast about themselves all the times possible, as it is considered important by the group to show what one’s got. It is less about feelings and more about who’s pride is higher.

The way communication styles of both genders shape up during their formative years have an impact on the way they behave in their workplace later in life. Boys would immediately take credit for their work and show off their pride but women would not go around and show off their pride in the work they did or demand credit.

Judy B. Rosener, in her article “Ways Women Lead” says that “Men are more likely than women to describe themselves in ways that characterize what some management experts call “transactional” leadership”, to illustrate that men view their job as a transaction. Men make it a point to take credit for every little thing they do, as they believe it is going to help them scale high in the workplace.

Language plays an important role in defining status. Men are always trying to make themselves outshine within their group as the person who is more powerful and superior becomes the leader and guides the group. Therefore they always want to project their strengths and are boasting about themselves. Whereas women try to subdue their achievements and do not boast as much, as it is considered impolite. Often, when it comes to comparison of status, men are considered superior than women even if the women performed the task better.

In her article, the female employees are not considered confident enough in comparison to the men to be promoted by the supervisors. Even if they are confident they don’t boast about themselves or take credit like men do and therefore the supervisors feel they are not confident about their work.

Both the genders differ in their style of apologizing as well. Women would remember something small even if it happened a while ago. Women take time to forgive the person or even if they forgive the person, it takes a long while for them to completely wash out the bitterness from the event in the past. Women remember small minute details. Men on the contrary, would not care to remember the minutest details even if it was regarding their family or friends. When men forgive, they forget about 70-80% of the issue.

If someone needs help in finding something or there is a question that needs to be asked, women do not hesitate and ask immediately. Women would not even hesitate to stop a stranger in the middle of the road to ask him for the direction to the place they are heading to. Whereas for men, it kills their ego to ask someone, they feel it lets them down in from of the person they are asking, as they believe they lack information and hence need help. Men do not like to ask questions unless it is very important. It is a matter of ego and pride for them.

Men and women, both have different linguistical styles that are primarily dominated by the culture and society they grew up in and are a part of.  Communication amongst people varies greatly to the extent of their ability to comprehend and explain the content clearly. Effective Communication is an art in itself.

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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