Communication: Different for both genders?

Posted on July 4, 2010

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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