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Do men and women communicate differently?


Published:   |   Updated: September 11, 2013 at 05:37 PM

“Men and women belong to different species, and communication between them is a science still in its infancy.”  Bill Cosby.
 
Even though men and women may speak the same language, they often fail to communicate because of something called 'Genderlect'. It refers to the different ways they speak. For example, women often end a sentence like this: “You are coming to the party on Sunday, aren’t you?”  They add the tag words --aren’t you as a question with the voice rising slightly.  Men don’t talk that way. They speak more emphatically as a statement of fact.
 
For centuries, men spoke to women the way they spoke to other men. The male speaking style was the accepted norm. Women who spoke like men were regarded as rude, crude, and unladylike.
 
Fortunately, that is no longer the case.  The Women’s Liberation Movement dealt patriarchy a crippling blow.  Today, women in the workplace, and in all social circles, enjoy the same freedom afforded men.  While this newfound freedom is exhilarating; their conversational style still differs from that of men.
 
Here are some symptoms of 'Genderlect'. Men are competitive, women are cooperative. Women are peacemakers, men are instigators. Women are better listeners. Men brag more than women. Women ask questions in an effort to bond, to make connections. Men seek power, influence, and status. Men prevent women from expressing themselves by frequently interrupting them.  
 
Fifty percent of all divorces in America are a result of failed conversation. Women regard conversation as the cornerstone of a meaningful relationship.  Women stay on topic in a discussion more than men. Men resist listening because they feel that being a listener makes them feel inferior.  Men tend to talk more than women in public and less at home. This pattern has been taken to wreak havoc on many marriages.
Women make listening noises such as "mhm,""uhuh," to indicate that they are listening.  Men usually listen in   silence giving   the speaker no verbal or nonverbal feedback. 
 
According to John Gray, author of, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, men retreat to their cave when they are upset about something.  Women prefer talking about what is bothering them even if it doesn’t result in a solution.
 
Aside from what men and women say to one another in conversation, the physical position they assume is different. Women tend to face each other squarely and make unbroken eye contact. Men stand or sit at angles and seldom make direct eye contact.
 
Here are some additional reasons why communication breaks down between a man and a woman. When men are asked a question, they usually give a straight answer. Women tend to talk all around a subject, expecting men to somehow decipher what they want or need. Men have difficulty expressing their emotions. Women can think and feel at the same time. Men can only do one or the other.  In conversation, men generally get right to the point, women want detail. Women make requests, men make demands.
Researchers have discovered that differences in the size, structure, and function of the male and female brain affect how they communicate. When listening to a novel, the male brain uses only the left side; the female brain uses both sides.  This may account for their superior multi-tasking ability. 
Since there is no simple explanation of why men and women communicate differently, the best approach should include a generous helping of patience, respect, and understanding.
 
- Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include fifteen textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: aeisenberg3@tampabay.rr.com.

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