Gender Differences in Communication Style

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While it has long been an incorrectly held gender stereotype that women, as the “fairer” sex, exude more proper use of the English language and are more polite in its use, the fact remains that there are certain differences in the way that the different genders employ the English language. Factors such as politeness, propensity for slang terms and abbreviations, use of formalities etc. are all variables that must be taken into account when analyzing the unique communication styles among genders.

One of the major areas where men and women differentiate in their communication styles in the English language (or any language, for that matter) is the utilization of nonverbal communication. This stands as one of the key differences between the genders in terms of not just style, but preference, as the male gender as a whole is far less adept at picking up nonverbal cues such as body language, in addition to using nonverbal cues for different reasons than women. While a woman may use nonverbal communication to relay feelings like attention and encouragement, a man may be using the same techniques in nonverbal communication to give off a sense of confidence or dominance (Sherwood, 2012). This accounts for the vast majority of the daily communications that take place for men, women, and between the two, often resulting in temporary strife with regards to missed nonverbal cues by either party.

The strife created by miscommunication between men and women is well documented, as it is widely believed that, while the differences in communication styles with relation to spoken language may be minor, women’s emotional response to the messages that may lie “between the lines” in correspondence with others often dwarfs that of men. The emphasis of women on interpersonal relations, especially with a mate or close friend, is often at odds with the communication styles of many men, who generally deem things such as intimacy “unnecessary” (Torrpa, 2012). While this may be the case when communicating with their fellow men, the root of many arguments and miscommunications between the different sexes generally lie within the disconnect between women’s ability to create personal intimacy on a whim, and a man’s inability to perceive just what this means to him.

According to a research project funded by the Towson University College of Liberal Arts, several revelations regarding the communication differences between men and women have come to light and are backed by statistical data. Among these differences, some of the most important discoveries include the fact that men are more likely to interrupt a speaker than women, while women are more likely to be interrupted – often by men (Vanfossen, 2012). An additional conclusion the study reached, with regards to differences in gender communication style, is that there are no statistical patterns that show men or women using formal or polite speech more or less often than the other gender. Also of importance regarding the social differences between the genders is the fact that men statistically initiate more verbal communication than women, which in turn exudes a certain amount of “dominance,” as the loudest and most talkative individual in the room is generally perceived in a leadership role.

Unfortunately for women, the aforementioned statistics regarding rates of interruption between genders belie a more serious problem: Women are perceived as the less powerful sex, and this inherently affects the way their communication styles are perceived. For example, assertive speech from a woman is generally perceived as “negative” by the male populace. While the “glass ceiling” for women in the workplace is now common knowledge, according to a thesis published by Claremont Mckenna College, it is the negativity associated with assertive speech in women that is thought to exacerbate the plight of women in the workplace to the point that women do, in fact, climb the corporate ladder at a statistically slower rate than men (Merchant, 2012). This is made apparent in our society by the rate of pay for women in the workplace, even when they occupy jobs that are on par with their male counterparts; women in the U.S. are paid, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a male employee earns.

The largest and most problematic difference between men and women and their respective styles of communication, is that the different genders view the purpose of conversations differently. Research has shown that, while men may use verbal communication to connote dominance and the introduction of a social hierarchy, women use verbal communication and conversation as a mean to create and maintain relationships and social connections. Women are generally more polite and expressive in their nonverbal cues, while men tend to lean more towards the aggressive and less nonverbally active end of the spectrum (Lieberman, 2010). This generally results in relational strife, as many attempts at effective communication are lost in translation. For example, when a man is speaking he may only nod his head when he agrees with something. A woman may pick up this nonverbal, social cue and look for it when an attempt at communication is made; if the man does not nod his head over the course of the conversation, the woman may construe this lack of nodding as disagreement, and will then become irate.

While it is prudent to take note of the various communication differences between men and women in an effort to foster clearer correspondence, it is important to maintain a certain amount of leeway regarding each genders adherence to their social predispositions, lest the analysis become stereotypical. In essence, women tend to be more expressive and nonverbal in their communication style, while men are far less expressive and far more verbal, even going so far as to create interruptions on a much larger scale than their female counterparts in what amounts to a display of social dominance. This has the unfortunate effect of giving women with assertive social tendencies the brunt of the glass ceiling in the workplace. If men and women are to create stronger and less strife ridden social bonds in the future, it’s important that both genders recognize the differences in their communication styles, and work to amend their own for smoother correspondence.

References

Lieberman, S. (2010, August 22). Differences in Male and Female Communication Styles.Simma Lieberman Associates. Retrieved from http://www.simmalieberman.com/articles/maleandfemale.html

Merchant, K. (2012, June 13). How Men And Women Differ: Gender Differences in Communication Styles, Influence Tactics, and Leadership Styles. Claremont Colleges. Retrieved from http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1521&context=cmc_theses

PhD., S. Sherwood. (2012, April 8). 10 Ways Men and Women Communicate Differently. Discovery Channel. Retrieved from http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/10-ways-men-women-comminucate-differently.htm

Torppa, PhD., C. B. (2010, February 10). Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships. The Ohio State University Extension. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/flm02/pdf/fs04.pdf

Vanfossen, B. (2012, January 2). Gender Differences in Communication. College of Liberal Arts. Retrieved from http://www.towson.edu/