In "Sex, Lies, and Conversation; Why is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other," linguist Deborah Tannen argues that the problems of men and women in marriage often stem from the fact that they misunderstand what the other person is really trying to say. Tannen notes that her own research concluded that women's most frequent complaint in marriage was that their husbands did not listen to them, but that when she examined actual conversations, she found that the problem was not that men don't listen, but that they listen differently.
Using her own research and that of other psychologists and sociologists, Tannen outlines the idea that men and women are raised to communicate differently. Little girls bond by sharing secrets and comforting each other by sharing stories, looking into one another's eyes, and becoming intimate through vulnerability. Boys, on the other hand, live in a hierarchical world where they need to struggle to find their place. Tannen's research shows that men do bond, but it is by negotiating in a more competitive environment where listening for too long makes them feel they are put down, and where they share problems in order to have a friend give them solutions or to be reassured the problem isn't important.
These differences in expectations about close relationships, Tannen concludes, causes men and women to be frustrated in intimate relationships with the opposite sex, especially marriage. However, Tannen reassures us, learning about these communication differences can help couples to say what they really mean and hear what the other person is really trying to communicate.
Tannen asks us to move away from psychological models of relationships which assign blame to one sex or the other and to instead move to a sociolinguistic understanding of communication between the sexes. Ideally, couples can adapt to one another's styles, but also understand when it is more effective to get some communication needs to be met by other friends. Ultimately, Tannen seeks to relieve the pressure on communication in marriage by giving couples more realistic expectations.
Observing Gender Communication Differences Essay
530 Words3 Pages
Several weeks ago I observed a woman at the Mall. She and a young man sitting directly across from each other were engaged in what was apparently a mutual flirting. But the younger man seemed much more confident and cocky than did the woman. For one thing, he was more relaxed and calm. The woman, however, kept her arms folded over a bag that she was holding on to very tightly. The woman also had a strong tendency to look down more often than the man. Although her admiration for him was obvious, she seemed to be trying hard to conceal it. Often women seem to be more noticeably shy than men. Non-verbally, their “body language'; seems to communicate their feelings of great uncertainty and self-consciousness.
Further evidence…show more content…
Men seem to speak more nasally and some women seem to have a better control over the English language. Over the course of a few days, I noticed significantly fewer “ums'; and “errs'; from women than I did from men. This did not necessarily indicate that they presented themselves more confidently, just with greater fluency.
Men have a tendency to use their hands more often while speaking than do women. In one my observed instances, several guys and girls had gathered at my friend’s house to eat dinner, and the amount of hand motions and gestures that the guys were using seemed to be infinite. One guy frank practically drew out an entire picture of his car in the air while describing it to the other guys. Meanwhile, the girls’ hands remained on their food or their drink or on the table. Girls nodded much more than guys—but made no other gesture with as much frequency.
Finally, it can be inferred from my observations that certain cultural models cause the witnessed patterns of speaking and communication. Women are “taught'; to be shy and infererior—and this is evidenced in their non-verbal coyness while speaking in a one-to-one situation with males. But men are taught that over-happiness is “queer'; and so smiles are not nearly as common on the males’ face as they are on the females’ face. Both sexes certainly seem to enjoy talking—but each is more comfortable in their own