I learned some more things about the differences between men and women by reading
this book, which was a #1 national best seller in 1991. She is a professor of
linguistics at Georgetown University. She doesn't deal with the structure of the
male brain or the female brain. She just studies people's speech patterns and the
underlying strategies for verbal communication implied by those patterns. She has
noted that people with different strategies have trouble communicating. In a previous
book she explored some of the different approaches to verbal communication that
certain nationalities and ethnic groups have and the difficulties and misunderstandings
that arise when people from different groups try to converse. In the present book,
she explores male and female modes of conversing in the same was as she explored
other groups in her earlier book.
It doesn't matter to her whether the reasons for the different styles are biological
or environmental. She thinks that if we can learn the other person's verbal strategy,
we can communicate with them better. I am not sure that it really helps, but it can't
The basic reason why men and women misunderstand each other is that they have different
values and different goals which affect no only their actions but their conversational
styles as well. Men and women converse for different reasons. Here are some of the
differences between men and women that Ms Tanner says cause miscommunication.
Ms Tannen calls the feminine mode of conversing "rapport-talk," because women's goal
in conversing is to build rapport--to advance the personal relationship between
the parties. She calls the masculine mode of conversing "report-talk," because men's
goal in conversing is to exchange information. Of course men often talk to establish
rapport and women often talk to communicate information. And it often happens that
men and women speak on the same wavelength (use the same mode of conversing in the
same conversation). Not all conversations between men and women fail. But a lot of
them do, and Ms Tannen's book helps to explain why.
Women like to discuss problems because the discussion itself shows a bond of involvement
and communication. Men feel oppressed by lengthy discussions about what they see as
Women want to feel protected and comforted and sometimes this is what they hope to get
from a conversation. They like to play therapist and patient or social worker and
client. They love to wallow in discussions of personal problems. Men prefer action
to words. Men would rather solve problems than talk about them. If there is no
solution, men would rather forget about a problem than talk about it.
Women take things personally and they mean things personally. They like to talk about
their daily lives and neighborhood gossip. Men want to have more objective, adult
conversations. Men like to talk about the outside world: news, politics, sports.
They realize that their own daily lives are not of general interest.
Women see the world as a community of relationships with themselves at the center. Men
see life as a struggle against nature.
Women like the feeling of connection and interdependence. Men like freedom and
independence. Experiments recorded on videotape show that when women are placed two
at a time in a room with two chairs, they move the chairs close together, face each
other, sit still, and talk. When men are placed in the same situation, they sit
parallel to each other, farther apart than women, they talk less than the women,
they do not look at each other's eyes when they talk, and they fidget. Men are clearly
less comfortable in such situations just as they are less comfortable in classrooms,
psychologists offices, and confession booths.
Women care and think about their relationships, and they like to show their concern
verbally. They also like to share their fleeting thoughts with those they feel
close to, and they enjoy the intimacy of hearing the passing thoughts of their
friends. Men do not like to subject others to such tripe nor to be bothered by
others who are so inconsiderate of their time as to subject them to it. Men prefer
to express facts rather than momentary feelings. When men choose to express their
thoughts, they prefer to evaluate them first and decide which ones are worth
expressing. If men have nothing to say, they are quiet. It is easier for men to
show their feelings in actions than in words.
Women mistake silence for lack of caring. Then they want to talk about the problems
in the relationship.` Men feel that such talk is tedious and only makes the
Women want to be liked. Men want to be respected. Women often are inclined to do what
is asked of them. Many men resist the slightest hint that someone is telling them
what to do. A man may wait a while and then do it, so it doesn't look like he is
doing it because of being told. If he waits too long, she may ask him again--this can
lead to another cycle of nagging.
Year Read: 1992
Libertarian Essays by Roy Halliday
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