Men & Women Communicating in the Workplace
Effective Strategies to Smooth out Gender Differences
by Edward Leigh, MA
It has become a pop culture trend to analyze the differences between male and female communication differences. Some people believe men and women are so different it is though they are living on different planets! Of course, there are gender differences in communication styles. It is important to emphasize each style of communication is equally valid. The goal in gender communication is not change the style of communication but to adapt to the differences.
There are certain patterns of behavior that each gender tends to display, however this is not to state that all men and all women have certain characteristics. We have to be careful never to generalize or stereotype. We are all on a continuum and there are always variations. Rather, we will focus on trends that different genders tend to posses in terms of communication styles.
Gender differences start early in life. In her book, You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tanen asserts that "even if they grow up in the same neighborhood, on the same block, or in the same house, girls and boys grow up in different worlds." These gender differences in ways of talking have been observed in children as young as three years of age, about the time language is developed. While little girls talk to be liked; little boys often talk to boast. Little girls make requests; little boys make demands. Little girls speak to create harmony; little boys prolong conflict. Little girls talk more indirectly; little boys talk directly. Little girls talk more with words; little boys use more actions. While boys and girls both want to get their way, they use language differently to do so.
In the well-researched book Brain Sex, geneticist Anne Moir and co-author David Jessel state, "Male and female brains are structured and process information differently. Because of this, Dr. Moir urges that we stop the "battle of the sexes" since neither are right or better, we're just "wired" differently. Thus in communicating, it would help if men and women stop judging and trying to convert each other, accept our different abilities and skills as complementary, and blend them cooperatively to manage workplace and life issues.