From the beginning of history of humankind gender differences have been one of the most fascinating topics for the philosophers, and scientists. Tons of books were written on this topic, and thousands of movies were filmed, but still, the secret of the relationship between men and women hasn’t been revealed. The only thing that all of those books, articles, and movies achieved, is that nowadays people are certain that men and women are totally different. Some science fiction writers even made an assumption than males and females are different species, which need each other in order to reproduce.
It’s a obvious that language is one of the main means of communication humans use. Some researchers presume that it is language that creates most of misunderstandings between females and males. The reason is that men and women express their thoughts differently, using different verbal and non-verbal means.
Let’s review the most uncomplicated example, a situation described in Samuel Shem’s book We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues Between Men and Women. He writes about the workshop organized for couples to improve their communicational skills with the opposite gender. When the organizers of the workshop asked the group to break into the same-gender groups, people looked relieved. When, afterwards, they were given the task, groups of woman and groups of man behaved themselves differently: men shook hands, sat down, and began to write their individual answers, while woman started to talk noisily in small groups, laughing, and waving hands (1999, p.14).
Analyzing this observation we can conclude that women are more into group decisions, while men prefer the individual ones. Moreover, woman express more emotion while trying to solve a problem, they have lots of associations connected with it, which they tend to express immediately. Consequently, it is no wonder that the communication between the representatives of two genders is so complicated sometimes. The strategies of communication men and women use are different, so that it is not easy for them to understand each other.
Nevertheless, an objection appears concerning the statement that man tend to talk less than women do. Deborah Tannen illustrated it in her article Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other? She described the situation which happened in one of her workgroups. The group of woman invited men to join them, and, throughout the evening, one man was particularly talkative, and his wife sit silently beside him. When in the end of the evening the author concluded that women frequently complain that their husbands don’t talk to them, this man agrees to her, and said that his wife was the a chatterbox in their family. The author concluded that: “although American men tend to talk more than women in public situations, they often talk less at home. And this pattern is wreaking havoc with marriage.” (1990).
It’s true that many women feel their husbands talk too little to them. The situation when a husband comes back home from work, and has nothing to say to his wife, is frequent in American families. The researchers have different opinions about the origins of this fact, but it is most likely that men just don’t have common topics with their wives. They know what topics they should cover when they communicate with their colleagues, regardless of their gender, also they have lots of thing to talk about with their friends, but men often just don’t understand what they should discuss with their women.
Deborah Tannen proposes a very convincing explanation for this fact. She says that:
“For males, conversation is the way you negotiate your status in the group and keep people from pushing you around; you use talk to preserve your independence. Females, on the other hand, use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy; talk is the essence of intimacy, so being best friends means sitting and talking. For boys, activities, doing things together, are central. Just sitting and talking is not an essential part of friendship. They’re friends with the boys they do things with”
It is also that for men communication means exhibiting information, which is the mean of maintaining social status. On the contrary, women see communication as transferring emotions and attitudes (2001, p.55-57). Thus men and women often just don’t understand what their partner wants from them.
The social status of women is usually different from that of men, thus they earn it be the means different from that men use. It is not obligatory for woman to convey information when she talks to somebody. She is more into transferring her feelings, emotions, and attitudes. In the same time, women who purport on the social status same to that males have, she has to change her communicational style.
Despite of the gender and sexual revolution that have taken place in our society during the past century, men still take most of the highest positions worldwide. Thus the requirements a human being has to fulfill for to get the high status are also set by males. As we have already noted, for men conveying information is the mean of maintaining social status. Thus, a woman who claims to have a high social status also has to learn to talk like men do. The observations indicate that lots of women are able of taking possession of this skill, in the same time being able to communicate in the feminine style. Unfortunately, little man care enough for to try to learn to talk like women do, as it is disrespected among males.
J.B. Priestly, the English writer, has an opinion somehow different from that discussed above. He states that:
“[Women] remain more personal in their interests and less concerned with abstractions than men on the same level of intelligence and culture…. It is the habit of men to be overconfident in their impartiality, to believe that they are god-like intellects, detached from desires and hopes and fears and disturbing memories, generalizing and delivering judgment in a serene mid-air” (1926).
Thus women mostly prefer to talk about the mundane things, like cooking, gardening, or clothes, while men usually cover topics like freedom, governing or philosophy. Women rarely convince their surroundings that their opinion is the only true. It is also that women can communicate freely if their views on many things differ.
For man the situation is different. Males mostly talk with those, who agree with them in the majority of points. If the situation is different, they either try to persuade their opponent, or just stop communicating with him or her. For men conversation is often a form of a contest, while women perceive as one of the means of establishing and maintaining a relationship.
This difference in perceiving communication is the reason for most of the misunderstandings men and women have. Those misunderstandings can ruin a marriage, or friendship. They also can create severe troubles during the working process. Solving them is a vital task for maintaining peace and understanding in ones life.
Considering all the facts and theories listed, it is no wonder that men and women often have troubles talking. The reason for that is that they pursue different goals during this process, and their strategies are also different. Nevertheless, there are happy couples, both family and professional ones, who develop their own strategies of conveying their thoughts, ideas and emotions to each other. Likewise there are men and women who have close friends among the representatives of the opposite sex. Thus we can conclude that successful communication between man and woman is actually possible, and that we just have to spend a little time and effort for designing the one that will suit our specific case, as there are no decisions that suit all in this sphere.