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The differences in linguistic styles between males and females have exercised linguistic researchers for decades (e.g. Trudgill 1972; Lakoff 1975; Labov 1990; Coates 1998). It has been argued for some time that some consistent differences exist in speech, Holmes (1993). Although the interpretation of such differences remains somewhat elusive. Most previous work has investigated apparent phonological and pragmatic differences between male and female language use in speech (e.g. Trudgill 1972; Key 1975; Holmes 1990; Labov 1990; Eckert 1997).
Several statistical phenomena have emerged that appear to be fairly stable across a variety of contexts. For example, females seem to talk more about relationships than do males (Aries & Johnson 1983; Tannen 1990) and use more compliments and apologies (Holmes 1988; Holmes 1989) and facilitative tag questions (Holmes 1984). Holmes (1993) has suggested that these and other phenomena might be generalized to a number of "universals" including that females are more attentive to the affective function of conversation and more prone to use linguistic devices that solidify relationships. However, interpretation of the underlying linguistic phenomena, particularly as regards their specific communicative functions, is the subject of considerable controversy (Bergvall et al 1996). For example, it has been argued (Cameron et al 1988) that the use of facilitative tag questions by women might be more plausibly interpreted as signs of conversational control than as signs of subordination, as had been previously contended (Lakoff 1975). Nevertheless, broadly speaking, the differences between female and male language use appear to be centered about the interaction between the linguistic actor and his or her linguistic context.
Are gender issues just women issues?
No, but it is understandable that many people think so. This is because in most societies women are subordinated to men. And they are thought to be inferior to men. Many women do not accept this, and therefore they challenge the way their culture and society ascribes them an inferior position and an inferior role. That means, it often tends to be women who raise the issue of gender. But gender refers just as much to the position and role of men in society.
Are gender differences in communication patterns related to power?
When people are strangers, they expect less competence from women than from men. But if women are known to have prior experience or expertise related to the task, or if women are assigned leadership roles, then women show greatly increased verbal behaviors in mixed-sex groups. Educated professionals who have high social status were less likely to use "powerless language," regardless of gender. Thus, differences are linked to power, and are context-specific. Differences are socially created and therefore may be socially altered.
Studies have found that talking time is related both to gender (because men spend more time talking than women) and to organizational power (because the more powerful spend more time talking than the less powerful).
Who Talks More, Men or Women?
A common cultural stereotype describes women as being talkative, always speaking and expressing their feelings. Well, this is probably true; however, do women do it more than men? No! In fact an experiment designed to measure the amount of speech produced suggested that men are more prone to use up more talking time than women. An experiment b y Marjorie Swacker entailed using three pictures by a fifteenth century Flemish artist, Albrecht Durer which were presented to men and women separately. They were told to take as much time as they wanted to describe the pictures. The average time for males: 13.0 minutes, and the average time for women 3.17 minutes.
Why is this?
Sociolinguists try to make the connection between our society and our language in a way that suggests that women talk less because it has not always been as culturally acceptable as it has been for men. Men have tended to take on a more dominant role not only in the household, but in the business world. This ever-changing concept is becoming less applicable in our society, however, the trend is still prominent in some societies across the world. It is more acceptable for a man to be talkative, carry on long conversation, or a give a long wordy speech, however it is less acceptable for a women to do so. It has been more of a historical trend for men have more rights to talk. However , it is common for men to be more silent in situations that require them to express emotion. Since childhood, they have been told to "keep their cool" and "remain calm, be a man."
The different sources that I've read and used in the literature review presented different points of view and analysis for the subjects by reliable writers and authorities in this issue. All the sources that were used assume that there is a real difference in communication between males and females, and they agreed that there were many misunderstandings or misinterpretations in communication between genders. However, each article and source presented its own examination of the miscommunication, and they proposed different ways by which to investigate this social issue.
According to an article entitled Differences in Gender Communication (2005) there is another form of differences between genders. Communication can be verbal, non verbal, or written because people can communicate also using the mail system, the written way is added to the interpersonal communication in addition of course to the verbal and non verbal ways. From reading this article, it was clear that gender differences in communication existed also in the written way because we can determine the gender of a person just by reading its written words.
The differences that exist between genders and the reason why women can't be more like a man play an important role in the creation of misunderstanding in communication. Also differences present the essential causes that lead to a disagreement in communication between the two genders. There are some factors that contribute to the instinctive differences that exist between genders; for instance, there are biological ones, also there is a kind of competitiveness that exists between men and women. In addition, the cultural part enters also into consideration.
Another point stated by Hill (2002) is that, there are many styles of communication. These styles are the result of many factors "where we're from, how and where we were brought up, our educational background, our age, and it also can depend on our gender" (p. 87). In communication, generally men and women have special manners and styles of speaking also a specific subject, Coates (1986, p 23).
Many studies have been done to clarify the difference in communication between men and women. According to Canaray and Dindia (2006):
"Researchers typically report that men are more likely to emerge as leaders, to be directive and hierarchical, to dominate in groups by talking more and interrupting more. In contrast, women are found to be more expressive, supportive, facilitative, egalitarian, and cooperative than men, and to focus more on relationships and share more personally with others" From this description of the difference between men and women at a level of behaviors, it was clear that women convey their ideas and feelings and cooperate more than men who want to be the leaders and to direct.
In addition, the difference between genders in communication causes misunderstanding and leads to conflicts. For example, women might disclose their feelings and the problems that they are facing, but men think that women need help, so they start giving advice and trying to help. However, women behave like that in order to get closer to others not to get solutions (Gray, 1992, p 96).
Another important point argued in the research of Tanner (2002) is the reason why difference exists in communication between genders. It is said that these differences should not exist because men and women might belong to the same environment as being neighbors or brothers and sisters, yet the difference is present even if they have a similar background. The dissimilarity rises from the games that boys and girls play since their childhood, and the groups they form. For example, boys form a big group and one is the leader; however, girls tend to form small groups and they disclose their feelings and their opinions (Tanner, 2002).
Torppa claims that "women and men sometimes perceive the same messages to have different meanings" (2002, p112). That is due to the difference in the way of interpreting messages by the two genders. In fact, women are more likely to depend on others. In other words, women want to establish an emotional and passionate interdependence with men. Moreover, women try to satisfy the others as much as possible to make everyone satisfied, merry and happy whereas men more often stick to their independence and try to keep it intact whatever the situation may be. Besides, the spirit of competition inside them let these ones think of themselves more than any other one. Nevertheless, the misunderstandings between these two genders are mostly due to a difference in the way each one expresses oneself. Many examples of the normal life analysed by Torppa revealed that misunderstandings can be caused by a distortion in the manner people want to manifest their emotions and feelings to the other sex: women tend more to use words while men prefer generally to show them with acts. The possible way for coping with miscommunication is to try to be aware of the differences that exist with the other sex as well as to figure out what is the point of view or the angle from which the other sees the situation.
Lakoff (1975) pioneering work suggested that women's speech typically displayed a range of features, such as tag questions, which marked it as inferior and weak. Thus, she argued that the type of subordinate speech learned by a young girl "will later be an excuse others use to keep her in a demeaning position, to refuse to treat her seriously as a human being" (1975, p.5).
As what was said before, the difference of communication between men and women can trigger some misunderstandings, and in order to overcome this problem men and women should deal with each other as if they are from different cultures. They should not misinterpret words and body language, and try to understand what the other wants to convey. Moreover, they have to clarify and make sure that they understand the other by asking questions and doing perception checking (Lathrop, 2006).
The differences between genders in communication exist, not only in the verbal way but also in the non-verbal one was proved true. Moreover, these differences in communication are mostly due to culture, education and biologic origin. The consequences of these differences in communication which is misunderstandings that also proved right. However, new ideas also found in such as the fact that a significant number of men are concerned about this issue and have feelings of disappointment when facing misunderstandings with the other sex.
No matter what communication style there is both men and women will communicate in different ways. Men will take the approach of instrumental communication style where they want the answer right away and establish their hierarchy. Women, on the other hand, will be more of an expressive style of communication as they will be able to confide to others and are more sensitive to issues than men and they will be able to build, maintain, and strengthen their relationship.