People have long tried to understand why men and women sometimes find too hard to communicate with each other. It seems that they have some inherent characteristics that prevent them from understanding each other. Professor Deborah Tannen explored this issue in detail in several books and journal articles (Mauk & Metz, 2015). The researcher argued that men and women grow in different sociocultural settings and communicate mostly within their gender groups. As a result, they form distinct conversational patterns, worldviews, and beliefs that can serve as interpersonal barriers (Githens, 1991). Tannen’ sociocultural approach to communication differences allows getting insight into the problem of gender relations; therefore, I aim to analyze her perspective in detail in this short essay.
To begin with, Tannen argued that gender differences are built into language. According to the scholar, men and women use different words to express their thoughts. As a result, it may be difficult for them to understand each other even when speaking the same language. Notably, Tannen stressed that somehow, men’s language is perceived as a norm, so women are often forced under the social pressure to change their conversational style (Githens, 1991). These standards can be extremely challenging for both genders to manage. Thus, men trying to speak the men’s language are not understood properly by women, whereas women trying to adjust to the norm are perceived as unfeminine.
Furthermore, Tannen suggested that language serves different purposes for men and women. The latter communicate to build relationships, reach consensus, achieve intimacy, etc. Men, in turn, communicate mainly to share information and establish their dominating position in the social setting (Githens, 1991). Men prefer building relationships through activities, not language, which often leads to relationship problems between men and women. Finally, one more main difference between men and women is the way they interact with people. Women, according to Tannen, tend to “overlap” in conversations, that is, interrupt and speak simultaneously (Githens, 1991, n.p.). Men, on the contrary, wait until their interlocutor finishes and only then respond. It does not mean they are less involved compared to women, it is just the way they interact with people. To summarize, Tannen highlighted that there is no standard communication pattern. Men and women behave differently, and the only solution to address communication barriers is to acknowledge and respect these differences.
Githens, S. (1991). Men and women in conversation: An analysis of gender styles in language. Retrieved from http://faculty.georgetown.edu/bassr/githens/tannen.htm
Mauk, J., & Metz, J. (2015). The composition of everyday life, brief. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
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