Gender and the LoC
Men and women often misinterpret what they say to each other. Find out about the language of communication between the sexes
Photo: K. R. DEEPAK
The battle of the sexes Who communicates better?
The peace lines are being drawn. Men and women agree to agree that both can be nurturing, aggressive, task-focused, sentimental and multi-tasking (he ‘listens’ to her while reading the paper). And both are harassed — by the opposite
sex. So, can we start the music and distribute laddoos? Not yet. There is still this one problem: the LOC — Language of Communication. We don’t read between the lines in the same way, we misinterpret what we say to each other, and ignite ammo in our verbal exchanges. The battle of the sexes!
Our amateur status is enough to tell us that we are at different wavelengths, communication-wise. Studies just confirm it. One said that girls have a built-in neurological advantage over boys in the use of language. We even write differently. Post a letter or article you wrote at GenderGenie. This simple tool counts words more frequently used by women (such as with, if, not, where, be), and by men (the, at, it, said, to). Check out!
Researchers tell us that men and women show marked differences in how they read underlying messages. Women tend to find hidden meanings related to intimacy or the state of the relationship between the two parties.
Men will look for the status of the parties in relation to each other, or the hierarchy of the communication. Women are typically experts in “rapport talk” — to build, maintain, and strengthen relationships. Men typically indulge in “report talk,” — analysing issues and solving problems.
Women are self-effacing and apologetic: men can be convincingly confident, even when they are totally wrong. Men are more likely to give advice to overcome a problem, while women offer moral support and affirmation. Women talk to show affection, to connect; men prefer doing things. Not having to talk is a sign of trust and intimacy for men. In the workplace, men tend to stand and communicate — to make a presentation; women prefer to be at the same level as the audience. They believe it makes for more meaningful communication.
You can guess the result of such communication gaps. He thinks: “Why is she weak and indecisive? And what is this cross-examination for?” She knows: “He didn’t pay attention to what I was saying.”
Now the good news: In spite of the “they-come-from-different-galaxies” theories, some researchers say that differences exist not because we are “made” that way, but because we were “taught” to be that way. It’s more nurture, less nature. Young girls are told to “be nice” and appreciate feelings of others while boys are encouraged to be tough. You know what the word is for boys who show excess concern or feelings. And aren’t girls told to be quiet?
How true is all this? “While I am not a psychologist, I have been married nearly 26 years and am in the communications business,” said Beth, a grandmother. “Men and women most definitely communicate differently. I am definitely more verbal than my husband, both in the number of words I choose to use when discussing or describing something and the number of things I choose to talk about. My husband uses language that is to the point — it seems that his choice of words comes from getting the message across with the greatest economy. I choose my words based on how well they convey the nuances of situation, emotion or thing being discussed.”
Nitin, a business communications expert said, “If you mean communication issues due to gender differences, and because we are in a marriage, the list is endless! The main problem is, wives just don’t listen to their husbands!”
Naveen, Director, Headstart School does disagree with wife Padma – when she is fast asleep. “No, I can’t really recollect a time when we have had a communication problem with each other,” he said. “Usually she says and that’s that.” At the end of a particularly hard work day, tell your spouse: “I’m really tired. Why am I working so hard? When do I ever get a holiday?” If all the reams of research are anything to go by, the answers should be:
He: Why don’t you take a day off/stop working?
She: Yeah, I feel the same way. Wish there’s some way to work it out.
How would you react to these answers?
What should we do?
Understand there are differences in the way we interpret speech/writing
Don’t jump into questioning motives. It’s just that sometimes we hear things through different filters
Don’t hesitate to ask, “I didn’t quite get it. Is this what you are saying?”
Angry at your partner’s response? Before bawling out, consider this: is he offering a solution when I want empathy? Is he establishing status when I need affection?
If nothing works, accept your partner for what he/she is.
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