Gender Influence in Communication Essay

Gender Influence in Communication

For years people have been trying to figure out how to communicate with the opposite sex. In relationships, in office atmosphere, and in every day contact, it seems that much miscommunication occurs when a man tries to talk to a woman – or vice versa.

            John Gray says in his book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, that when men and women talk, they hear different things.

            For instance, Gray surmises that when a woman says “This is not working,” a man hears “This is your fault.” When a man says “It is not a big deal,” a woman hears “It is not important. Let’s just drop it and move on.” With translations like these, it is easy to see how there is a communication problem between the genders. Terms like “battle of the sexes” come from such conflicts between men and women.

            Women seem to be more sensitive to what is being said. They search beyond what was actually said to find what they believe was actually meant. This is not necessarily only when they are communicating with men, but also when women are communicating with each other. Women try, in essence, to go beyond the words and read the mind of the person they are communicating with.

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            According to Gray, women are like “waves.” Gray says that women’s emotions rise and fall such as a wave rises and falls in the ocean. Hormones play a very large role in a woman’s “mood swings.”  Gray says that when it comes to women in relationships, “when her wave hits bottom, she is more vulnerable …” When her wave is high, she feels that she has more to give those she is in contact with. This is how men get confused. Men want to take credit and believe that when a woman is happy, it is because of something they did or said, and when a woman is angry or sad, it is also because of something they did or said. Based on a woman’s actions or reactions, men take a lot of responsibility for things that may not have a thing to do with them.

            A woman’s ability to “read between the lines,” is actually a key in reading other people. This is also where a “woman’s intuition” comes from. A person can come to work looking dressed to kill, yet say one thing that targets a warning bell in a woman’s mind and she can usually tell more about this person than the men around her.

            According to Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, the difference between men and women and their communication, falls into how they understand two things – intimacy and independence. Intimacy is the development of interpersonal relationships. Independence is the ability to have status. How men and women handle these two things, according to Tannen, is largely what affects their communication ability. Men, she says, are more into the independence factor and less the intimacy. They would rather have status and be able to have control. Women, however, would rather not be so bossy, but have intimacy and know her co-workers, higher or lower.

            Gray writes that men are like rubber bands. When a man feels like he is getting too intimate with someone, he feels like he needs to pull back to maintain that independence. He feels like he might lose his status if he gets too personal with people. “Men are like rubber bands,” said Gray. “When they pull away, they can stretch only so far before they come springing back.” Gray continued to say that sometimes men feel like the closer they get with another person, the more they lose of themselves.  This makes it difficult for a woman to communicate with man, whether she is in a relationship with him, or whether she works with him.

According to Gray, if a woman wants a man to talk, she should start by sharing and initiate the intimacy. Women should not expect men to initiate an intimate conversation, because more often than not, it won’t happen if left up to a man. When it comes to conversing with women, men often do not know how to start an intimate conversation because they have a harder time reading women. If a woman opens up about something she is struggling with at work, then the man she is speaking to can possibly relate. This opens the gates of communication. “Men talk to give information of report. Women talk to gain information of rapport,” said Victoria Simon, Ph.D., and Holly Pedersen, Ph.D., in their newsletter, communicating with Men at Work: Bridging the Gap with Male Co-Workers and Employees.  The doctor’s went on to say that while women want to talk about people, men would rather talk about specific subjects such as sports, work, or current events. Women are more open- they do not necessarily have to have order or specifics. Men are the opposite of that. They need logics, specifics and reason.

Verbal Communication is not the only thing that men and women struggle with. Men and women also have different nonverbal communication styles, which is referred to as kinesics.

According to www.colostate.edu, Women, generally, give off more approachable nonverbal signals while men appear to give a more restrained feeling, often with their arms crossed tightly across their chest. Women smile more often than men do, and often when they are not actually happy. Men generally do not smile unless it is due to genuine happiness. Because women smile easier, they are more prone to be interrupted while they are talking and smiling. Though the smile gives a lightened feeling to even the most intense conversation, it also makes the conversation less formal.

While in conversation, women usually show more facial expression than men. They will be more likely to roll their eyes, wink, or scrunch their noses. Men generally keep a “straight” face.

Women stand in a more tense fashion than men do. While a man will usually lean against something, a woman usually stands with perfect posture.

Men, on the other hand, are quite different nonverbally than women are. They tend to be more reserved and straightforward in their appearance. Men, instead of smiling for approval, nod their head more than women do; to signal that they understand or agree with the message they are being given. Men stare more in conversation than women do, perhaps to challenge power or status. While women appreciate personal space, men generally invade the personal space of others. Women generally prefer side to side conversations while men prefer face to face conversations.

Verbal and nonverbal communication between male and females seems to be equally complicated and full of differences. In the study of both, it is easy to see how there is so much conflict and confusion between the genders.

Even though it is hard for Venus and Mars to communicate, it certainly is possible, if the communicators have learned how to communicate with the opposite gender, or, planet. With research, a happy home and office is possible where a man and woman must work together. In fact, because of their differences, a man and woman working together bring a lot to the office or home.

Works Cited

“Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships.” Family Tapestries. 2006. Ohio State University. 30 Nov. 2006 <http://ohioline.osu.edu/flm02/FS04.html>.

Gray, John. Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. New York: Harper Collins, 1992. ix-286.

“Interpersonal Communicaton Context.” Theory Workbook. 2001. 30 Nov. 2006 <http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/interpersonal/>.

“Male/Female Communication At Work.” News Letter. Mar. 2005. 30 Nov. 2006 <http://www.itstime.com/mar2005.htm>.

Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation. Harper Paperback, 2001. 352.

Siennicki, Judy. “Gender Differnences in Noncommunication.” 2000. Colorodo State University. 30 Nov. 2006 ;www.colostate.edu;.

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