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Communication between males and females has always been somewhat complicated. Because we are arguing that males and females have different cultures we wanted to take a look at what some of these differences might be. According to our research the inherent differences between male and female culture are the different roles that society holds for them and the ways these roles lead to different communication styles.
The stereotypes that men and women grow up with affect the types of ways in which they communicate. We first wanted to take a look at how they specifically differ while men and women are arguing or having normal conversations. We also looked at the different types of networks that men and women share. These networks also differ and as do the reasonings for their formation. Although we do not think that men and women need to change their cultures to effectively communicate, we do think that better communication is possible. One of the researchers we took a look at was Deborah Tannen. According to Tannen the reason that men and women do not communicate well is that men and women use language differently.
Women take the attitude that conversation is to explore solutions to common problems while men concern themselves more with getting information and hard data from conversation. Tannen states that what women look for in communication is human connection, while men consider status to be most important. They are looking for independence and are constantly looking for higher accomplishments.
Intimacy threatens this independence, so men have a tendency to avoid it. One of the old sayings about women is that they talk more than men. It turns out that it is not necessarily true. Women seem to talk more in private conversations than do men. Women do not generally have a fear of intimacy and therefore are much more open with one another during private conversations. It is more difficult for women to use this type of communication style in the public arena.
In that case it is men that do most of the talking. Tannen ultimately argues that men use communication as a weapon. They use long explanations to command attention from who it is they are speaking to. They use it to convey information and to ultimately gain agreement.
Tannen suggests that through even simple conversation men are continually protecting their status. She suggests the reason that women dominate private conversation is that once men get home they do not feel the need to continue to protect their status so they remain quiet. This causes women to become more vocal. Tannen suggests that status affects many different ways in which men communicate and raises several different examples. One area she found was that men tell more stories and jokes than women. She suggests that they are not doing this to be funny but instead do it to again to negotiate status.
They often tell stories in which they are the heroes and act alone to overcome obstacles. While women use storytelling to gain support from her personal networks. They use their stories that, if they are the subject of, contain her doing something foolish to put her at the same level as the listener. In this way women are not concerned with status as with relating and gaining support.
Men and women also differ when they are listening. While women tend to use eye contact and head nods to let the speaker know that she is listening. Men often do not use these techniques because they suggest agreement with the speaker.
Women also a technique which Tannen calls cooperative overlap. This happens sometimes when women start to speak before the other person finishers speaking. They usually do this to agree and show support for what the speaker is saying. Women see cooperative overlap as a way to continue the conversation while men see it as a competitive ploy to gain control of that conversation. In this way communication again is not made clear, men are annoyed because they believe that the women are trying to dominate the conversation while women are annoyed because men will frequently try to change the subject. One of the most common examples that most people use when talking about the differences in which men and women ask questions, is asking for directions. Since men are concerned with status and are willing to protect it men do not have the tendency to stop and ask for directions.
Men see this type of action as almost a form of intimacy because it implies that they need help. Women on the other hand do not have the same problem. Women ask questions to establish connections with others and stopping and asking for directions helps them do that. An example that Tannen uses that seems to conflict more conflict is what is generally referred to as “nagging.” Through her research she has shone men hate to be told to do anything.
Women are inclined to repeat a request that does not get a response because they are convinced that men will do the request if they only understand that they really want it done. Men on the other hand do not want to do the request because it seems that they are the ones taking orders, so they put off fulfilling it so it seems that they are doing it out of their own free will. Tannen suggests that what men and women are doing are sending meta-messages back and forth. These meta-messages are the underlying meaning in what men and women are saying. She suggests that once people are able to decipher some of these meta-messages more effective communication is possible. Another area that we researched were the differences in men and women’s personal networks. We found that when compared to men, women have more family ties than non-family ties.
Men also have family ties but are more likely to include co-workers in their networks. What this suggests is that women are less able to use networks as resources while men find their networks useful in finding jobs and advancing their careers. In this way, men have more extensive ties than women. The main reason for these differences are that men and women have different opportunities to form these networks. Men and women interact in different ways socially. Because of differing positions in the workplace, in marital roles, and in parenting, social opportunities are different.
Work related factors such as paid employment, educational attainment and income increase the number of ties outside the family. Although it has been found that most of these differences are erased if variables such as employment, family, and age are similar for men and women, it remains true that women have a larger more diversified network of family ties. In the business world, women must face many obstacles to succeed. Women have to adapt to a male-dominated culture to be promoted and rewarded.
Research has shown that communication styles between males and females can create conflict in the work environment. Typically, women are seen as emotional, flighty, and gossipy. Men, on the other hand are seen as competitive, goal-oriented, and aggressive. When faced with trying to adapt to these male characteristics, women encounter many different obstacles. One obstacle a success-oriented woman faces is the stereotypes generated by society. Since women are typically not seen as business oriented, any women who are actually business oriented are faced with discrimination. They are called pushy, angry, and accused of sleeping their way to the top.
A woman who has to face these types of accusations and stereotypes cannot effectively complete the tasks assigned to her. Much of the conflict facing women in the business world can be seen in Cheris Kramarae’s Muted Group Theory. Because language is a “Man-made construction. The language of a particular culture does not serve all its speakers equally, for not all speakers contribute in an equal fashion to its formulation. Women(and members of other subordinate groups) are not as free or as able as men are to say what they wish, when and where they wish, because the words and the norms for their use have been formulated by the dominant group, men.”(Griffin, 459). Kramarae believes that because language is a man-made construction, women are unable to effectively communicate.
Women who try to communicate with men effectively are unable, because language “aids in defining, depreciating and excluding women”(459). Kramarae believes that women are depicted by artists and writers as too emotional, and this contributes to the stereotypes formed in society. The muted group idea was introduced originally by Edwin Ardener, a social anthropologist. He believed that there could never be a complete understanding of a culture without understanding the communication styles of women and men. Until Ardener, sociologists had only studied the language patterns and communication styles of men. Ardener showed that the styles of communication between men and women are so different, they must be studied in conjunction to form a complete understanding of a culture.
As part of our research, we conducted an interview with Julie Sloan, Food Service Director of Marriott. She has worked for Marriott for eighteen years, and advanced quickly in this male-dominated company. When asked what she felt were the obstacles facing women in the business world, Ms. Sloan stated” women are faced with stereotypes, excuses and discrimination”. She felt that the biggest obstacles facing women was women themselves. She felt that women had created the idea of a “glass ceiling” to create an excuse for failure. The glass ceiling is the idea that women are prevented from succeeding in business because of stereotypes and an invisible barrier created by men.
Ms. Sloan also felt that adapting to a male dominated culture was not difficult for her. She feels that she has always been success-oriented, and does not find this to be a typical male trait. Our surveys and research found however, that these types of traits are normally associated with men within the business world. Through our research, we found that in a male dominated society, adapt to the male styles of communication.
As we have previously stated, the styles of communication between genders differ greatly. Men tend to use conversation to obtain data whereas women use conversation to create connections. Through our research, we also came up with some solutions for bridging the communication gaps between males and females. To reduce miscommunication, males and females must learn to interpret the messages being sent to them. They must learn to understand the speakers’ motives and background.
In effective communication, one must realize the experiences of the speaker and listener, and work to create a common understanding of the messages being created. Males should try to understand the female need for connection whereas females need to understand the male need for data. If the two cultures can learn to combine their styles by offering information while creating a connection, the male and female communication gap will be bridged.