An In depth Analysis of Gender-Based Conversational Styles
Introduction and Context
Men and women have two entirely different conversational styles. That is why conflict between genders is so extremely common during communication. Many times, both the man and the woman are left feeling hurt, misunderstood, and unsure why the other is acting rudely. In You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation, Deborah Tannen argues even further about the differences between the backgrounds of men and women. "If women speak and hear a language of connection and intimacy, while men speak and hear a language of status and independence, then communication between men and women can be like cross-cultural communication, prey to a clash of conversational styles." (Tannen - You Just Don't Understand 42) Tannen's main point is that men and women are focused on gaining different things when they interact with people. Women are focused on relationships and building friendships. They desire fairness and want everyone to feel equal. They generally try to create community with those whom they interact. Tannen says that women try to avoid differences and emphasize similarities in order to strengthen relationships. While women tend to focus on closeness and intimacy, men, on the other hand, focus on autonomy and respect. They view the world as a hierarchy, and in every conversation they are either one-up or one-down. In every conversation, there is a goal to be accomplished. Men and women tend to demonstrate two different goals when they converse. That is where much of the problem arises in cross-gender interactions. Men tend to have conversations and use them in a way to gain status or power. Women, on the other hand, use their conversations to establish connections with others. Unfortunately, when talking about gender differences, people will either imply that the man is different or that the woman is different. This causes problems because it is stating that one of the genders is a normal standard, while the other one is deviating from that standard. "And it is only a short step - maybe an inevitable one - from 'different' to 'worse.'" (Tannen - You Just Don't Understand 15) So, when talking to a person of the opposite sex, one's goal should be to understand that the other person's style is "different but equally valid." (Tannen - You Just Don't Understand 15) This will alleviate most of the conflicts and misunderstandings which arise when people of the opposite sex communicate with each other.
The Author's Background
Deborah Tannen is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and is a widely known scholar. She is internationally recognized due to her frequent lectures all around the world. She has received several grants from foundations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. (Tannen - You Just Don't Understand book jacket) She has made all of her work public through articles and magazines and has made television appearances. She is a very credible source as she has been working on linguistics and researching the topic of cross-gender interaction for many years. Many times, men hear a woman commenting about gender differences in conversation, and are immediately on the defensive. When a woman, such as Tannen, discusses this topic, men may view this as an accusation. Since Deborah Tannen is a woman, one would think she may be biased towards a woman's point of view. This, however, is quite far from the truth. She does an excellent job of not taking a side throughout the book. She keeps an objective attitude towards the subject and does not let any type of bias surface in her arguments. Many critics say that Tannen's outlook on this topic is too focused on men and women having different but equal conversational styles. Marie Shear, a well known author and editor,...