Gender and Communication

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Gender and Communications

Communication is an ongoing, transactional process in which individuals exchange messages whose meanings are influenced by the history of the relationship and the experiences of the participants. (Adler, p.384) Communication depends on relationships between the people who are communicating, and on common basics between them. Problems in communications between people may arise due to differences in cultures, perceptions, values, and expectations from life.

As in many other gender differences, miscommunications between males and females can be explained by either the biological aspect or the cultural/environmental aspect. Deborah Tannen, a University professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and an Author, suggests the biological explanation to the problem: "Sometimes when you are talking to someone from other gender, it is like you are talking to someone from another world" said Prof. Tannen when she was talking about communications between opposite genders. That is the main reason why girls and boys prefer to play with their own sex. A research, made by her, shows the differences in friendships between two best-friends girls, and two best-friends boys in ages five, ten and fifteen. The girls were facing each other while talking in the three cases; most of the talk was about friendship. However, the boys in the three cases where sitting in angle to each other or side-by-side, they were looking around, through the whole conversation, and never looked at each other. The fact that these differences are displayed in an early age, support the biological explanation.

Alternatively, others suggest that opposite genders face miscommunication problems due to cultural and environmental factors. Although our society shifts to a more egalitarian one, there are still significant stereotypes of masculine and feminine behaviors. Traditionally, attributes such as assertiveness, individualism, rationalism, technical capability, and self-confidence are conceived as more masculine, whereas emotionalism, mildness, dependability, warmness, maturity, and cooperation are conceived as more feminine. Throughout their life, kids are expected to behave according to their gender's attributes. As a result of these attributes, the women's role is to take care of the kids, while the men's role is to financially support them. The society's pressure on the women is demonstrated in one of the scenes in the movie "When Harry Met Sally", in which one of Sally Albright's girl-friends explains her the urgency of finding a husband: "All I'm saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don't get him first, somebody else will, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband."

In order to be able to solve some of the problems associated with gender miscommunications, we should distinguish first between the two different types of communications: verbal communication and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication consists of messages expressed by linguistic means such as the use of intonation, the specific words we choose to say, and the way we are saying them. There are differences in females and males usage of language/verbal communication. As we might expect from traditional sex-role stereotypes, girls tend to establish more egalitarian same-sex groups. Girls use friendly groups as a training ground for cooperation. Boys view friendly conversation among their friends as training for verbal aggression. Females are more verbal, use three times more amount of words than males, they are much more descriptive and use more adjectives. Women are less direct in their communication style. As Prof. Tannen showed in one of her research, women are more indirect in answering questions depends on the situation. They answer questions the way they would like to be answered by men, which means more than just a yes/no answer. However, men...
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