Question: Explain why men and women are sometimes frustrated with each other’s communication behaviours.
The Qualms of Communication
“He never talks to me!” is a common complaint that women have about men. The communication process between men and women has long been of interest for many people from the dawn of time. Copious studies, texts, novels, journals and articles have laboured over and examined communication between men and women and the resultant responses. It is even mentioned in the bible! Communication is a part of our everyday life. It occurs whether we intend to or not; to interact we need to communicate. Communication is the transference and understanding of meaning (Robins, Millett, Waters-Marsh, 2004), both verbal and non-verbal, and is fundamental when managing ourselves and organisations in every facet of life. Effective communication is essential to any groups or organisations performance. It is therefore evident that the difficulties and frustration often faced when communicating with the opposite sex have many implications for organisations. A lack of communication inhibits a groups or organisations ability to perform core management functions including planning, organising, leading and controlling and affects peoples perceptions, attitudes and values, personality and emotions, learning, motivation, leadership, conflict and negotiation, decision making, occupational stress and organisational culture. Of which only a few I will discuss.
Men and women often become frustrated with each other’s communication behaviours. Using the work of professor of linguistics Deborah Tannen (1995) it is important to recognize that these linguistic differences between men and women do not stem solely from what Tannen describes as “cross-cultural communication.” There are very apparent differences in speaking styles; for example, women tend to offer suggestions and give reasons, whereas men tend to give demands without reasons. However, the root of communication conflicts is really the result of the opposite natures of male and female. It is the nature of men to be dominant, and it is the nature of women to be submissive; any revolt against these natures, will cause conflict amongst men and women. Tannen says, “If a man experiences life as a fight for freedom, he is naturally inclined to resist attempts to control him and determine his behaviour”(Tannen 1990, p.152). Since male and female “natures” influence behaviour and conversational styles, they play more of a significant role in communication than we may think; and evidence of this dates clear back to creation.
It is interesting to note the book of Genesis clearly defines God’s purpose for creating man and woman; God said man (created in the likeness of God) is to have dominion over all the earth and every living creature. Woman (created from man) is to multiply and be a companion for man. God intended there to be orderliness, which is why He designed men and women with very specific biological and psychological differences. These differences distinguish natures and determine male and female behaviours (Genesis 1:1-24).
A recent study (Hirokawa, Yagi and Miyata, 2004) endeavoured to examine the effects of sex on psychological, physiological and behavioural responses during communication situations. Their research involved two communicational situations, question asking and self-introduction in front of a video camera. The responses were examined for blink rates, heart rates representing the physical stress involved in communication. To assess mental stress in a communication situation, the eye blink rate is considered one of the most reliable physiological measurements (Tecce, 1989). The results concurred with Tannen’s research that men and women have difficulties in communicating. It found that gender interaction had an effect on physiological responses to mental stress as blink and heart rates significantly increased.