Since the movie ‘The Ugly Truth About Men And Women’ came out some of the gender specific generalizations have been reviewed. Whether you like it or not, there are some specific strength and weaknesses that couples have to deal with. The question is not whether you like them or not, it is how you deal with them in your relationship.
Gender differences in communication
Maltz and Borker first proposed in their two-culture theory that differences in men’s and women’s conversational style are due to the fact that they are part of different sub-cultures. Let’s have a look at some common gender differences:
Interpretation of positive minimal responses
Positive minimal responses (=encouragers) are nods and comments such as ‘mm hm’, ‘OK’, ‘yes’ and ‘yeah’ and they form part of most conversational interactions. Even though both genders use them, research has found that men attach different meanings to them than do women. For women these encouragers mean: I’m listening to you, please continue. Men attach a stronger meaning: I agree with you or I follow your argument so far.
This can obviously lead to serious misunderstandings and frustrations as women indicate that they are listening more often than men would indicate agreement.
Collaborative versus competitive
Conversational style is learned from peers while growing up, which during the formative years (between five and fifteen) are mainly of the same sex. Women’s talking style is usually collaborative and interactional in nature, whereas men’s talking style is more competitive and monologue based.
Women seem to use more of the ‘we’ and ‘us’ pronouns, which explicitly acknowledges the existence of the other person, whereas men more often speak about themselves using the ‘I’ pronoun.
Given the previous point it comes as no surprise that women are keener in keeping the conversational flow. They usually ask more questions than men, which can turn a conversation into a question-answer interview, where the man feels grilled.
Men are more likely to interrupt, challenge or dispute their partner’s points, which can lead to ‘silent protest’ in the women’s response.
So when men and women are in conversation it becomes obvious how to explain the most common complaints in male-female interaction:
1. Men think that women are always agreeing with them and then conclude that it’s impossible to tell what a woman really thinks.
2. Women get upset with men who never seem to be listening, who are interrupting or challenging them.
3. Men want to offer solutions and get on with things, while women want to collaboratively discuss something and feel heard, before moving to a solution.
Remember: Expect differences between male and females in any conversation. If you expect your partner to be same as you, you are kidding yourself and expecting the impossible.