Male and Female Communication: Differences Worth Noting

Reviewed Mar 12, 2019

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Summary

  • Women want intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information while remaining independent of the other party. 

We all want to be understood by others. But men and women tend to have different communication styles. Being aware of this will help conversations go more smoothly.

 “Report” versus “rapport”

Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand, believes men and women communicate with different intents. Men converse to achieve social status and avoid failure. Women want to make a personal connection and avoid social isolation. Men want to report, women want rapport.

Tannen offers these descriptions—see if any of these fit you and others you know:

  • Women desire intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information and remain independent of the other party.
  • Women try to avoid the appearance of “superiority.”
  • Men are comfortable telling others what to do and appearing “superior.”
  • Women want to reach consensus. They consult with others before deciding.
  • Men want to get straight to the bottom line. They choose without consulting.
  • Women communicate to build relationships.
  • Men communicate to give information, solve problems, and show expertise. 

Neither focus is better or more correct than the other. It’s just the underlying motives that differ. As an example of “report versus rapport,” a woman, might say, “I’m sorry” when she hears bad news. The man might wonder why she’s apologizing for something that isn’t her fault.

Mars versus Venus

Marriage therapist John Gray, Ph.D. is author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. He notes differences in male and female communication, including:

  • Women use more words to make a point and express more feelings.
  • Men use fewer words and express fewer feelings.
  • Women use conversation to think through a problem and work toward a solution.
  • Men think through a problem privately. Then express the solution as the bottom line.
  • Women give feedback with tact and sensitivity to the other person’s feelings.
  • Men give feedback directly and with bluntness. They don’t think feedback should be taken personally. 
  • Women often change the topic in the middle of a conversation, then return to it later.
  • Men tend to finish one topic before going on to the next.  

Once again, neither style is right or wrong, just different. Imagine the frustration of a man listening to his wife think through her problem out loud. She may veer often off the subject then return to it. She may not want him to solve her problem, but rather to be her sounding board. Imagine her hurt feelings when she senses that he’s mad at her but won’t tell her how he feels.  

He says, she says

Another expert theory comes from speech pathologist Lillian Glass, PhD, author of He Says, She Says: Closing the Gap Between the Sexes. In her book, Glass lists specific traits that are reported by researchers to differ in male and female communication:

  • Women talk more about relationships. Men talk more about what they did, where they went, etc. 
  • Women tend to take verbal rejection more personally than men. 
  • Women are more likely than men to ask for help rather than figure things out on their own. 
  • Men appear less intuitive and aware of details than women. 
  • Women have a more emotional approach to problems. Men have a more analytical approach.
  • Men use fewer voice tones and facial expressions than women do. 
  • Men make more direct statements. There’s less “beating around the bush” with men than with women.  

Toward understanding

In our desire to be understood by others we must acknowledge the differences in how we communicate. We can be alert to our differences and work with them rather than struggle against them. The blend of male and female styles of communication should help us solve problems, grow personally, and live life. 

By Laurie M. Stewart

Summary

  • Women want intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information while remaining independent of the other party. 

We all want to be understood by others. But men and women tend to have different communication styles. Being aware of this will help conversations go more smoothly.

 “Report” versus “rapport”

Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand, believes men and women communicate with different intents. Men converse to achieve social status and avoid failure. Women want to make a personal connection and avoid social isolation. Men want to report, women want rapport.

Tannen offers these descriptions—see if any of these fit you and others you know:

  • Women desire intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information and remain independent of the other party.
  • Women try to avoid the appearance of “superiority.”
  • Men are comfortable telling others what to do and appearing “superior.”
  • Women want to reach consensus. They consult with others before deciding.
  • Men want to get straight to the bottom line. They choose without consulting.
  • Women communicate to build relationships.
  • Men communicate to give information, solve problems, and show expertise. 

Neither focus is better or more correct than the other. It’s just the underlying motives that differ. As an example of “report versus rapport,” a woman, might say, “I’m sorry” when she hears bad news. The man might wonder why she’s apologizing for something that isn’t her fault.

Mars versus Venus

Marriage therapist John Gray, Ph.D. is author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. He notes differences in male and female communication, including:

  • Women use more words to make a point and express more feelings.
  • Men use fewer words and express fewer feelings.
  • Women use conversation to think through a problem and work toward a solution.
  • Men think through a problem privately. Then express the solution as the bottom line.
  • Women give feedback with tact and sensitivity to the other person’s feelings.
  • Men give feedback directly and with bluntness. They don’t think feedback should be taken personally. 
  • Women often change the topic in the middle of a conversation, then return to it later.
  • Men tend to finish one topic before going on to the next.  

Once again, neither style is right or wrong, just different. Imagine the frustration of a man listening to his wife think through her problem out loud. She may veer often off the subject then return to it. She may not want him to solve her problem, but rather to be her sounding board. Imagine her hurt feelings when she senses that he’s mad at her but won’t tell her how he feels.  

He says, she says

Another expert theory comes from speech pathologist Lillian Glass, PhD, author of He Says, She Says: Closing the Gap Between the Sexes. In her book, Glass lists specific traits that are reported by researchers to differ in male and female communication:

  • Women talk more about relationships. Men talk more about what they did, where they went, etc. 
  • Women tend to take verbal rejection more personally than men. 
  • Women are more likely than men to ask for help rather than figure things out on their own. 
  • Men appear less intuitive and aware of details than women. 
  • Women have a more emotional approach to problems. Men have a more analytical approach.
  • Men use fewer voice tones and facial expressions than women do. 
  • Men make more direct statements. There’s less “beating around the bush” with men than with women.  

Toward understanding

In our desire to be understood by others we must acknowledge the differences in how we communicate. We can be alert to our differences and work with them rather than struggle against them. The blend of male and female styles of communication should help us solve problems, grow personally, and live life. 

By Laurie M. Stewart

Summary

  • Women want intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information while remaining independent of the other party. 

We all want to be understood by others. But men and women tend to have different communication styles. Being aware of this will help conversations go more smoothly.

 “Report” versus “rapport”

Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand, believes men and women communicate with different intents. Men converse to achieve social status and avoid failure. Women want to make a personal connection and avoid social isolation. Men want to report, women want rapport.

Tannen offers these descriptions—see if any of these fit you and others you know:

  • Women desire intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
  • Men want to give information and remain independent of the other party.
  • Women try to avoid the appearance of “superiority.”
  • Men are comfortable telling others what to do and appearing “superior.”
  • Women want to reach consensus. They consult with others before deciding.
  • Men want to get straight to the bottom line. They choose without consulting.
  • Women communicate to build relationships.
  • Men communicate to give information, solve problems, and show expertise. 

Neither focus is better or more correct than the other. It’s just the underlying motives that differ. As an example of “report versus rapport,” a woman, might say, “I’m sorry” when she hears bad news. The man might wonder why she’s apologizing for something that isn’t her fault.

Mars versus Venus

Marriage therapist John Gray, Ph.D. is author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. He notes differences in male and female communication, including:

  • Women use more words to make a point and express more feelings.
  • Men use fewer words and express fewer feelings.
  • Women use conversation to think through a problem and work toward a solution.
  • Men think through a problem privately. Then express the solution as the bottom line.
  • Women give feedback with tact and sensitivity to the other person’s feelings.
  • Men give feedback directly and with bluntness. They don’t think feedback should be taken personally. 
  • Women often change the topic in the middle of a conversation, then return to it later.
  • Men tend to finish one topic before going on to the next.  

Once again, neither style is right or wrong, just different. Imagine the frustration of a man listening to his wife think through her problem out loud. She may veer often off the subject then return to it. She may not want him to solve her problem, but rather to be her sounding board. Imagine her hurt feelings when she senses that he’s mad at her but won’t tell her how he feels.  

He says, she says

Another expert theory comes from speech pathologist Lillian Glass, PhD, author of He Says, She Says: Closing the Gap Between the Sexes. In her book, Glass lists specific traits that are reported by researchers to differ in male and female communication:

  • Women talk more about relationships. Men talk more about what they did, where they went, etc. 
  • Women tend to take verbal rejection more personally than men. 
  • Women are more likely than men to ask for help rather than figure things out on their own. 
  • Men appear less intuitive and aware of details than women. 
  • Women have a more emotional approach to problems. Men have a more analytical approach.
  • Men use fewer voice tones and facial expressions than women do. 
  • Men make more direct statements. There’s less “beating around the bush” with men than with women.  

Toward understanding

In our desire to be understood by others we must acknowledge the differences in how we communicate. We can be alert to our differences and work with them rather than struggle against them. The blend of male and female styles of communication should help us solve problems, grow personally, and live life. 

By Laurie M. Stewart

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