Communication and Gender
Communication differences between females and males have been well established in the literature and in research papers from Paper Masters' writers through various methods. Case studies and examples as well as experiments demonstrate that each of the genders communicate differently. However, it has only been within recent times that the implications of these differences have been studies and analyzed. When writing a research paper on communication and gender, you may want to focus on the following elements to narrow your topic:
- Communication and Gender in the Workplace
- Communication and Gender in Social Relationships
- Communication and Gender and the Glass Ceiling
- Communication and Gender from the Feminist Perspective
Various theories of communication with regard to the perspective of gender have been developed, most notably from various feminist frameworks. Toward this effort to better understand the differences in communication, specific environments have also been examined since such variations may have far reaching social implications with regard to the relative status of females. This may especially be true if these environments have a long history of being predominately male oriented. Consequently, environments that have evolved from the dominion of males may be problematic for females who wish to enter this atmosphere and participate in an equitable relationship. Of course, one of the primary examples of such an environment is the typical business organization that is found around the world. The entry of women into the world of business has created many avenues of study for the researcher in communication as it relates to gender. The purpose of this paper is to examine the communication perspectives as it relates to gender, particularly in the organization environment.
Communication Approach to Examining Gender
The communication approach to examining gender particularly within the setting of the organization typically examines it from several viewpoints. These viewpoints may be from theoretical stances as well as examining various components of the organization or organizational experience. Thus, elements such as learning, negotiation, leadership, body, body language, the glass ceiling, careers, and stress have been viewed as critical to the feminist ideology associated with communication.
Interestingly, all environments in which both genders are involved typically demonstrate that there is a difference among their methods of communication. Even in settings in which a particular gender generally excels does not always indicate that the sex in questions communicates effectively.
Even though men and women in the same culture typically speak the same language, there is often miscommunication between them. In order to create a productive work environment, the values and concerns of those involved must be taken into consideration. Certainly, both males and females are stakeholders in the workplace with regard to this issue.
Language styles and interpretations differ for males and females. Experts agree that the origin of this communication difference is the cultural segregation of sexes during childhood. In other words, the educational system or process has built into it discriminatory practices. Boys are encouraged to play with other boys, while girls often restrict their play to other girls. As a result, each sex learns a specific communication style based on their gender subculture. Consequently, these patterns become ingrained in the individual's style of language and remain as such throughout his or her life.
Women's conversational rules indicate that they value fairness, turn-taking, tact, and harmony. Basically there are five features that distinguish the female style from that of males. The first difference is that women tend to ask more questions during conversations. Occasionally, this can create conflict between the sexes since males sometimes feel as though they are being interrogated. Thus, conversations between a male and a female may appear to be nothing more than a question-and-answer session. The second characteristic of women's communication style is that they demand or encourage responses from the other speaker. In other words, women will attempt to maintain and keep the conversation ongoing through the use of questions. Third, women are more likely to use responses like "mm hmm" and "uh huh" to promote continuation of the conversation. Such positive minimal responses do not necessarily indicate agreement with statements made by the conversational partner. However, since men tend to say these things only when they agree with the speaker, they may misinterpret females' use of these elements. A woman, on the other hand, may believe that her male conversational partner is not listening to her because these cues are missing from his speech. Fourth, when women are interrupted, they protest by becoming silent. Essentially, they are refusing to participate further in the conversation. Last, women typically use the words "you" and "we" to acknowledge the existence of the other speaker rather than frequent use of the first person singular "I."
Men's speech also has five distinctive features, which reflect their concern with strength, dominance, and control. First, men are more likely to interrupt their conversational partner. This becomes problematic when a man is talking to a woman. If he interrupts her, she is likely to respond with silence, but he is not likely to notice this - all of which has a detrimental effect on the communication dynamic. A second characteristic is that men are more likely to challenge the other speaker. Third, men are also more likely to respond to comments from someone by ignoring those comments, responding slowly, or responding unenthusiastically. Fourth, men use mechanisms to control the topic and introduction of new topics. Lastly, men make more declarations of fact and opinion while women tend to use mechanisms that suggest speculation, such as "perhaps," "maybe," "at least I think so."
Theories of Communication Regarding Gender
There are many different areas in which men and women find difficulty in intergender communication. One example involves the use of indirect commands. When a male superior asks a subordinate where something is, he is typically requesting that it be located and brought to him. However, if a woman is the subordinate, she views the question as simply a request for information. Thus, the superior is frustrated because his command is not met.
Another problematic area involves verbal aggression. Women view aggressive language as being personally directed, disruptive, and negative. Men, on the other hand, see verbal aggression as an organizing structure for the flow of conversation. The potential for misunderstanding when a conversation involving both men and women takes an aggressive turn is, therefore, obvious. Another form of verbal aggression among men is seen in joking. Usually this consists of verbal threats, name-calling, and shouting. Because of the history of violence against women by men, women may misinterpret intent when men speak to them in a joking way. They view it as intimidating, a means for male empowerment, and an act of aggression against them personally.
With regard to discussing problems, men and women also
respond differently. When women communicate about problems, they are sharing experiences and offering understanding. When a man listens to an individual's problem, he views this as a specific request for a solution. So rather than offer reassurance, he offers a solution to the difficulty being discussed. A woman values commiseration while a man is more concerned with solving the problem.
Overall, when comparing males and females, it would seem that men generally dominate the conversation. This is usually done through the techniques of interrupting and controlling the topic being discussed. Because the work world has been a male-dominated arena, it has been expected that working women would have to adapt to the primary male communication style. Research shows that women do, in fact, adapt their styles of interaction to be more like men in this regard. However, this adaptation is generally not complete. This is probably best, since a woman who communicates in the male style receives a very different reaction from society than most men would receive. Thus, when a woman is in an occupation that is typically considered a male's domain, she has the difficult chore of communicating more like a man while still retaining some female communication characteristics. If she can successfully retain those characteristics, she is more likely to find acceptance from the culture's perspective.
Supervisors, officers, and others often must facilitate intergender communication and mediate disagreements when they occur. Increased awareness of gender-based differences in conversational style is necessary if intergender conflicts are to be reduced. It might be helpful to distribute information on gender differences in communication or to conduct sensitivity training in this area.
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