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Communication Patterns of Men and Women

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Essay title: Communication Patterns of Men and Women

“The whole goddamn business of what you’re calling intimacy bugs the hell out of me. I never know what you women mean when you talk about it. Karen complains that I don’t talk to her, but it’s not talk she wants, it’s some other damn thing, only I don’t know what the hell it is!” This quote from a man interviewed by Lillian Rubin is the perfect example of the differences in communication between men and women. These differences in communication methods of women and men are born of a complex interaction between society and the individual. Men seem to struggle with intimacy and emotional expression, while women rely on this type of communication causing much struggle between the sexes.

Lillian Rubin suggests that intimacy, a form of communication between men and women, itself is an ambiguous or difficult term to define, but asserts that it does embody the idea of the ability to put away a public persona and be cared about or care for the “real person”. This alludes to a struggle between the human need for intimacy and that for independence suggested by other sociologists. In addition to this idea of intimacy, Rubin looks deeper into the human psyche and analyzes the different ways in which men and women communicate their emotions. Rubin explains that while women can easily explain what emotions they are feeling and what has caused these, men struggle to verbalize their feelings and this causes animosities between men and women. Women want men to communicate their emotions while men don’t understand why they should or how to go about doing this (Rubin, p. 384-386).

Rubin’s explanation for the differences in communication is that it stems from societal pressures that encourage men to suppress their emotions, and act “rationally”. Men are socialized to believe that acting emotionally like women is not normal. She states that “this is the single most dispiriting dilemma between women and men.” Finally Rubin goes on to suggest that while men can act out anger and frustration inside the family, the expression of fear, dependency, or sadness would expose vulnerability, and is difficult for men to do (Rubin p. 383-388).

Another Sociologist, Deborah Tannon, has done research in the differences between communication methods of women and men. She also suggests that conflicting ideas of intimacy and independence plays a critical role in the differing views of communication. Tannon illustrates for the reader a typical scenario of a wife hurt by her husband’s lack of consent for a decision he made. The husband sees this type of communication as a sign of his inferiority or lack of independence while the wife feels excluded and hurt. The alternative views of the same situation illustrate the basic differences in how men and women communicate (Tannon, p. 222-224). This and several other examples given by Tannon, are examples of what she states is balancing a delicate system of communication. She suggests that the problem is that women hold men to their standards of conversational styles, and men hold women to theirs. If each sex attempted to understand, what Rubin suggested, that there are fundamental differences due to biological and societal influences then the lines of communication would be more open between women and men.

Sociologist Karen Walker analyzes communication habits of how men interact and display intimacy within their own gender. She specifically studies men’s use of public space, telephone use, jokes, and talk about women. The first aspect of her case study involved men’s use of public space. Her findings suggested that men do not make formal plans to meet and socialize in public places although this is the predominant place of interaction. She also noted that at the professional level, men are more likely to have planned social activities in their home. Next, in her interviews with men about the reason for making telephone calls, it was found that men call for reasons other then talking about personal issues like making plans, or business arrangements,

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