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Gender and Communication

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Gender and Communication

Communication is the backbone of human existence. Without it we would be nothing more than organized matter. It has allowed us to grow, learn, build, and survive. The fact that our species has managed to develop advanced methods of communication, such as language, is what has set us aside from other animals. When we talk to another person we are sending a message which is received, decoded, and responded to accordingly.

Communication depends on relationships between the people who are communicating, and on common basics between them. Problems in communications between people usually arise due to differences in cultures, perceptions, values, and/ or expectations they may have from life. Communication is definitely more difficult this day in age because we’re not always talking directly to each other. Computers and instant messengers have caused people to become more distant in their communication process. Also we have the difficulty of only reading what people are saying to us instead of hearing the intonation of what they say.

Communication is an ongoing, transactional process in which individuals exchange messages whose meanings are influenced by the history of the relationship and the experiences of the participants. (Adler, p.384) As in many other gender differences, miscommunications between males and females can be explained by either the biological aspect or the cultural/environmental aspect. Deborah Tannen, a University professor of linguistics at Georgetown University and an Author, suggests the biological explanation to be the problem: “Sometimes when you are talking to someone from other gender, it is like you are talking to someone from another world,” when she was talking about communications between opposite genders.

That is the main reason why girls and boys prefer to play with their own sex. A research, made by her, shows the differences in friendships between two best-friends (girls), and that of two best-friends (boys) in ages five, ten and fifteen. The girls were facing each other while talking in the three cases; most of the talk was about friendship.

However, the boys in the three cases where sitting at an angle with each other or side-by-side. They were looking around through the entire conversation and never really looked at each other.

The fact that these differences are displayed at an early age helps support the biological explanation that Tannen talks about. Tannen has made her theory that a male culture and female culture each exist, very popular with the human population and has written an extensive book on her theory. To define these communication conundrums, Tannen discusses “rapport-talk” and “report-talk”. She defines “rapport-talk” as “For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships” (Cooper and MacDonald 10). Tannen uses “report-talk” to explain how men communicate. “Report-talk” is “For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order” (Cooper and MacDonald 10).

Alternatively, others suggest that opposite genders face miscommunication problems due to cultural and environmental factors. Although our society shifts to a more egalitarian one, there are still significant stereotypes of masculine and feminine behaviors. Traditionally, attributes such as assertiveness, individualism, rationalism, technical capability, and self-confidence are conceived as more masculine, whereas emotionalism, mildness, dependability, warmness, maturity, and cooperation are conceived as more feminine. Throughout their lives, kids are expected to behave according to their gender’s attributes.

As a result of these attributes, the women’s role is to take care of the kids, while the men’s role is to financially support them. The society’s pressure on the women is demonstrated in one of the scenes in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”, in which one of Sally Albright’s girl-friends explains to her the urgency of finding a husband: “All I'm saying is that somewhere out there is the man you are supposed to marry. And if you don't get him first, somebody else will, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that somebody else is married to your husband.” I know from experience and talking with my friends that sometimes they think that that’s the way it is. Men and women also have different ideas of what is important and what is not. For example, Tannen points out that the man thought it wasn’t important that his friend was getting married, but the woman had thought that it was important (Cooper and MacDonald 12).

The fairytales that we grow up on are a great example of this. Kids are read the fairytales at a young age, and most of the fairytales we are read have a certain pattern

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