I believe the widespread imbalance in the interests and expectations between the sexes, poses as a communication gap between the two genders. It causes us to have different impressions of social interaction between men and woman. One must understand the other sex in order to come up with a solution.
In Deborah Tannen’s essay on Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other, she tries to inform us of this lack of communication between men and women and the problems that it can cause. The author starts off by giving the reader an example of a situation involving a man and his wife where the husband would comment on how much his wife is the talker in the family and how she is always talking when she is at home. This demonstrates that men generally talk more in public situations, while women tend to talk more at home. She follows up by talking about how most of the women that divorced gave lack of communication as the reason for the divorce while only a few men cited it as a reason. Most wives want their husbands to be, foremost, conversational partners; someone they can share their feelings and opinions with. Many men, however, do not share this expectation with their wives. Given this, the author suggested this is one of the main reasons for the escalating divorce rate in America.
She goes on by comparing the difference in behavior between boys and girls and how they only interact with their own gender. Girls tend to talk much amongst each other, often trading secrets and gossiping. For girls, oral communication is the basis of their relationships.
Boys, on the other, hand tend to communicate more physically than orally, by playing sports and doing other things with each other. So conversations between boys don’t play a significant part in their relationships. Boys groups tend to be larger, where it is better not to be in the lower position in the group. The author relates this to how some men don t really like to listen, because listening makes them feel like one rank lower than the speaker, just like how children feel looked down upon when their parents are talking to them.
Some women feel like men sometimes don’t listen to what they are saying, when in fact, they are. This is because men don’t usually like to look the other person in the eye much when they are being spoken to. They are more easily distracted by their surroundings, and so their eyes tend to wander around. An example is given between a guy and his girlfriend where the man would lie down on the floor and cover his eyes with his arms when his girlfriend was talking to him. This gave the girlfriend the impression that her boyfriend was taking a nap and completely ignoring her. In actuality, he is trying to concentrate by blocking his vision from surrounding distractions. When women talk, they tend to stay on one topic, whereas men like to jump from one topic to the next. This leads to the next point that the author makes, which says that men often switch topics. This gives the woman the impression that they are not really listening. Men s conversation don’t normally last very long, but women tend elaborate much in a within a topic.
In conversations, men can feel as frustrated at women s habits as women are to men s habits. Men who expect the listener to be quiet while he is talking can be offended when the listener says things like mhm, uhuh, and yeah because it implicates the listener as overacting or impatient. Women like to hear these listener-noises because it shows that the listener is agreeing with or acknowledging the speaker.
Once communication problems are understood by both sexes, improvement can comes naturally because of mutual expectations of each other and the human’s ability to adjust.
Sex, Lies and Conversation; Why Is It So Hard for Men and Women to Talk to Each Other?
by Deborah Tannen
The Washington Post, June 24, 1990