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He Said, She Said: Differences in Gender Communication

He Said, She Said: Differences in Gender Communication

Sondra Thiederman |

September 10, 2008

Let’s face it: As aggravating and frustrating as they can be, gender differences are also great fun. No, I don’t mean that way. I mean that gender differences strike our funny bone. I suppose it has something to do with our past experiences and the vulnerability many of us feel in our personal relationships with the opposite sex. And we are even more vulnerable when it comes to male-female relationships in the workplace.

While it’s always risky to generalize about gender differences, it’s possible to make certain flexible generalities that can be valuable when communicating across the gender line.

Giving Orders

Men and women often differ in the way they manage people and give orders. Several well-respected studies have shown women tend to soften their demands and statements, whereas men tend to be more direct. Women, for example, use tag lines, phrases like, “don’t you think” following the presentation of an idea, “if you don’t mind” following a demand or “this may be a crazy idea, but” preceding a suggestion.

Many women are conditioned by culture to maintain harmony in relationships. That conditioning is manifested in softened demands, hedged statements and a generally more tentative communication style. The important thing to remember is that tentative communication does not mean the speaker actually feels tentative or is lacking in confidence. Similarly, more direct communication – as seen with some men and, because we can’t generalize, some women, too – does not mean the person is arrogant, bossy or feels superior. These are nothing more than learned ways of communicating.

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