Verbal communication along gender lines

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For a class, I was told to violate a social norm concerning gendered verbal communication. It was actually difficult to do so because I actually consider my speech to be rather masculine as well as feminine. I try to take control of conversation to discuss what I want to. I can be rather forceful with my language because I was raised to be honest and forthright, and I know I personally don't like having secrets held against me. I also feel like people don't know what I'm talking about because I generally speak in abstract terms; I often have a lot to say and just want to spill out a summary of it all.

The only feature of masculine speech that I don't exercise is interruption because being interrupted is a pet peeve of mine. At the same time, I didn't feel like interrupting the people I interact with on a daily basis would serve the purposes of this assignment because I work with males who interrupt me constantly.

I tried to give minimal response cues, but since I communicate mostly with men anyway, they didn't seem to mind, and yet I was flustered because I was actually interested in what was communicated to me, but I restricted myself only to "uh-huhs" and other paltry responses.

I suppose my thoughts concerning this assignment reinforce cultural prescriptions for gender for the most part. Even in how I wrote up this response, you might be able to see how I have noticed certain patterns in how the males I communicated with would communicate back. (I guess I can't blame people for following the social norms of communication for their culture; based on social learning theory and symbolic interactionism, such men as those I mentioned learn from other male models and are rewarded for their behavior.) However, I still feel that using both masculine and feminine speech seems to work well for me thus far, and I see no reason why someone shouldn't be able to utilize both styles.

Masculine and feminine styles of communication

Masculine

  • Used to establish status and control by asserting ideas, telling jokes and stories, or challenging others
  • Avoids telling personal details; more abstract
  • Attempts to show knowledge
  • Practical; attempts to solve problems and find facts
  • Conversation is longer and more frequent
  • May reroute the conversation or interrupt
  • Language is more assertive; "ums" and such are more infrequent
  • Less responsive emotionally

Feminine

  • Used to establish and maintain relationships with others
  • Show equality with others by showing sympathy, etc.
  • Full of questions to better understand others
  • Attempts to sustain conversation and invite interaction, often with questions
  • Involves emotional responsiveness; attempts to make others feel validated and included
  • Full of details and anecdotes
  • Includes verbal hedges and other forms of hesitancy

*Summarized from Julia Wood's "Gendered Lives" (2007): Thomson Wadsworth.

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Comments 7 comments

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Glassvisage, this is an interesting topic. I'm not sure that it's ever going to be possible to completely separate social norms for male and female speaking from personality types.

I sometimes end up interrupting people, but only when I'm very interested in what we're talking about, and the purpose isn't to dominate them. I lose track of the social cues about who is supposed to be speaking, and the turn-taking gets out of synch.  Surely, we don't think that women can't be carried away with a topic of conversation just as much as men can?


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California

I agree Aya, it's a bit unfair to assign all "aggressive" communicative behaviors to men and all "social" ones to women. I think we learn to communicate from everyone we talk to, and different people, regardless of gender, have personalities that gravitate to some techniques more than others.

I have to say though, that video was pretty funny as far as stereotyping goes. I have the advantage of being able to enjoy stereotypes for what they highlight rather than finding insult in them. That was funny stuff, especially the male seduction thing. lawl. Men are kind of like that, heh.

This was a fun read, and I'm with you on using both "male" and "female" communicative techniques. It's a must if you want to get anywhere with people.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Wouldn't you say there is a little of both in all of us? I've known men who were more 'feminine' in their communication and many women today fit the bill for a more masculine style :)


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California Author

You all are right: men and women can sometimes speak in both feminine and masculine styles... AKA androgynous styles. I hope that I speak in such a way because research has found that it's the most effective style of communication. I know I can be very aggressive, especially with my new job!


sunsevvur 7 years ago

It all depends on how you are brought up. The environment and the people around you matter a lot in such things.


Kat LaNault 6 years ago

Hello Glassvisage,

Yes...androgynous is the direction I'd like to think we are heading toward, and I am comfortable with it, however I admit it can be intimidating to some men. When I play by gender "rules" I feel held-back, albeit more acceptable. And this is part of the subject I opened on my hub.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California Author

Thank you for your comments. Kat, I would say I agree - we are heading toward androgynous, but this will take some time!

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