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Why Men and Women Do Not Understand Each Other

Updated on February 20, 2014


Communication between men and women have intrigued scientists and social scientists alike for the differences in the way they communicate, the meaning they decipher and interpret out of conversations and the verbal and non-verbal way they respond to in course of conversation. Deborah Tannen, sociolinguist in the book You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation holds that men and women have unique communication styles that go beyond socialization. In other words, the roots of differences in communication between men and women can be deciphered in the basic make of men and women.


Tannen observed that men in conversation are status conscious and hold their independence from getting pushed around. On the other hand females negotiate intimacy and closeness in conversation. The essence of intimacy for females is talk so that the best friends sit and talk. On the other hand, for boys activities are central rather than just sitting and talking. This could be confusing for those husbands that find their women talking incessantly while they bury their heads under the newspaper.

Tannen notes how communication with women could be confusing to men. One of the ways women develops connections with others is through “troubles talk” – you tell me your problem, I will tell you mine so that we can develop closer intimacy. Men interpret “troubles talk” as a request for advice which they readily offer, the women however interprets this as a sign of belittling her problem or cutting her off. The men on the other hand think they are being supportive because they come out with their problems, to find a solution. What the men don’t realize is that their women were seeking intimacy and empathy rather than a solution. When a man’s woman goes on with her problems without heeding the advice, the man gets confused and eventually angry. He believes his woman is an expert at talking that has no meaning while the woman feels that her man doesn’t care about her as he doesn’t talk in the way that sounds intimate to her.

Women often fail to understand the resistance men show when asked for assistance. For men doing what they are asked to do implies loss of status in relationship. For women, it was a simple request and no big deal. For men it appears as an attempt to manipulate into “one-down” position. On the other hand woman would want to do what her man wants her to do. This is being affectionate to him. When a woman finds her man resisting what she wanted him to do, she interprets it as lack of affection and love.

The communication style of men seeks to establish and maintain dominance which is in sharp contrast to the communication style of women. They are more egalitarian and consensus seeking by nature. A group of women would strive at harmony and inputs. Their decisions would take into account the wishes of the others. This kind of communication style is more in tune with the Japanese style of management that is getting more important in the management of the modern businesses. However, this does not mean men’s style of communication is worse, or that women’s style of communication is better. Both the style of communications have their pluses and minuses.

It is not difficult to see that there are differences between men and women that go beyond social nurture. These differences have their origin in their genes. The differences evident in men and women are translated in their behavior and communication. It is evident that men and women often fail to recognize the different patterns of communication they have leading to communication gap or misunderstanding in communication. It is evident that in a communication men and women have different set of expectations from each other. It is essential to understand and appreciate these differences for a meaningful communication to take place.

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