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Male and Female Communication: Styles, Patterns & Differences

Male and Female Communication: Styles, Patterns & Differences
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  • 0:01 Gendered Communication
  • 0:52 Stereotypes & Research
  • 3:36 Theories
  • 6:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Some people believe that men and women are very different and should be treated differently. But, are they really all that different? In this lesson, we'll examine gender differences and stereotypes in business communication.

Gendered Communication

Ever hear the expression 'men are from Mars and women are from Venus?' Victor is a business owner, and he believes that's true. He thinks that women communicate differently from men and isn't always sure how to talk to his female employees.

Communication involves the ways that people express themselves to others and can be verbal (like talking) or nonverbal (like writing or body language). Needless to say, communication is a major part of running a business, so if Victor is right, it's important for people of different genders to learn to communicate well with each other.

But is he right? Do men and women communicate differently, and if so, how? To help Victor out, let's take a look at stereotypes of gender communication and what the research says about the differences in genders. Then, we'll look at why differences might exist.

Stereotypes and Research

Victor thinks that men and women communicate differently in the workplace. Is he right?

Well, sort of. Research has shown that there are some differences in the way that men and women communicate. But, the first thing that Victor needs to understand is that the within-group differences in communication styles are wider than between-group differences. That is, if you look at a group of all women (or a group of all men), there is more variety in the ways that they communicate compared to each other than if you lump men and women together and compare them based solely on gender. So, while there are differences between how men and women communicate, there is even more diversity between women than between women and men.

Still, there are some stereotypes, or ideas about a group that are widely believed but oversimplified (and often wrong), about the different genders and their communication. It's important that Victor understand what those stereotypes are so he can begin to see the ways that they impact communication within his organization. Specifically, stereotypes say that women are passive, quiet, nurturing, group-oriented, and intuitive. In contrast, male stereotypes include assertive, competitive, and logical thinking and communication.

So, are these stereotypes true? Again, sort of. Research has shown that women tend to listen to others more than men do. They also tend to ask for (and take) feedback more than men, and tend to be more self-effacing. While men might respond to Victor saying, 'Great job!' by saying, 'Thanks, I worked hard,' women might respond to the same comment with, 'Well, it was a team effort.'

Because of these differences, women can sometimes be perceived in business differently from men. For example, studies have shown that women are talked about more negatively for being assertive than men. Anyone who's ever heard a woman called pushy while her male colleague is seen as a leader for the same communication style understands that.

Victor understands that women and men are individuals and are as different from people of their same gender as they are of people from the opposite gender. But, he also understands that research has shown some differences across genders. Still, he's not sure what to do. How does he deal with different communication styles? The most important thing that Victor can do is to listen to each person as they communicate and try to hear the communication without focusing on the gender of the person speaking. It's also important for him to recognize that everyone, regardless of their gender or communication style, can bring value to his company.

Theories

Victor feels like he understands how men and women can sometimes be different in their communication styles. But now, he's more curious than ever. Why are there differences in the way that men and women communicate? There are many different theories about gender differences. Two of the most popular are social learning theory and the biological differences theory.

Social learning theory says that people learn in childhood how to be male or female from others around them, particularly parents and other influential adults. Basically, this theory says that women are 'taught' to be nurturing, to work to make people like them, and to be self-effacing. On the other hand, men are 'taught' to be assertive and competitive.

Victor can see social learning theory at work by watching kids play. Often, if a girl gets hurt, they are held and comforted. In contrast, when boys get hurt, they are often told to 'shake it off' and discouraged from crying or showing weakness. These messages come from parents, teachers, and even their peers.

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