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• We communicate when we
– Ask questions
– Give directions
– Exclaim in anger/excitement
– Refuse to look someone in the eye
– Move over to make room for someone
– Sigh, roll our eyes, tap our feet, drum our fingers
Verbal & Nonverbal
• Verbal  using words to get our message
• Nonverbal  facial expressions, tone of voice,
gestures, posture, touch, eye contact
Conversational Dominance
• Men more often try to control conversations;
they use conversation to establish status and
authority, compete for attention and power
• Women tend to use communication to build
connections with others, to be inclusive,
supportive, cooperative, and responsive
Filled Pauses & Intrusive Interruptions
• Filled pauses: men tend to talk more than
women (:-o) and try to “hold the floor” even
when they are not saying anything (e.g.,
“uhm”, “ah”)
• Men tend to interrupt more than women
– Intrusive interruptions: aimed at taking away a
speaker’s turn to speak
• Interruptions take place when speakers have different
conversational styles
• Men interrupt, overall, more often than women
• Men interrupt other women more often than they interrupt
• Men are more successful at taking and maintaining the floor
• Women’s interruptions take the form of questions and/or
supportive statements
Speech Quantity
• Who talks more?
– half of all survey respondents say women
– perception is not accurate
– women are perceived to talk more but men
actually talk more often and for longer periods of
Listening & Conversational
• Girls learn at an early age to pay attention
• Boys are less likely to learn these patterns but it does
not mean that they are not listening
• Women work to keep conversations going
• Men are more likely (than women) to undermine
“Troubles Talk”
• Some researchers suggest that women and
men differ in the extent to which they provide
supportive responses (e.g., when someone
confides a problem)
• Other researchers suggest that it may be
related to femininity and masculinity more
than sex or gender
Speech Style
• Women
– More likely to use proper English
– More likely to use tag questions (e.g., “Isn’t that
– Overall, women seem to be more tentative in
communications with men (but not with other
Language Topics
• All-male conversations and all-female
conversations “shift” when another person (of
the opposite sex) joins the conversation
• Is this because, as stereotypes suggest,
women are always talking about relationships
and men are always talking about sports?
Electronic Communication
• Female-only groups: more words per message, more
individually oriented language, more self disclosure,
more direct addressing of other individuals
• Male-only groups: more monologues than dialogues
• Mixed-sex groups: male conversational dominance
– Men sent more messages than women
– Messages were twice as long
Deborah Tannen
• Professor of Sociolinguistics at
Georgetown University
• Selected Publications:
– You Just Don't Understand: Women
and Men in Conversation
– Talking from 9 to 5
– You're Wearing That?:
Understanding Mothers and
Daughters in Conversation
Childhood Communication
• As children, we learn different ways of
– Girls rapport
– Boys status
Adult Communication
• Friendships
• Romantic relationships
• EXAMPLE: The workplace
Linguistic Style
• Tone of voice
• Rate
• Volume
• A person’s characteristic speaking pattern includes:
directness or indirectness
pacing and pausing
word choice
use of such elements as jokes, figures of speech, stories,
questions, and apologies
• One element of linguistic style is turn-taking 
one speaks, another responds
• requires a subtle negotiation of signals so that
you know when it is “your turn”
– Pauses
• Every utterance functions on two levels
– Language communicates ideas
– Language negotiates relationships
Directness and Indirectness
• Commands  Statement of need/description of
a situation
• People with direct styles of asking see this as
• Women are often indirect; men are often direct
• Any individual’s ways will vary depending on who
is being addressed
Pacing and Pausing
• Tannen identifies two broad categories of
conversational style:
1. high involvement
• characterized by a faster rate of speech, faster turn-taking,
an avoidance of interturn pauses, and frequent initiations of
simultaneous speech
• high involvement speakers use simultaneous speech to build
rapport and signal involvement
2. high considerateness
• consists of slower speech, slower turn-taking, longer pauses
between turns, and an avoidance of simultaneous speech
• high considerateness speakers avoid simultaneous speech to
honour the principle not to impose
Word Choice
• the "metamessage"  "the heart message" — the
message the other person feels is behind your words
• tone of voice, previous experiences with the person, the
context in which the exchange takes place, etc.
• regardless of how "perfectly" we compose the word
message, the metamessage will speak louder
• Women tend to be more attuned to metamessages
• Men tend to be more attuned to messages
Other Elements
One up, one down
• Men say “I”
– “I am hiring a new manager”
• Women say “we”
– “We are hiring a new manager”
Other Elements
Confidence and boasting
• women are more likely to downplay their
certainty and men are more likely to minimize
their doubts
Asking questions
• e.g., men are less likely than women to stop and
ask for directions
Women’s Speech
• Tag questions
– Midway between a question and a statement
– “Karen is here, isn’t she?”
• Use question forms with declarative functions
– “What time will you be here?” “Oh, around 6:00 ...?”
– The rising inflection indicates uncertainty, seeking
• Use hedges
– “Kind of”, “I guess”, “I think”, “sort of”
• Use intensives
– words like “so” and “very”
Conversational Rituals
• “how are you”  “good”, “fine”
• “where are you going”  “over there”
• Differing rituals can be problematic—
particularly when we think that we are all
speaking the same language
Ritual Communication
• 1) Saying "I'm sorry" when you're not.
• "I'm sorry" is not always an apology
– Used to restore balance to a relationship
– May mean “I am sorry that this happened to you”
• Studies show that, in general, women tend to use "I'm
sorry" to establish or re-establish relational balance
• Men, more hesitant to say, "I'm sorry," tend to use it
more literally, that is, to apologize and admit failure
Ritual Communication con’t ...
• 2) Giving Criticism
• Women use criticism to extend concern, interest,
and ownership to equals
– Often perceived as “nagging”
• Men use criticism in a competitive manner to
challenge others to greater excellence
– “Oh, yeah? I can do better than THAT!”
– Among males, it demonstrates their respect for the
other's competence, strength, and prowess
Ritual Communication con’t ...
• 3) Confrontation
• Men are more likely to enter a direct
challenge with opposition
• Women prefer an indirect approach
Ritual Communication con’t ...
• 4) Asking, "What Do You Think?"
• Women use "What do you think?“ to show
consideration and build rapport
– may be misinterpreted by others as indicating a
lack confidence and decisiveness
Ritual Communication con’t ...
• 5) What's So Funny?
• Men prefer razzing, teasing, and mock-hostile
attacks; Women prefer self-mocking
• Among same-sex individuals, shared humorous
communication rituals can be rapport enhancing
• Opposite-sex interactions, however, can be
perceived as insensitive, uncaring, merciless and
– e.g., women who observe--or are the focus of--the
male "mock attack" ritual.
The Power of Talk
Communication isn’t as simple as saying
what you mean. How you say what you
mean is crucial, and differs from one
person to the next, because using
language is learned social behaviour: How
we talk and listen are deeply influenced by
cultural experience. Although we might
think that our ways of saying what we
mean are natural, we can run into trouble
if we interpret and evaluate others as if
they necessarily felt the same way we’d
feel if we spoke the way they did.
John Gray
• Are Men Poor Listeners?
John Gray:
Why Mars and Venus Collide
• Keeping Score in Relationships
Related Videos:
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal Communication
• Use more physical space
• Yield physical space
• Stare
• Use moderate eye contact
• Use commanding gestures
• Use acquiescent gestures
• Hold their heads straight
• Tilt their heads
• Keep a “poker face”
• Use more facial expressions
• Looking at someone who is speaking is
considered polite and respectful in our culture
• Visual dominance: high-powered individuals
tend to look at their subordinates while
speaking to them but look away when
listening to them
• We tend to “touch downward” in a status
• Men are more likely to touch women than
women are to touch men
• Females have a more
constricted stance,
keeping their legs
together and their arms
and hands close to their
• Males spread out,
occupy more space, sit
and stand with their
legs apart
Facial Expressions
“Smile! You’ll look so much prettier!”
Personal Space
• “comfort zone”
Why Gender is Related to
Communication Patterns
Gender differences in social power
Childhood socialization
Current cultural context
Physical size