Conversational Differences Between Men and Women

1. Men use language to convey information
Women use language to establish and maintain relationships

    Bob: I'm going camping with John and Paul this weekend. (Information conveyed)

    Jane: What? You never discussed that with me. (Couples should talk about things)

    Bob: Since when do I need my wife's permission? (I'm independent)

    Jane: You don't, but we should have discussed it before (I don't deny your independence but by not discussing it it makes me feel like I'm not important to you)

    Jane: How was your day today?

    Bob: Fine?

    Jane: What did you do.

    Bob: You know, worked.

    Jane: (Why won't he talk to me to help maintain our relationship?)

    Bob: (There is no new information to convey so no conversation is necessary.)

    Jane: Well, I blah, blah, blah, . . . (details of her daily activities).

    Bob: (Why does she have to tell me all of this unessential, trivial stuff? She talks too much.)

2. Men interpret language in terms of independence and superiority or inferiority between speakers
Women interpret language in terms of intimacy, relationships

    Acknowledgments in a book: I'd like to thank my husband for his help.

            Male interpretation: She wasn't competent enough to write it herself?

            Female interpretation: The author is expressing her intimacy with her husband.

    Why did you become a university professor?

                Men: freedom and self-determination

                Women: to influence the students

Boys and girls on the playground

    Boys use language to establish dominance in the group. They use verbal aggression, direct commands (gimme, get off that)

    Girls use language to show closeness or distance to other girls. They suggest activities (let's, why don't we, come on), try to cooperate to show they are close.

3. Men discuss problems in order to find solutions
Women discuss problems in order to find consolation

   Bob: I've really been bothered by . . .

    Jane Yeah, I know how you feel. Once something similar happened to me . . .

    Bob: (She was no help. She just wanted to talk about her own problems.)

      Jane: I've really been bothered by . . .

       Bob: In that case, you ought to . . .

        Jane: (What a jerk, he doesn't understand a bit how I am feeling.)

        Bob: I've really been bothered by . . .

        Dick: In that case, you ought to . . . or, don't sweat it, it's not that bad.

        Bob: (Dick gave me some good advice.)

        Jane: I've really been bothered by . . .

        Sara: Yeah, I know how you feel. Once something similar happened to me . . .

        Jane: (Sara is a good friend who understands what I'm going through.)

4. Who talks more? It depends on the setting. Actual studies have measured it.


            Male and female experts and non-expert pairs. Experts talked more than non-experts, but male experts talked more than female experts.

            Non-experts gave more supporting feedback (uh huh, I see) than experts, except that female experts talking to male non-experts gave more feedback.

            Men seem to want to win respect in a conversation, while women seem to want to be helpful.

5. What happens differently in male only and female only conversations?


            Men spent time talking about things (sports, politics, movies) to see who was the most knowledgeable. Men tell jokes. Men get prestige by their knowledge or skill.

            Men tell stories in which they play the central role and cast themselves in a good light. Stories deal with contests (physical, verbal, hunting).

            Women talked about person things and revealed more about their feelings in order to develop intimacy. Women don't tell jokes. Women gain prestige by their affiliations with others.

           Women discuss community matters and share incidences in which they did something foolish or broke a societal norm.

6. Different feedback strategies


Women say "yeah, I see" to show they understand what is said (show support of speaker). Men interpret 'yeah, I see" to mean I agree with you. They encourage others to share their ideas. They don't try to take the spotlight away until it is given to them.

Men don't give supportive cues to the speaker as often. Therefore, women assume they aren't listening. Men try to take over another person's conversation and don't encourage others to share ideas. (If they had something to say, they's say it.)

This state of affairs means that men talk a lot and women politely listen.

7. Different motivational techniques


Father give more commands, and give more to sons that daughters.   

Men use direct commands. (Go get the mail. Turn on the air conditioner.)

Women use indirect commands. (Could you please get the mail. Are you hot?)

8. Different methods of developing friendship

Men use opposition such as teasing, harassing, bantering, wrestling to show friendship (Boy teasing girl he likes). Bragging and one-upmanship is not looked down upon.

For women this is confrontational and shows antagonism not solidarity.

Women use solidarity and consensus: try to include others, treat others as equals, avoid conflict, be peacemakers, affirm each other's feelings. A woman who brags or is more successful, gets better grades, wears better clothes is moving beyond a position of equality and solidarity and may lose friends.

What happens when a woman speaks directly, uses no hedges, discusses her successes, give direct commands, etc.?