Gendered Communication Practices

Gendered Communication Practices - h t

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http://www.austincc.edu/colangelo/1318/woodgender.htm Gendered Communication Practices Excerpted from Julia T. Wood (1994). Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture . Florence, KY: Wadsworth, Inc. In her popular book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Communication , linguist Deborah Tannen (1990, p. 42) declares that “communication between men and women can be like cross cultural communication, prey to a clash of conversational styles,” Her study of men’s and women’s talk led her to identify distinctions between the speech communities typical of women and men. Not surprisingly, Tannen traces gendered communication patterns to differences in boys’ and girls’ communication with parents and peers. Like other scholars (Bate, 1988; Hall & Langellier, 1988; Kramarae, 1981; Treichler & Kramarae, 1983; Wood, 1993), Tannen believes that women and men typically engage in distinctive styles of communication with different purposes, rules, and understandings of how to interpret talk . We will consider features of women’s and men’s speech identified by a number of researchers. As we do, we will discover some of the complications that arise when men and women operate by different rules in conversations with each other. Women’s speech. For most women, communication is a primary way to establish and maintain relationships with others . They engage in conversation to share themselves and to learn about others. This is an important point: For women, talk is the essence of relationships. Consistent with this primary goal, women’s speech tends to display identifiable features that foster connections, support, closeness, and understanding . Equality between people is generally important in women’s communication (Aries, 1987). To achieve symmetry, women often match experiences to indicate “you’re not alone in how you feel.” Typical ways to communicate equality would be saying, “I’ve done the same thing many times,” “I’ve felt the same way,” or “Something like that happened to me too and I felt like you do.” Growing out of the quest for equality is a participatory mode of interaction in which communicators respond to and build on each other’s ideas in the process of conversing (Hall & Langellier, 1988). Rather than a rigid you-tell-your-ideas-then-I’ll-tell-mine sequence, women’s speech more characteristically follows an interactive pattern in which different voices weave together to create conversations. Also important in women’s speech is showing support for others. To demonstrate support, women often express understanding and sympathy with a friend’s situation or feelings. “Oh, you must feel terrible,” “I really hear what you are saying,” or “I think you did the right thing” are communicative clues that we understand and support how another feels .
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Related to these first two features is women’s typical attention to the relationship level of communication (Wood, 1993; Wood & Inman, 1993). You will recall that the
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Gendered Communication Practices - h t

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