Discuss The Significant Differences Between Men's And Women's Talk The Way They Interact, Their Choices Of Words And Phrases And The Topics They Like To Discuss

1949 words - 8 pages

As God had created both men and women physically different, it is no wonder that men and women also differ in they way they think, feel and converse. It is a stereotype that men are the more practical thinkers as compared to the women who are more concerned with aesthetics and feelings. It is probable due to this difference that men and women compliment each other in the way that they think, feel and also they way the converse. However, there are no proper research done to conclude the above due to the individuality of both men and women. As there may be men who are more concerned with aesthetics and feelings and there may also be women who are practical thinkers. These differences make it difficult to draw any concrete conclusion on the way men and women think and feel. However, there are studies to show that there are differences between the way men and women talk.We will discuss the differences between men's and women's talk in the way they interact, their choice of words and phrases and the topics they like to discuss. We will begin by first looking at how men and women use compliments in their interactions.A study involving American, British, Polish and New Zealand speakers, both male and female, have shown that the use of compliments is more predominant among the women as compared to men, and that they are complimented more often then men (Nessa Wolfson, 1983; Janet Holmes, 1988; Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, 1989; Robert Herbert, 1990). In addition, a study by Janet Holmes in 1988 of middle-class Pakeha New Zealanders showed that two-thirds of all compliments were given by women and they received three-quarters of them. She also noted that women compliment each other twice as much as men complimented them. Besides this difference in number, the manners in which the compliments are used also differ between the genders.The prevalent use of compliments suggests that women's linguistic behaviour can be broadly characterised as affiliative, facilitative and co-operative as compared to being competitive or control oriented (Philips Smith, 1985; Holmes, 1990; Deborah Tannen, 1991). This indicates that women use compliments more as an expression of rapport and solidarity and they are more focused on creating bonds rather than to compete with one another.The general topics of compliments for both genders include appearance, good performance which is the result of skill or effort, possessions and some aspect of personality or friendliness (Joan Manes, 1983; Holmes, 1986; Herbert, 1990). In New Zealand, compliments on appearance are the most common received by women as compared to men. However, majority of men receive compliments on appearance from women. In America, both men and women rarely compliment the appearance of men. The rare compliments on appearance though were made from much older women to younger men (Wolfson, 1983). Is was also discovered in New Zealand that the men preferred complimenting each other on their possessions as compared to women.Besides these factors, the vocabulary and grammatical patterns also differ between the two genders. Women would use the rhetorical pattern (e.g. what a nice day!) more often then men. In contrast, the men use the minimal pattern (e.g. nice car) more often then women. Donna Johnson and Duane Roen (1992) noted that women also used more intensifiers (such as really, very, particularly) as compared to men and they intensified their compliments most when writing to other women.Despite positive attachments that compliments have, the use of compliments have also lead to miscommunication and offence. This happens when it involves people of different cultures and native English speakers. This has lead to inappropriate responses by either disagreeing or rejecting compliments from native English speakers. This is prevalent especially for women who come from cultures where compliments are rare. Men from different cultures on the other hand, embarrass their English speaking male friends by the frequency of their compliments. Misunderstandings also can occur between different ethnic groups within one country due to the different level of tolerance among these ethnic groups. This is referred to as the Modesty Maxim by Geoffrey Leech (1983, p.132).We have seen the differences between men's and women's use of compliments in their interaction. Other differences can also be found in the way they interact, their choice of words and phrases and the topics they discuss.Besides the difference in verbal interaction, as seen in the role of compliments in female-male interaction, men and women also differ in their non-verbal interaction. We will delve into the differences in terms of proxemics and body contact.E.T. Hall introduced the term proxemics to describe how people use and interpret physical distance when they interact. Certain distances are considered appropriate for certain cultures and changing the distance may signal an attempt to change the nature of interaction. For example when a man and a woman are interacting within arm's length, it indicates a casual-personal interaction. However during the course of the interaction, if either the man or the women moves closer to within hand reach, it would indicates a more intimate state. This is an attempt by either party to change the nature of interaction from a casual interaction to a more intimate one by simply moving their physical distance. However, as Addis (1966) noted, in Britain and America, male pairs interacted at a greater distance then female pairs. This may probably be due to women's linguistic behaviour of affiliative, facilitative and co-operative as compared to being competitive or control oriented.Body contact during interaction includes both intentional and unintentional touching of various kinds. Women responded more warmly and positively to touch even if they were unaware of it, as showed by Fisher et al. (1976). Touching may be compared to a non-verbal form of calling another by their first name and when used reciprocally it indicates solidarity and when not it signals status (Henley, 1973:93). This is again in line with women's linguistic behaviour where they are more concerned in building rapport and solidarity. Studies have also shown that it is believed that in female-male interaction, the men initiate touch more than the women. This shows that touch is regarded as most important in status and solidarity relationships (Stier and Hall, 1984). Finally as Nguyen (1975) concluded, men were more attuned to the kind of touch involved as compared to women who were more concerned with where they were touched.From the difference that we can see in non-verbal interaction between female-male interactions, it would not come as a surprise to discover that there are also differences in their verbal interaction.Contrary to popular belief, women usually talk less than men in mixed company. In these situations, women are also less competitive, more cooperative and work harder at making things run smoothly. Robin Lakoff (1975) suggests that women do this by using more tag questions (e.g. isn't it? don't you think?) more indirect polite forms (e.g. could you possibly?) more intensifiers (e.g. really) and also weaker vocabulary (e.g. words like lovely and Oh dear). Studies by linguists have also shown that men tend to dominate topics and manage mixed gender conversations, interrupt more and give less feedback and support.Another point of view is not based on the power relationship but how men and women socialise into different gender subculture as children through play. Goodwin (1990) studied Afro-American children playing and found that boys played in hierarchal groups with those high up issuing directions as compared to the girls who played in a more cooperative group and made more indirect suggestions. He also noted that boys sorted out arguments immediately through direct competition and verbal communications as opposed to girls who organise friendships based on inclusion and exclusion and had protected discussions about other girls in their absence. This may have resulted in indirect, collaborative speech style for women, especially dealing with topics concerning other people's motives and feelings. As for men they have a more direct competitive style with a focus on the physical world.Men and women also attach different meaning to certain words and phrases. These attachments of meanings to words and phrases have lead to misunderstandings between sexes. Maltz and Borker (1982) discovered that women used many more minimal responses (e.g. mhm, yeh) to inform the speaker to 'Carry on. I'm listening'. However, for men, minimal responses brings with it a much stronger meaning of 'I agree with you'. It is no wonder that misunderstandings occur when men and women interact. This is because both parties may be attaching their own meanings to what the other is saying leading to the wrong message being conveyed or interpreted.Besides the difference in meaning that are attached to words and phrases, Labov (1960) also discovered that lower-middle-class women were involved in the diffusion of /r/ pronunciation in the New York community. These women were aware of the prestige value of /r/ and they worked hardest to assimilate upper-middle-class speech as compared to men. This was based on his observation that women were inclined to hypercorrect more frequently as compared to the men. Women do this more often as they wish to assimilate themselves with the people that are around them, on the other hand men are more competitive and are not too concerned in building rapport as compared to the women.Men's topic of conversation normally circles around their possessions and their hobbies. Within their circle of male friends, men would normally talk about their possessions, either new or old. They would share how good their possessions are with their friends and try to talk them into buying it themselves. Besides discussions on their possessions, men also like to talk about common interests, the most common being football. They would sit around and share their thoughts about the games played or their favourite players and the best goals scored. Basically when men are among themselves, the topics that are shared lacks emotional attachments.On the other hand, women share topics that deal more with feelings and emotions. Even when talking about possessions, they would not just discuss on how good their possessions are but how good it looks on them or how it looked on someone else. Besides sharing fashion and beauty tips, women also do have specific topics like cooking, although there are the rare occasions where we get men talking about cooking. The underlying difference between topics that men and women discuss is the attachments of feelings and emotions that women include in their conversations.We have seen that women tend to give and receive more compliments as compared to men. Non-verbal interactions also differ between the genders as they react differently to touches during interactions. The choice of words and phrases and the meanings that are attached to them are cause for misunderstandings due to the different meanings attached to them by the different genders. Finally, the choice of topics and how they communicate among themselves all point to the significant difference between men and women's talk. God not only created men and women physically different but they also interact differently.


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