Men Speak Martian and Women Speak Venutian

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that men and women communicate differently. Whether we’re talking about body language or spoken language, the methods we use to talk to one another can differ depending on our gender. But are our languages so different that the ‘men are from Mars and women from Venus’ theory rings true? Is the gap between male and female communication really all that big? Read on to find out!

Photo via Flickr

Verbal language

Many experts say that the belief that women are fundamentally better than men at communication is a myth. Often, women are perceived to be more verbally skilled and therefore stereotyped as better for jobs where communication and empathy are important. Many times, employers will automatically assume a woman possesses these skills, while a man may have to prove his worth. It’s for this reason that nursing, teaching, and counselling are still predominantly female and it is more difficult for a male to obtain work as, say, a pre-school teacher. On the other hand, this also shuts women out from jobs that require critical thinking skills such as engineering, research, and programming. The stereotype that men lack communication skills in turn makes the assumption that they possess an advanced ability to analyze complex systems that women don’t.

While the idea of the male/female brain making a difference in someone’s ability to do a certain type of job is silly, there is some truth to the theory that women and men talk differently. Women tend to look for common ground when interacting with other women and will provide overlapping remarks to help guide the conversation. Women are more emotive when they speak, and enjoy helping their counterpart tell a story. This may be one of the reasons why women are often considered better communicators as well as better listeners (and by extension more empathetic). Women also tend to be less abrasive and direct when talking to other women. Where a man might see a friend and take a friendly jab at him in the form of an insult, or make fun of a weird hat he’s wearing, or the weight he’s put on, a woman would be unlikely to say such things to another woman’s face. She might comment on it in private later, but rarely mention it in the direct way a man would. This can often make it seem like women are more skilled at communication, but it’s actually not the case! It’s just a different general way of talking to one another that feeds the label.

Photo via Flickr

Body language

Have you ever heard of the word ‘manspreading’? It’s a term used to describe the action of sitting in a seat with one’s legs far apart, therefore taking up more space. More often than not, manspreading is a form of criticism for men on public transportation who take up more than one seat by spreading their legs. But why isn’t there a term like ‘womanspreading’?  Surely women must do the same thing, right? Not necessarily. Next time you walk into a room full of men and women, take note of the different uses of space and body language. Men are more likely to use poses that evoke power, such as sitting with their legs open, or using up more space. Women, on the other hand, tend to make themselves smaller by crossing their legs or folding their hands in their laps. It’s for this reason that we can easily stereotype men as powerful or deserving of power, but people struggle to picture a woman as, for example, the CEO of a company.

Decades of gender inequality probably has a lot to do with why female body language differs from male. Girls are taught to not draw attention to themselves and to avoid antagonising or provoking people – even when they feel uncomfortable. The fear of sexual assault is such a real and prevalent part of every woman’s daily life, that we tend change our body language to mirror that. However, studies show that attackers tend to pick out women with the body language of a ‘victim’, i.e. someone who appears afraid or unable to fight back. And while being on the receiving end of an assault is never, ever the fault of the victim, regardless of his or her body language, changing how you walk and stand can make a difference in your life. So, to all the girls in the world: stand up and walk tall! Be confident! And practice doing what seems to come naturally to most men: work on those power poses, so that next time you walk in you own the room.

Although differences in male and female communication are something of a generalisation, do you feel as a woman (or a man) that you communicate differently than the opposite sex? What differences do you see?