Communication, which is defined as the transference and understanding of meaning, is an integral part of every organization. (Robbins and Langton, 2001, p. 276) In fact, according to Robbins and Langton, the authors of Organizational Behaviour: Concepts, Controversies, Applications, poor communication is the most cited source of interpersonal conflict. (Robbins and Langton, 2001, p. 276) Consequently, it is important that we understand how people communicate, and how communication differences among different groups of people may lead to conflict. One of the more interesting issues in communication, which has received considerable attention, is the issue of gender differences in communication. It is common knowledge that the two genders, male and female, engage in communication in slightly different ways. Yet what exactly are these differences, and how do they arise? Equally important is the question of what types of conflict can these differences lead to, and what can be done to solve those conflicts? In this paper, we will attempt to answer these questions by briefly outlining gender differences in communication, some theories that attempt to account for these differences, and by summarizing some problems, which arise from gender differences in communication, as well as possible solutions.
Let us first address the question of the differences between the communication styles of men and women. These differences arise in various communication areas such as language use, listening style, leadership behaviour, and approach to negotiation to name a few. In general, men's approach to communication is aggressive, assertive, confident, forceful, and tough, whereas women are thought to be more submissive, cooperative, emotional, sincere, and timid. (Pearson, 1985, p. 46) To put it simply, men use communication to assert and flaunt their independence and emphasize their status, while women use communication in order to create connection.