Gender communication is communication about and between men and women (Ivy and Backlund, 1994). Recognizing gender differences in communication enables both sexes to communicate better with each other. According to Deborah Tannen, (1992, p 17), many women and men feel dissatisfied with their close relationships and become even more frustrated when they try to talk things out. There are gender differences in ways of speaking, and a need to identify and understand them. Without such understanding, we are doomed to blame others or ourselves-or the relationship- for the otherwise mystifying and damaging effects of our contrasting conversational styles.
Pretending that women and men are the same hurts women, because the ways they are treated are based on the norms for men, and are nonplussed when their words don't work as they expected, or even spark resentment and anger.
Both women and men could benefit from learning each other's styles. Many women could learn from men to accept some conflict and differences without seeing it as a threat to intimacy, and many men could learn from women to accept interdependence without seeing it as a threat to their freedom.
This paper will evaluate the differences between genders in communication. Part of the study consists in showing that those differences are due to the differences between men and women of course, but that they are also very dependent on the environment into which the conversation takes place. Many cross-gender communication studies only examine verbal communication between a man and a woman, disregarding the environment and therefore fail to completely isolate the interlocutors. An interlocutor is one who takes part in a conversation.
The first part of the paper will examine why there is a need to understand gender communication, and the relation between different world-views and gender communication. The second part of the paper will discuss cross-gender conversational styles.