In summary, we found little evidence favoring expectations for language use that are based on the power-discrepancy hypothesis. That is, the men and women in problem solving pairs in this study used language that differed from what has been described in speculative discussion of gender, power, and language (e.g., Lakoff, 1973, 1975, 1990). Moreover, transcriptions of their interactions yielded ratings that demonstrated dissimilar kinds of, as opposed to different levels of, perceived power. Also inconsistent with power-based explanations, these women failed to converge toward the language behavior of the men.
The most succinct generalization of our findings is that the language style of women in problem solving interactions is both powerful and feminine. These women apparently did not feel that they had to give up one to get the other. These findings suggest that in any relationship between women and men, both should be aware that they are using different linguistic styles, but that these styles may be similarly effective in exerting influence. Implications are that women do not have to choose between using effective methods of influencing decision making and appearing feminine. In addition, men should not assume that women are any less effective because of their different linguistic style. Disparity of power may exist in the language behavior of men and women in other age groups, in other communication contexts, or those having other relationships. Indeed, Fitzpatrick and Mulac address this issue in this volume, chapter 9, by examining older individuals interacting in two different relational contexts. Nevertheless, what we found in the study reported in the present chapter can only be viewed as failing to support the hypothesis that the differences in men's and women's language are explained by differences in their social power and their intent to exercise that power.
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Publication information: Book title: Gender, Power, and Communication in Human Relationships. Contributors: Pamela J. Kalbfleisch - Editor, Michael J. Cody - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Hillsdale, NJ. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 101.