Academic journal article Asian Social Science

An Empirical Test of the Propositions by Gray and Tannen Relating to Gender Communication in Malaysia

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

An Empirical Test of the Propositions by Gray and Tannen Relating to Gender Communication in Malaysia

Article excerpt


Purpose: This research tests the propositions relating to gender communication by Gray (1992, 2002) in his two books titled "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and "Mars and Venus in the Workplace" and a third book written by Tannen (1990) "You just don't understand: Women and Men in Conversation." These three books have been the source of gender-related controversy since their publication. Design/methodology/approach: The questionnaire was divided into three parts and contained statements or views of the authors of each of the three books. The sample was selected by stratified random sampling and consisted of 182 executives and non-executives (73 males and 109 females) in the post office organisation in Malaysia. Findings: T-test results show that out of 23 statements made by Gray (1992), only 8 were supported, 10 were not supported, and 5 were actually true for the opposite gender. 6 out of 10 pairs of statements derived from Gray (2002) were supported, and 4 were not supported. Research, practical and social implications: Results from this sample suggest that men are more likely than women to agree with Gray (2002). Results also showed very weak support for Tannen's (1990) research. Interestingly, the results from this sample suggest that men have a greater tendency to gender-stereotype other men and women. Originality/Value: This is the first research in Malaysia, to test propositions relating to gender communication, from the three books. The two books by Gray are found in most big bookstores in Malaysia, and the third book is less easily available. However, results suggest that most of the principles in all the three books, which were written as a guide to gender communication, are in fact, not applicable to this sample in Malaysia.

Keywords: gender, communication, John Gray, Tannen, Mars and Venus

1. Introduction

The idea that women and men have different communication styles have become the theme of many best-selling books on gender differences, such as the two books written by Gray (1992, 2002) titled "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" and "Mars and Venus in the Workplace." Another book about the alleged differences in gender communication style is "You just don't understand: Women and Men in Conversation" by Tannen (1990). These books claim that there are significant and consistent differences in communication styles between men and women. The book by Tannen (1990) was written based on empirical research, whereas the books by Gray (1992, 2002) were written for the layperson. Both books by Gray are available in large bookstores in the US, UK and Asia. However, Gray (1992, 2002) did not state in either of his books, whether he conducted any empirical research. It is also interesting to note that Gray's (1992) book came out two years after the publication of Tannen's (1990) research. These books were written with the aim of improving communication between men and women in the workplace, in order that they can understand each other better and be able to reduce the communication gap in the work place, which will probably result in increased job satisfaction and productivity. These two authors claim that there are certain ways in which men and women differ. However, this is not true, as not everyone agrees with them (Wood and Dindia, 1998). This study aims to assess whether there are consistent gender differences in communication styles, as mentioned by the two authors.

Murphy (2001) argues that Gray's work provides a "disturbing interpretive framework" (p. 151) for understanding communication based on a "sexist form of anthropology" (p. 164). Furthermore, Gray (1992, 2002) himself did not claim to have conducted any scientific research, and his pronouncements are based purely on a theory that is not supported by empirical research (Wood and Dindia, 1998). In fact, Gray's statements are often contradicted by the findings of many respected scholars, mentioned in the literature review. …

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