Different but Equal: Communication between the Sexes

By Kay E. Payne | Go to book overview

7

Gendered Differences in Language and Aggressive/Argumentative Communication

If you want to get the world by the tail, you must take the bull by the horns.

Anonymous

After listening to a speech calling for the use of more “ladylike” language by women and a less masculine communication style, the next speaker launched into a discussion of her role as a law student, in which she used excessive profanity—particularly “the F word”—and a demanding, direct, loud, fist pounding, masculine communication style. Apparently, this law student had adapted a communication style consistent with the profession she had chosen, stereotypically a male-dominated field. Fighting stereotypes about females on a continual basis, she had no desire to hear how much more effective females might be if they fulfilled the expectations of their listeners or, at the very least, prepared their audiences for more intense language and style. Clearly the communication style used by men and women reflects and shapes their perceptions and experiences of the world. We form lasting impressions of people that are based on the way they communicate, and as individuals perceive others, they often adjust their communication to fit the exigencies of a situation.

This chapter describes the differences in language use by males and females and aggressive/argumentative communication styles. We stereotypically expect men to use more intense language, often describing them as argumentative. We stereotypically expect women to use less intense language, often describing them as passive or assertive. When males use an

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