Monday, March 02, 2009

Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships

Women tend to be the relationship specialists and men tend to be task specialists. Women are typically the experts in "rapport talk" which refers to the types of communication that build, maintain, and strengthen relationships. Rapport talk reflects skills of talking, nurturing, emotional expression, empathy, and support. Men are typically the experts in task accomplishment and addressing questions about facts. They are experts in "report talk," which refers to the types of communication that analyzes issues and solves problems. Report talk reflects skills of being competitive, lacking sentimentality, analyzing, and focusing aggressively on task accomplishment.

It is more common for women to show affection through talking, but it is more common for men to show affection by doing things—either doing things together or doing separate things within the same physical space. Sometimes not talking—not having to talk—is a sign of trust and intimacy for men.

So, the next time you feel surprised, disappointed, or angry with someone's response to something you have said, ask yourself if he or she may have "misheard" you. Is the other responding to your problems with a solution, when you wanted to receive sympathy? Is the other responding to your message of affection with a message of status? If so, you will be able to help the other to understand the source of your miscommunication, and avoid the hurt feelings and conflicts that sometimes follow.

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