Gender differences in communication
As we delve into the many differences in communication, it is important also to look at the ways that communication may differ between the genders.
Now, this is not to say that all men communicate in one way and all women in another; rather these are general differences, within which we find another broad spectrum of communication techniques.
This topic simply expands on what those differences are, with an eye to how one might want to slightly adjust their communication style based on the individual that they are talking to.
- Verbal gender differences
- Non-verbal gender differences
Verbal gender differences
The content of speech: Rapport vs report
There is some data to back up the idea that, in a very general sense, women and men will tend towards different communication styles.
Men can be more prone towards a style called "report", which is driven by factual statements, data, and problem-solving. There is not much personal information or anecdotes, rather it is a delivery of information, aimed towards solving a problem. These types of speakers have a tendency to dominate a conversation.
Women, on the other hand, are more prone to using "rapport" style, which is a more relationship-building type of communication. There is more personal information shared, and an emphasis on the inclusion of all speakers in the conversation. Problems tend to be solved within the conversation, with all people encouraged to contribute.
The tone of speech
In addition to these different conversational goals, women tend to use a wider range of pitch while speaking, using 5 tones to men’s 3.
This wider range of use in women can lead to them sounding more emotional, as they will vary into higher-pitched tones, especially under duress.
Men tend to have deeper voices, which reads as more confident, although their lack of variance can stray into monotony at times.
Non-verbal gender differences
Facial expressions and emotions
Women tend to use more facial expressions, along with nodding and use them to communicate a range of things, from agreement to confirmation that they are listening to encouraging the speaker to continue.
They smile and tilt their heads towards the person, positioning themselves in a way that shows "I am listening to you".
Men, when non-verbally communicating, tend to offer far less feedback or encouragement. Rather, they nod to show that they agree, and that is it.
Their non-verbal feedback here is much more sparse. They might lean back, close their face-off, and listen impassively as someone communicates to them.
Men tend to be better at hiding their emotions, while women will show their emotions easily on their faces. Women are much better at reading a person’s reactions, using verbal and non-verbal signals to get the full picture.
Again, women will use eye contact as a method of connection and show that they are engaged and listening to the speaker. Women tend to see eye contact as a hallmark of good communication.
In contrast, many men will avoid it or even listen with their eyes closed as a person explains a concept or outlines a problem.
In general, women will endeavor to take up less physical space as well, crossing their legs, organizing folders and paperwork into neat piles, and crossing their arms. They will lean into the speaker, angling themselves towards them and opening their posture towards the person they are listening to.
Men will spread their legs, have wider postures, and relax into the space around them. They might lean back and away from the speaker, or conversely, stand tall and impose into the space of the person speaking to them to communicate dominance.
Women will use touch as a reassuring or connection-building tool, using a hug or touch on the arm to offer support to the speaker.
Men, however, will use it as a show of dominance, with slaps on the back or strong handshakes setting the tone that they want to pursue.
All of the information can be used to facilitate better communication on every level. Understanding how a person prefers to communicate can make it easier, and faster, to brief them on projects, mentor them, offer support, and help them succeed in their role.