Do Men and Women Speak Different Languages? Robert Bly and Deborah Tannen say there is a large difference in the way men and women communicate. In the article, “Where are Men and Women Today?” Bly and Tannen describe women as rapport-talkers. Rapport-talk is using language as a way of establishing connections and relationships with others. They continue by stating that men use report-talk to communicate. It means that they attempt to preserve independence and maintain status in their communication.
Classifying men and women in these two categories helps to explain their behavior in talking with others. Since women are trying to establish relationships, they tend to speak more privately. They isolate themselves and the person they are talking with in hopes of establishing a rapport with them. Men are considered just the opposite. Because of their need for independence and recognition, they speak more publicly. Therefore, men and women can be further classified into two groups, private (women) and public (men) speakers.
The topics that each sex discusses are also important. Women are said to talk about emotions or other areas that are considered private to most people. They tend to discuss relationships, love, and other sentimental issues. Men, however, are said to talk about broader subjects. They discuss such topics as sports, the news, and other current events. By categorizing men and women like this, it makes it easier to understand how they communicate in our society.
Learning how men and women communicate helps us to develop an understanding of their role in society. With women, it would appear that they do not seem to function well in mass society. They are sometimes unable to relate their ideas or thoughts to a large number of people. Women tend to talk one-on-one with people. This is good for the individual being addressed because questions can be asked and the listener can interpret what type of woman the person really is. However, it can be bad because only a few people get to actually know the person. An example would be a woman is judged by a mass number of people as a promiscuous person. Her close friends or people she has related to might judge otherwise because of their inside knowledge of this person.
Men have similar problems except in a personal context. Society says that men have to be strong and show no emotion. This is why they have trouble talking with women privately about intimate issues. Plus, not talking about these issues lead to a build up in emotions, which lead to mid-life crisis, withdraw from interaction with people, and possibly suicide. Women seem to suffer less of these problems because of their capability to confront or talk about such issues.
Before reading the article, “Where are Men and Women Today?” I would have fallen into the category of men who thought that a woman’s opinion meant very little. Since reading this article, I have realized that I wasn’t using critical thinking. I never realized how little women did talk in public but could tell many times when I thought they talked too much. Over the last week, I have been thinking about how much I relate to this article. I made it a point to be around groups of people with both sexes and times when I was alone with someone else. I noticed how correct the writer seemed to be and how I quite possibly talk more than most women.
However, I did disagree with Bly and Tannen about is how men are sometimes unable to relate on a personal basis. I have no problem addressing intimate issues with people, either male or female. One could also say though that I might be an exception to the general public, yet the males I talk to privately seemed to open up also. Overall, I thought this was a good article and it was able to open my mind as to how men and women communicate in society.
Bly, Robert, and Deborah Tannen. “Where are Men and Women Today?” New Age Journal January/February (1992):148-55.