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Gender Communication

Do men and women communicate differently?

The question is, “Do men and women communicate differently?” The answer is a resounding Yes, They Do! They not only communicate differently, but they also think differently, and they handle problem solving in different ways. These very differences are what make relationships between men and women so exciting. They are also what make relationships so complicated, both in personal and work-related environments.

In his article What Men and Women Can Learn From Each Other, Dave Zielinski (2004) states.

On any given playground in America, for example, one can observe boys gravitating toward the football field and the basketball court, where physical aggressiveness and a minimum of verbal communication are amply rewarded. Meanwhile, girls are more apt to be using their imaginations, talking to each other, and generally working together to entertain themselves in ways that don't involve an elbow to the eye socket. (para 3)

These very basic differences determine the way we will communicate later in life, and although this may seem like a stereotypical analysis, it isn’t any less true. There are always exceptions to the norm, but for the most part, men focus on problem solving and action while women focus more on caring and nurturing.

Well-known psychotherapist and relationship counselor Marlene Lathrop attributes this disparity to a basic dissimilarity in our priorities. Lathrop (2003) claims that although we have the same primary values, the order in which we rate these priorities is different. “A man’s priorities are to achieve status (read this as independence), avoid failure, avoid isolation, and achieve involvement [while] a woman’s priorities are to achieve involvement (read this as connectedness), avoid isolation, achieve status, and avoid failure” (Lathrop, 2003, para 13).

With these differences inherit in our generic makeup, is it any wonder our relationships are sometimes topsy-turvy? It turns out that this divergence in communication styles can also affect us in the workplace. Mark Hulbert, editor of The Hulbert Financial Digest states, “THERE is no discernible difference between the performance of mutual funds run by teams of just men or just women, but when you mix the sexes in fund management, a new study has found, fund performance often suffers” (2007, para 1).

While mutual fund teams are a specialized group in a typically male dominated field, this doesn’t preclude the fact that the difference in communication styles can be an obstacle in the business world. Thanfully, all hope is not lost. In her review of Deborah Tannen’s book You Just Don’t Understand, Laura Bryannan (1990) says that, “both sexes need to understand the inherent differences in their communication styles so that they don't expect the impossible. There is middle ground where men and women can meet and find understanding” (para 16)


Men and women are different. We react differently, we have different priorities, and we have different communication styles. These differences can create problems, both in personal lives and in the office, but there are ways to make these differences compliment each other. The biggest obstacle is understanding the distinctions between us. When we understand, and embrace the diversity between the sexes, we can find ways to work together, and will gain the benefits of effective communication.


Bryannan, L. (1999, February 1). You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. Retrieved October 24, 2009, from

Hulbert, M. (2007, October 7). At Some Funds, a Gender Communication Gap. Retrieved October 24, 2009, from Proquest for The New York Times:

Lathrop, M. (2003). Communicating styles: Understanding the difference between men and women. Retrieved October 24, 2009, from Marlene L. Lathrop:

Zielinski, D. (2004, May). What men and women can learn from each other. Retrieved October 24, 2009, from Proquest