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Steph Wulz | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A few days ago, I was organizing my desk and came across a folder of old essays. As I was leafing through the stack of papers, one from a communications class caught my eye. Vaguely remembering anything from the class, I began to read through what had discussed on Jan. 20, 2010. The paper was a response to Deborah Tannen, a professor at Georgetown University, her “Genderlect theory” and her interesting observations between male and female communication.
As we know, a theory is a set of statements that explain a particular phenomenon. Tannen’s theory compares the communication skills of men and women to show their differences due to their diverse motivations. For example, women use “rapport” talk to construct personal connections with others, whereas men practice “report” talk to establish status. By understanding these “genderlects” we can achieve a better understanding for the opposite sex and appreciate why we communicate the way we do.
Women tend to be reactive communicators and use communication to build relationships with one another. Expressing emotion, relating to stories and listening empathically to another being establishes a connection through mutual understanding. One specific quality of being a reactive communicator is that they tend to apologize more to show their sympathy. Women, therefore, are more likely to apologize for trivial tasks or instances due to their means of reacting in conversation.
Regarding male communication, men are more likely to engage in conversation when it makes them seem more competitive, appealing or strong. During discussion, joking and assertive speech is used to gain control in the environment. Conversations are typically had to be productive and get things done, rather than for just the heck of it.
It is safe to say that not every male and female fits this description when it comes to communication. However, it is interesting to be aware of these generalized differences between the way the sexes converse. For you ladies, the next time you find yourself apologizing for something that you had no influence on, take note of it. Guys, when you are talking about how you just one-upped someone, think of how it relates to your tendency to use report talk and establish status.
Even though guys and girls speak the same language, it will always be difficult to understand one another. I can only hope that you take Tannen’s theory and see how it applies on the Notre Dame campus and with your every day conversations. Get talking.