Gender and Communication: How Men and Women Communicate Differently

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    • 00:18

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: From a very early age, actuallyfrom the time that we're born, little boys and little girls,and men and women, tend to be socializedin different ways, often what's called different cultures.And over time, what can happen isthat this can have a powerful influence on how both menand women are expected to behave,

    • 00:40

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: the characteristics that are associatedwith masculinity and femininity.And these characteristics can have an enormous impacton their professional and personal lives.And while all groups-- different cultures,different economic groups, different religiousbackgrounds-- have different values that are actually

    • 01:01

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: appropriate to their culture, they alsolearn to teach and learn to valuedifferent notions of masculine and feminine behaviorthat are what we call gender differences.For example, it's generally assumed--it's a general and common-to-stereotypeassumption-- that women will tend

    • 01:22

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: to be more nurturing and more cooperativein their interactions with others.Another stereotype, just as powerful for men,is that it's generally taken for grantedthat men are comfortable learninghow to be assertive and competitivein their interactions with others.This can lead to separate what we call linguistic cultures,

    • 01:44

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: which result or can result in different stylesof both verbal and nonverbal communication.While such tendencies can contributeto misunderstandings, there are, of course, exceptions.Examples are that not 100% of women and not 100% of menare raised to embrace for women nurturing and cooperation

    • 02:06

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: or what we call more the passive kinds of behavioror that neither are 100% of males enculturatedor grow up in households where they learn to be competitiveand where they can't learn to be themselvesnurturing and empathic.Expectations of differing comfort levelswith communication styles among women and men

    • 02:29

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: may create gaps between what is expressed by a speakerand, importantly, how it's interpreted by the listener.I teach courses in gender and communication.And some of what I look at are the nonverbal and verbalcommunication behaviors that often are associated withthe masculine and feminine stereotype, that is,

    • 02:51

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: with males' and females' behaviors.In this program, what we're going to dois we're going to illustrate-- we'regoing to identify and compare-- the nonverbaland verbal communication styles that are associated with,in this instance, female to female, male to male, and maleto female interactions.

    • 03:13

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: We're going to consider several factors thatcontribute to gendered styles of communicationand provide examples of how these styles might emergein both professional and personal contexts.Through these examples, viewers willlearn about how assumptions about men's and women's styleof communication can also lead to misunderstandings

    • 03:37

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: and how through thinking about our own communicationwe can perhaps prevent many of these misunderstandingsfrom occurring in the first place.Starting in the early 1970s, many disciplineshave focused on gender and gendered behavior,gender communication.And this has predominantly been in the fields of psychology,

    • 03:57

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: anthropology, communications, and sociology.Now, regardless of the disciplinary lens,the ultimate goal essentially has been the same, that is,to help to create an environment where people don't feelconstrained or expected to behave in certain waysand, more significantly, not to value one kind of behavior

    • 04:18

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: as more important or more significant than another.So in this first segment, what we're going to dois we are going to look at Jane and Marissa, two co-workers whohave a friendship outside of the workplace.Now, let's observe their verbal and nonverbal communication.

    • 04:38

      JANE: Hey.

    • 04:39

      MARISSA: Hey.

    • 04:40

      JANE: Oh, wow, I love your scarf.It's so pretty.

    • 04:43

      MARISSA: Thanks.You know, I actually got it at the thrift store.But I love your pants.Where'd you get them?

    • 04:48

      JANE: 50% off, on sale.Could you believe it?

    • 04:51

      MARISSA: Are you kidding?You really have that knack.

    • 04:54

      JANE: Thanks.

    • 04:56

      MARISSA: Uch.I really should have brought in fresh coffee this morning.

    • 05:01

      JANE: Yeah, you're right.It is kind of stale.Do you want me to go out and get some fresh?

    • 05:04

      MARISSA: That'd be great, because the meeting startsin 10 minutes, and we don't want to bestuck for two hours with bad coffee.

    • 05:09

      JANE: Gosh, a meeting in the morning?

    • 05:11

      MARISSA: Yeah.

    • 05:12

      JANE: I totally forgot.Thanks for reminding me.

    • 05:14

      MARISSA: Sure.

    • 05:15

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: Now, let's look at their interaction.In this scene between Marissa and Jane,we find some very interesting markers of nonverbal behavior.If you look at the two of them, they are facing one another.They are standing fairly close together.They are mirroring one another's nonverbal communication.

    • 05:39

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: They are smiling.They're both speaking at the same voice level.One is not dominating, clearly.Neither one interrupts the other.They are making contact throughout the conversation.We call this behavior synchronicity,or synchronous behavior.One study in particular talks about women's friendship,

    • 06:03

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: calls it friendship through dialogue-- Fern Johnson--and talks about how women use connection and talk in orderto sustain and to express their friendships.This is a good example of how this works.Let's look at the topic that the women are talking about.

    • 06:24

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: And if we look at the topic, they're talking about clothing.The body matters.The body matters profoundly for women.Appearance counts.And this occurs through many studies over time.Jessie Bernard, a famous sociologist backin the early 1980s, wrote a book called The Female World, where

    • 06:46

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: she talks about little girls being born into a pink world.Many works talk about the importance of appearancefor women in particular.Carol Tavris, a psychologist, wrotea book called The Mismeasure of Woman.The journalist Naomi Wolf wrote a book called The Beauty Myth.

    • 07:10

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: Rita Freedman, a psychologist, wrotea book called Beauty Bound.Significantly, all of these books or the various workstalk about how important appearance is for women.And so to see talking about clothing as somethingfrivolous, in fact, just the opposite is true.

    • 07:33

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: The way young girls are raised, clothingbecomes an important marker for how they see themselvesbut also for how they are seen by others.In this segment, Peter and Tony are two co-workerswith a casual friendship who share office space.First we see them in their office setting,

    • 07:55

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: then later in the park after a meeting.Let's take a look at the interaction.

    • 08:08

      PETER: Hey, man.See the game last night?

    • 08:10

      TONY: You know it.Got home just in time for that big double play.You guys totally blew it, but I won $20.Um, now that you're here, I need the numbersfor the Johnson account.I've got to look them over before the meeting.

    • 08:24

      PETER: Johnson, Johnson?Oh, they should be on my desk.Oh, you're talking about that meeting later on today?

    • 08:31

      TONY: Yep.

    • 08:31

      PETER: Oh, now I'm going to have to cancel my gym lessons.I know for a fact that it's going to go past 6:00.

    • 08:36

      TONY: Yeah, you're telling me.And the Vegas fight's on tonight, too.They got a consultant coming in.I just hope it doesn't drag.

    • 08:43

      PETER: Well, why don't you just get somebodyto record it for you?

    • 08:46

      TONY: Yeah, that's probably what I'll do.We are also going to need the Chester numbers, as well.

    • 08:52

      PETER: Chester?Oh, OK, I got you.

    • 08:55

      TONY: Oh, OK.I can't stand the way this company istrying to reorganize.We have a system in place that works,and they're going to screw everything up.

    • 09:04

      PETER: Hey, look, I interviewed with the Robinsonsbefore I got this job.And now you're telling me that theyare outdistancing us two to one.If they offer me a job right now, I'm jumping ship.And I'm taking everyone with me.It's either eat or you don't.You should know that.

    • 09:22

      TONY: You can't beat our benefits, OK?We have less turnover.We have a loyal staff, most of it.

    • 09:30

      PETER: If you think a loyal staff isgoing to get us through the next quarter,then you must be dreaming.

    • 09:35

      TONY: I guarantee you, our five-year numbersbeat theirs hands down.

    • 09:41

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: Let's take a lookat the nonverbal communication, particularly spaceand body language.First, take a look at how they are dressed.If we look at the dress of Tony, he's dressed in a suit.He comes across as credible.His appearance is very professional.This is not so much a gender difference.

    • 10:02

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: But it is, in a sense, important to be aware, all of us, of howwe are read through the clothing that we wear.Look at the way that Tony points his finger at Peter,almost like a gun, and essentially ordershim, got to get this, got to do that, look for this.What is interesting is Peter does not get offended by this.

    • 10:22

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: In part, this kind of verbal sparringis indicative of how men learn to play.Barrie Thorne did a very interesting studyon children in playgrounds, showing and findingthat, even in elementary school, young boys take upa lot of space.They run around, they yell, they compete,and there's no offense taken.

    • 10:45

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: One of the topics has to do with sports.Again, we might say, does this belong in the workplace?Why is this important?If we think about what boys learnto be equated with their masculinity, strength, sports,work are very important.And so, no, this is not trivial.It's part of their identity.

    • 11:06

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: The interaction in the park is interesting because of the typeof verbal and nonverbal communicationthat the men convey.If we look at the way that they are walking and talking,it's very different and very common for mento use different body language when they're walking or talkingwith friends than women will use.

    • 11:28

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: We notice that they're side by siderather than facing each other.When they do face each other, theytend to point at one another, but it's notseen as problematic.This kind of connecting through activity, through walking,is some of the work that Chris Inmanhas done on men's friendship through doing.

    • 11:48

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: In this segment, we are going to see Jane and Tony.Jane works as part of a team and reports to Tony.Tony is the one who reports directly to their manager.

    • 11:59

      TONY: Thank you.OK, so for this project, I will take the airlinesand the automotive, and you can havedirect mail and housewares.

    • 12:15

      JANE: Hey, it sounds like you've got it all figured out.In fact, I'll take the airlines and automotives,because I already have the contacts for those.

    • 12:24

      TONY: Do you?

    • 12:26

      JANE: You know, I just wish you wouldn't come on so strong.We're supposed to be in this together.

    • 12:34

      TONY: How would you have started?

    • 12:37

      JANE: Well, for starters, I wouldn'thave just said which ones I wanted.I would have asked, what parts do you want?

    • 12:44

      TONY: Well, then what are you complaining about?If you would have asked me, I would have told you,I want airline and automotive, and we'dbe right back where we started.

    • 12:58

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: Tony and Jane's office interactions showmany common as well as problematic aspectsof male and female behavior.Let's watch how they use their bodies and spaceduring this interaction.What's interesting is the impact of the messagefrom Tony on the nonverbal interaction between the twoof them.

    • 13:18

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: He clearly is taking up more space.He clearly says, this is what I want to do.What's interesting is Jane's response to him.Notice how should becomes smaller.She kind of shrinks.And he begins to assert himself, and shehas difficulty trying to respond to him.This is a clear example of some of the early works thatwere done in the 1970s when linguists and communication

    • 13:43

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: scholars started looking at languageand how it impacts relationships.The work of Robin Lakoff in particularpointed to this overwhelming power differentialand how men use language.Also, they approach socializing with different behaviorsand motivations.

    • 14:04

      JANE: I just moved, so it's been really hard.You know, I mean, my place is a lot bigger,but I miss the old neighborhood.I felt a real sense of connection with them,and my best friend lived across the street.Now, with all the work that I have to take home,I just don't seem to have the same kind of support system.

    • 14:25

      JANE [continued]: Do you know what I mean?

    • 14:26

      TONY: Yeah.And moving's expensive, too.If you need any work done, let me know.I have a friend who does, you know,painting, carpentry, stuff like that.

    • 14:35

      JANE: Have you ever felt really sad about havingto move from a place that you love?

    • 14:41

      TONY: Well, when you have to throw something awaythat you'd rather hang onto, that's pretty tough.But it's just what you have to do when you move, either thator have a yard sale.

    • 14:54

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: Let's take a lookat the nonverbal communication, particularly spaceand body language.This interaction is very important.On the nonverbal level, we noticethat Jane is trying to connect with Tony.She's leaning in.She's trying to engage him, looking at him.

    • 15:14

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: But we notice that he keeps looking away.He doesn't seem to want to engage with her.He looks down, he looks away, indicative of someof the work of Nancy Henley, particularly in the 1970s,talking about gender differences and howit seems to convey power differentials with menand women.

    • 15:37

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: There are interesting verbal dimensionsto this interaction that also canstem from gender differences or comfort.Jane is talking about her feelings.Clearly, Tony does not seem comfortable about talkingabout her feelings or doesn't know how to respond.Perhaps he tries the best he can.But we know he changes the topic, an example of what

    • 15:58

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: Robin Lakoff talked about insofaras gender and communication.And rather than acknowledging her concerns, her feelingsof loneliness, he talks about gettinga painter and a carpenter.One can easily observe the habits of gender differenceswhich are a possible outcome of socialization.By understanding the varying ways

    • 16:20

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: that men and women communicate with each other,the viewer will learn to understandhow to become more aware of as well as receptive to a widerrange of communication styles.Now, we are going to watch Marissa and Peterin similar work and social situationsas we observed earlier with Tony and Jane.

    • 16:40

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: Notice, however, the difference inapproach to their conversations.

    • 16:46

      MARISSA: Thanks.

    • 16:48

      PETER: All right, Marissa, I wantedto talk to you about this upcoming project we have.To be quite frank, I really want the airline and automotiveindustry.I have more interest in them.But I really don't want to step on your toes.So why don't you tell me how you feel about this?

    • 17:06

      MARISSA: Well, I do have more contacts and expertise there,so it's logical that I take those on.But if you want to be involved in these projectsfor the long-term, I'm sure we can work something out.

    • 17:17

      PETER: You know what?That's actually a good idea.Besides, I do need to burn my contact list and industry base.Plus nobody wants to get pigeonholed.

    • 17:28

      MARISSA: Look, we're going to work togetherduring the first phase, so you can learn about all thatduring the direct mail project.After the first phase, we can integrate what we're doing.And that's going to give the whole project a boosttime wise, and that's going to help the overall productivity.

    • 17:43

      PETER: You know what?That's actually an excellent idea.

    • 17:47

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: This interactionis very interesting.Let's take a look.This is an interesting example of a potential conflict thatis avoided through communication.At first, Peter seems to be competitive,asserting what he would like to doand what tasks he would like to take.You notice that Marissa responds, as well.

    • 18:08

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: But what's also interesting is that she saves itby collaborating, how she can help him, how he can help her,and how they can affect the bottom line.This turns the negotiation from a competitionto a real win-win situation, an example of whatcommunication scholars Linda Putnamand Deborah Kolb talk about when they talk about negotiation.

    • 18:34

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: Notice the specific points of howthis interaction was successful.

    • 18:41

      MARISSA: This has been a really tough week for me.Nothing is going right.Our project manager just told me she was quitting.And on top of everything else, my mother'sgetting out of the hospital next week,and she's going to need my help.

    • 18:53

      PETER: Wow, I'm really sorry to hear that.That is a lot.Well, there's someone in the sales departmentthat's looking to switch departments.Maybe he could take over temporarily.And who knows?Maybe he could be our guy.

    • 19:08

      MARISSA: That's a good idea.At least, he'll get us over the hump,just as long as everything runs smoothly.I don't want to let anyone down.

    • 19:17

      PETER: Brad's a good guy, and he needs a change.Hey, listen.If you need to take time off to take care of your mother,that's fine.Brad and I, we can sail the ship together.

    • 19:26

      MARISSA: Thanks, I appreciate that.

    • 19:29

      DEBORAH BORISOFF: Now, let's look at their interaction.The nonverbal interaction is very positive in this scene.We notice that Peter and Marissa are sitting at eye level.They're looking at one another.They're nodding appropriately.Clearly, we see that nonverbally he is listening to her.Importantly, he reaches over at the end and kind of touches

    • 19:51

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: her hand as a kind of gesturing, I'm here, I hear you,a perfect example of what Stanley Deetz talks about,the right touch in organizations.The verbal interaction is very powerful in this scene.We notice that Peter evidences that he's listening

    • 20:15

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: and he's trying to be helpful.Their tone is about the same.They don't interrupt one another.He listens to her, he offers advice,a perfect example of what Elizabeth Aries talks about,the spillover effect, when colleaguesinfluence one another and begin to pick upone another's styles of communication,

    • 20:37

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: in this case most positively.Here we see how similar situationswere handled quite differently.In each case, both parties recognized their differingstyles, appreciating and respondingto both the needs and the offeringsthat each person brought to the conversation.

    • 20:58

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: We've looked at several examples of communication between womenand men and a few techniques for thinkingabout how to enhance communication overall.There's a quote from book by the renowned feministFrench writer Simone de Beauvoir that states, the worstpart of living in a prison without bars

    • 21:20

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: is that you aren't even aware of the screens that shut outthe horizon.Language has the power to chain usas well as to free us from behaviorsthat reinforce stereotypes and that restrict our behavior.We hope that this program will helpyou to begin to think about the ways that gender impacts

    • 21:42

      DEBORAH BORISOFF [continued]: our lives.

Gender and Communication: How Men and Women Communicate Differently

View Segments Segment :


In this documentary, learn how opposite genders communicate differently. Deborah Borisoff explains nonverbal and verbal communication and the reason why gender communication styles are so distinct. Borisoff gives examples of conversations between the same sex and the interactions between male and female.

Gender and Communication: How Men and Women Communicate Differently

In this documentary, learn how opposite genders communicate differently. Deborah Borisoff explains nonverbal and verbal communication and the reason why gender communication styles are so distinct. Borisoff gives examples of conversations between the same sex and the interactions between male and female.

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