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Chapter 1 – Minimizing Cross-Talk Between Men and Women

Men and women belong to different species and communications between them is still in its infancy.
—Bill Cosby

A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: “Duh.”
—Conan O’Brien

My first wife divorced me on grounds of incompatibility, and besides, I think she hated me.
—Oscar Levant

As soon as you cannot keep anything from a woman, you love her.
—Paul Geraldy

In the last 50 years, a great deal of research has been done on gender communication issues. The result? Men and women communicate differently. You knew that. Some researchers had previously theorized that all the observed differences could be explained by the differences in power and status in our culture. For example, they argued, when women have more power and status in the workplace, their language will change. To some extent, that has been true. Powerful people of either gender speak more confidently than lower-status people with no power. It stands to reason.

Nevertheless, major differences in the communication styles of men and women remain. In addition to my own research, these differences have also been investigated and reported by Robin Lakoff, Lillian Glass, John Gray, Deborah Tannen, Patricia Arburdene and John Naisbitt, Patricia Heim, and Barbara Annis, to name the most noteworthy researchers.

As you read the following tips, keep in mind that all differences in communication are a matter of degree and that particular differences may not exist in all men or all women. We are individuals first, of course, with our own idiosyncrasies and ways of conversing. This chapter presents tendencies and techniques—not universal truths for members of either gender.

As females grow up in our culture, they are taught not to be confrontational—not to make a scene or be aggressive or pushy. Although in the 18 years since the first edition of this book was published, women have become more assertive in their language, they still struggle against the label and perception of aggressiveness. They still want to be considered “nice.”

So how do they express opposition to an idea? Often they use questions to redirect someone’s thinking.

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