Communicating Effectively: Gender Differences in Communication: Fact or Fiction?

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus

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“Men and women come from different planets and they will never learn how to communicate or speak the same language.” Dina made this remark at a business luncheon. Her female colleagues agreed. Fred was less certain, but Jonathan said, “Even Freud never figured out what a woman wants.”

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Recently a great deal of attention has been focused on how males and females differ in the way they use language. Books on the subject are being bought at an astonishing rate, and more and more people are beginning to believe that some unbridgeable communication chasm will forever hinder real understanding between men and women. The authors of these books maintain that gender differences in communication stem from biological, cultural, and social forces that have shaped the use of language into different forms for men and women. Some writers have gone so far as to suggest that the use of language is so dissimilar between the sexes that men and women may as well have come from totally different planets!

These authors assert that men use language as a tool for solving problems whereas women use language as a tool for increasing social intimacy. They maintain that men approach social and interpersonal relationships from the standpoint of hierarchy and dominance and tend to compete more than cooperate. Women are said to view relationships and social structure from the perspective of community and consensus and tend to cooperate instead of compete with one another. Thus, when a woman communicates a problem to a man, the typical male response is to try to solve it and he is likely to say, “This is what you can do about it.” When a man expresses a problem to a woman, the typical female response is to try to empathize and she is likely to say, “How do you feel about it?” These basic differences are said to explain the majority of misunderstandings and communication breakdowns that plague many heterosexual relationships.

It is our view that while some of these assertions may be based on a thin layer of truth, like all generalizations and stereotypes, they crumble under the weight of individual differences. If a valid study of gender differences in communication has ever been conducted, we haven’t seen it. Thus, there is no way to know how many men are basically non competitive and nurturing and how many women are motivated by dominance and status. Indeed, those numbers are changing every day; the role women play in today’s world and work force differs markedly from that which prevailed twenty years ago.

People are not slaves to their biology nor pawns on the elaborate chess board of society. Effective communication is a skill that can be mastered by men and women alike. When you come right down to it, we are all human beings and the psychological similarities between individual men and women far outweigh any real or imagined differences.

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Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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