It can be really frustrating communicating with someone that you just don’t understand where their logic is coming from. A lot of people point to gender differences as one of those annoying disconnects between people.
There’s the classic toupe, “men speak in facts, women speak in feelings”
In this article, I will be exploring the nuances of communication differences between men and women. I’ll be sharing some surprising facts and research that might change how you view communication between the sexes.
Does Gender Affect communication?
Gender has always played a unique role in communication. Studies have found men will speak differently to one another, than with the opposite sex. In general men and women have different communication styles that they learn growing up and can affect how they talk to others.
This difference comes from our upbringing (socialization), biological differences, and personal preferences.
In a paper by Jessica Cinardo, from the Coastal Carolina University, she stated:
In short, the research gathered provides evidence that males and females are constructed by society in different ways, causing these differences to be reflected in their means of communication. Before society shapes males and females, each individual’s brain is already developed depending on that person’s sex.
Every person is unique, and gender isn’t the only determining factor in how someone communicates, but it does play a role.
How Men And Women Communicate Differently
Our society promotes certain attributes in men and women at a young age. Culture uses colors, toys, hobbies, and social norms to teach men and women to act a certain way.
One of the things we learn is the different communication styles.
That is why many men communicate in one style (masculine style), and women in another (feminine Style). The following is a list of attributes for each of the gendered communication styles:
Masculine Communication Style
Feminine Communication Style
Use speech to accomplish goals
Informative and suggests solutions
Talk more and at greater length
More likely to interrupt
Direct and assertive
Show support for others
Express sympathy and understanding
Questions things often
Invites others to speak
Establish equality between people
Emotional and connective
I really like this video by Michael Grinder, a communication specialist who talks about gender differences in communication:
Most men will speak with a Masculine communication style and most women with a Feminine.
But the two communication styles are not fixed to biological gender.
Some men are taught a more feminine communication style through their single mother, or their personality traits tend towards a different style.
I have seen a big shift in which communication style I use throughout my lifetime.
When I was younger I had a very feminine communication style (though I identify as a man). I was a very emotional teenager and young adult. My father was also pretty absent, and I learned a lot of social behaviors through my mom.
In my 20’s I saw people would step all over me if I didn’t have strong masculine boundaries. Over time I picked up the skills and became more Masculine in my communication style.
Now in my mid 30’s I am trying to integrate these different styles and utilize them when they are more appropriate for the situation. It helps me view my life as more artful and these are just tools in painting a beautiful connection with my partner and others.
In the rest of this article, I will be looking at where the differences in communication style come from and how they play a role in your life.
Where does your Communication Style come from?
You might have a Masculine Communication style or Feminine style. A question you might have is how and why did you learn that way of communicating? And where did the differences between Masculine and Feminine communication styles even come from?
How you communicate comes from a complex web of biology, society, and culture. The following is a list of factors that have led to the delineation between these two styles of communicating.
Our society promotes certain attributes in men and women at a young age. Actually, as soon as they are born.
Society uses things such as colors, toys, hobbies, and social norms to teach men and women to act a certain way. We learn to communicate in the same way – through examples from the world around us.
A study at DePaul University found a big correlation between how someone was socialized and how they communicated their emotions.
“Environmental factors also have an important influence on affect expression. Thus, to understand the development of emotion communication, one must consider how it is socialized or shaped in the course of the child’s interactions with other members of society.” – Author Linda A. Camras
Your upbringing has a huge effect on how you communicate.
How you were treated and socialized because of your gender has a big impact.
Many girls are taught to be polite, quiet, and attentive. While boys are more likely to be rewarded for being outspoken and brash.
These learned social skills are more impactful than the actual gender. A woman that grows up in a family that is very outgoing will more likely be outgoing, than a man that grows up in a family of quiet introverts.
2. Cultural differences affect communication
The unique culture you grow up in also affects your communication style. There is the culture at a macro level (American culture), and micro-level (family and community).
What one culture could see as Masculine another might see as Feminine. For instance, in New England, I was taught that intelligence and kindness were the ideals for a man. When I later moved to the South, the culture there saw Masculinity as more rough, stoic, and assertive.
This meant that when I was in the south I was seen as less masculine and more feminine in how I communicated.
Your cultural upbringing can have a big impact on how you communicate. The flip side of this the current culture you are in might view the traits of Masculine and Feminine differently.
The culture you consume also plays a big role. The movies you watch, books you read, and stories you tell will define your own Masculine and Feminine nature.
Another big factor in communication styles is Biology. Male bodies have a higher amount of testosterone, which in turn has been linked to aggression, assertiveness, and logic-centered behavior.
A female body has higher estrogen which has been linked to more empathetic, emotional, and inclusive behavior.
A study by the University of Toronto has found that hormones have a big influence on our communication style.
It’s important to keep in mind that men have a wide range of hormones. Some have high testosterone and some have high estrogen. Everybody is unique and it’s more of a scale from one side to the other than a clear black and white.
The point is that your unique physical makeup does affect your thought process, communication, and way of expressing.
Gender differences in listening
There are two parts to communication, talking, and listening. To be good at communication, you need to be good at both of these.
There is a stereotype that Men are bad listeners.
In a study by Jack Zenger at Forbes Magazine, he found that women were only slightly better at listening skills than men.
Instead of thinking that men are “better” listeners, it’s helpful to realize that men and women just listen differently.
Men are more likely to be action-oriented listeners. In general, they pay more attention to information that is relevant to the current situation and help with action steps that can be taken.
Women on the other hand are more inclined to listen with a focus on the individual and their experience. They will listen and engage on a deeper emotional level and try to make the other person feel seen.
In this way, men and women are both great listeners, they just go about it differently.
Genders and nonverbal communication
Another important form of communication is nonverbal.
A study by West Virginia Department of Education found that women communicate more through nonverbal cues.
The study states:
Nonverbal gender differences are well established for a number of behaviors and skills showing (for example) that women use more smiling, nodding, gazing, and facial and gestural expressiveness, and smaller interpersonal distances, and that women excel on several kinds of accuracy (judging emotions and personality through nonverbal cues; remembering other people’s nonverbal cues and other people’s appearance).
Men do still use non-verbal cues, such as head movement, but they often do not use facial expressions.
How To Better Communicate With The Opposite Gender
There are a lot of differences between men and women when it comes to communication. These differences can be seen as a frustration, but the differences can also be leaned into to improve both partner’s life.
A good example is a man that hears their partner’s car break down. The first reaction might be for the man to talk about all the ways to fix the car, but the women just want a moment to feel heard/held around her frustration.
If that man only offered emotional support, the women might crave a clear instruction from him or someone else.
If the man only talks in facts, it can make the women feel unseen and emotionally abandoned.
So it’s more about reading where your partner is and helping find balance. If you are more masculine in communication, try and take a step back when listening and consider if the person would first want emotional connection before problem-solving.
Read More: What men look for in relationship
If you want to communicate better, try to understand where the other person is coming from first before you say anything.
The best thing you can ever say in a conversation is “How can I be of support to you at this moment?” That gives the other person the opportunity to ask for what they want and feel seen by your ability to listen.
Men and women communicate very differently and knowing those different styles can help you build a healthier relationship.
Not all men use a Masculine communication style, and not all women use a Feminine communication style, but understanding the difference between these two ways of communicating can help you understand where the other person is coming from.
Both men and women have the ability to be amazing communicators. They might approach it differently, but with effort, they can build the skills needed to be a great listener and communicator.
If you want to learn more about communication skills I highly suggest these two books. They are life-changing!
If you are interested in learning more about Masculinity, I have written these other articles you might find helpful: