Desiree Barrett '08
B.S. Elementary Teaching
Parents at Lake State
March is National Women’s History Month, celebrated on campuses, in offices and in K-12 classrooms everywhere. What better time to talk about some of the gender communication differences between males and females? It can help you interact more positively and productively with your student.
Understanding communication styles and preferences, based on gender, can increase positive interactions and decrease misunderstanding. There are some general rules of thumb when it comes to verbal and nonverbal communication. Of course, not all men will communicate one way and not all women will communicate another. These are just some general differences that you may see.
- Women speak less often and talk less time per turn
- Women often state ideas tentatively, using qualifiers and disclaimers
- Women wait their turn to speak so talk can be shared among equals
- Women’s talk focuses heavily on people, feelings and daily events
- Women tend to rely on requests
- Women ask questions to invite others into the conversation and show interest in others’ ideas
Women’s Nonverbal Behaviors
- Women establish more eye contact
- Women use more facial expressions to convey emotion
- Women rely on more closed body positions
- Women use fewer gestures
- Women touch others less, value touch more and are touched more by others
- Women use more nonverbal cues of intimacy, like what a communicator is feeling, to include and nurture others
- Men talk more frequently and longer per turn
- Men state ideas assertively and forcefully
- Men interrupt or speak over others to assert themselves and their role
- Men’s talk focuses on actions, events and themselves
- Men often give orders
- Men ask questions that challenge the speaker or assert their own position
Men’s Nonverbal Behaviors
- Men establish less eye contact
- Men use fewer facial expressions to convey emotions
- Men rely on more open body positions
- Men use more gestures
- Men touch others more, value touch less and are touched less by others
- Men use more nonverbal cues of power or status to indicate a degree of influence or control
Bridging the gender gap through increased understanding can lead to a better connection with your student.
Sources: The Supervisor’s Journal 2005-06 by Laura Dicke, PaperClip Communications; “Gender and Communication in the Not-So-9 to 5 Student Affairs Workplace,” NASPA presentation, 2000.