He Speaks, She Speaks

A gender communication specialist unravels the mystery of how men and women communicate.

Men Play It Safe in Conversation

Men play it safe in conversation.

The topics of conversation chosen by men tend to be "safe" topics, such as work, sports and financial matters. Men's speech tends to revolve around external things and usually involves factual communication, not his feelings or inner thoughts. In contrast, women will incorporate more person-centered topics and initiate interpersonal matters. Her speech is more apt to deal with feelings than men's topics of conversation. As Brown and Nelson (2009) suggest, "Women talk about everything and anything. You name it. Women will reveal their insecurities, their latest diet, the trials of their uterus, their dreams and the list goes on. Any topic is fair game. Two women strangers sitting next to each other on a two-hour plane ride will arrive at their destination knowing how many children each has, their marital troubles, any school dilemmas, and what kind of birth control they each use" (p. 42).

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Psychologist Dr. Judith Tingley (1994) once described the differences in women and men's conversation topics. It stemmed from a sailing lesson she took with four men and a male instructor. In Tingley's words, "The majority of the conversation centered on business and money. There was no discussion of people, feelings or relationships. No one mentioned a wife, a child, a brother or sister, a mother or father. The conversation was almost totally about each individual man and what he had done or seen or been, relative to sports, business or money. Men are private about anything having to do with relationships, feelings and emotions. They usually only disclose to significant others the private aspects of their lives" (p.24).

This is an excerpt for Audrey's upcoming co-authored book with Claire Damken-Brown PhD, The Gender Communication Handbook: Conquering Conversational Collisions between Men and Women(Wiley & Sons) due to be released March 2012.

Audrey Nelson is an international corporate communication consultant, trainer, author, and keynote speaker.

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