He Speaks, She Speaks

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

Email Showdown

How men and woment email styles differ.

All of us experience a distinct style difference in our e-mail correspondence with men and women. Men’s e-mails, like their conversations, tend to be short, abbreviated, and to the point. A few of our favorite e-mails sent by men are one to three words: let’s do it, go for it, yup, Roger that, okay, done, no, yes, all systems go, and ditto. One could argue that men are even more to-the-point in e-mail than in speech. Men are goal- and task-oriented. In the man’s mind, shorter is better and e-mail is a tool for efficiency and nothing else.

Another aspect of e-mail reveals women as more process-oriented. While both sexes are focused on the same end result, each will express status differently: the woman describing the process and the man describing in a direct manner the end result or goal. The woman will often include details that the man considers unimportant and unnecessary.

Here is a case study from one of my clients that reflect an email explanation of the same case from both a woman and male attorney.

Her response:

I spoke with the SIU investigator to let him know that Mr. Insured has “lawyered up,” and the EUOs have been postponed. He told me that he received a certified letter “purported” to be from Mr. Insured, asking for copies of reports. He forwarded the letter to Ms. Client to forward to us for handling.

After I spoke with Mr. Investigator, I was wandering through Parties and realized that Mr. Independent Adjuster was the person I was supposed to contact, not Mr. Investigator. I advised Mr. Independent Adjuster of the “lawyering up” and Mr. Insured’s request for postpone of 30 days. Mr. Independent Adjuster may be in the hospital in 30 days. He has a suspected aorta aneurysm and will be having open heart surgery. He will keep us advised. Court reporter has been advised of postponement.

His response:

Mission accomplished.

Since women tend to use a facilitative communication style, seeking dialogue, they communicate by including details that can make an e-mail rich in facts and sometimes provide necessary background information. In contrast men, being more prone to a restricting style of communication, seem to feel one word or sentence is sufficient. If it answers the question and concern in one sentence, it works.

A study, “Yakity-Yak: Who Talks Back? An E-Mail Experiment,” conducted at California State University, Fullerton, asked the question, “Who talks more—men or women?” by analyzing gender differences in talking via electronic communication (Brajer & Gill, 2010). The researchers found that women used on average 26.9 percent more words than men

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

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