He Speaks, She Speaks

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

Trick Questions

Is it a Statement, Question or Tag Question?

Lakoff (1990) coined the term tag question . A brief examination of the anatomy of a question is warranted by examining how a statement, question, and tag question compare. Here is an example of the distinction between the 3 forms of speech:

Statement: I need the report tomorrow.

Question: Will the report be ready tomorrow?

Tag question: I need the report tomorrow. Can you do it?

Lakoff (1994) suggests that asking questions shows women’s insecurity and hesitancy in communication. Women’s speech is said to be more polite and considerate — the tag question is a case in point. It does not force agreement but rather is solicitous and democratic. However, the tag question can become a sort of Pandora's box. Now she has opened up the potential for denial of the request. Is there a place for the tag question? Yes, when a woman wants to hear another opinion or input. Are there situations when a tag question may be inappropriate? Yes, when there are no ifs, ands, or buts and something must get done, or if the woman has a strong opinion or perspective. For women, potentially the tag question can become a burden because it is vague. In the final evaluation, women should ask, “ What is my goal?"

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Taken from: The Gender Communication Handbook: Conquering Conversational Collisions between Men and Women (Pfeiffer 2012) Audrey Nelson PhD )co-author).

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

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