He Speaks, She Speaks

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

Direct to Least Direct: How Does She Ask the Question?

The relationship between gender and language is complicated and complex.

A useful polite strategy that women employ is the lengthening of requests. Women usually accomplish this with the incorporation of particles (will you, please, won ’ t you). The shorter the request, the more force it conveys. Inherent in the most - direct request is an implied threat for noncompliance, and it is usually reserved for speakers of superior status. Some might argue that when a woman lengthens the request, she weakens it. Compliance might become questionable. However, the more - direct style may be perceived as a command and met with resistance because it is perceived as less respectful.

An example of most direct, “ Get me the report, ” gradually becomes less direct with length and politeness: “ Will you get the report ” or “ Will you please get the report. ” Examples of an extreme compounding of indirectness and politeness might be, “ It would be helpful, if you are not too busy and could spare the time, to get me the report. ”

The relationship between gender and language is complicated and complex. Men and women assume different roles, which are reflected in their linguistic choices. Despite these sex differences, communication can be satisfying and successful between men and women. The key is to develop a kind of gender cultural competence.

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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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