Have you wondered where our conflict styles come from? How influenced are they by sex role norms? Below is a list of considerations for both men and women. Remember there are individual differences as well as gender differences. You might not "fit" these norms. But the chances that most of the people around you do resonate with these norms is great. 

  • Female. Girls tend to play cooperatively, negotiating relationships to ensure that everyone is included and has a role. Playing “nice” is the goal. A Wall Street Journal (1994, December 5) article talked about awards given to five-year-old kindergarten students in the Midwest. The awards designated for the girls were “Biggest Heart,” “Best Helper,” and “All-Around Sweetheart.”
  • Male. In contrast, boys play rougher and louder (ask any elementary school teacher). Boys are more physical.
  • Female. At a very young age, girls exhibit caretaking behaviors. If someone falls and gets hurt, the girls will gather around that person to soothe and comfort them. Social maintenance will be shared among girls, taking care not to hurt feelings or leave anyone out of a game.
  • Male. Boys learn to connect through play banter. Challenging each other is the game boys play out daily on the playground and in the classroom. Boys begin to compete with each other in every arena. Play fighting and challenging is where competitive skills begin to form.
  • Female. Girls are rewarded for social skills, such as getting along well with others and not making waves. Being agreeable, avoiding confrontation, and helping the group cooperate are the goals for girls.
  • Female. When girls get upset with others, they will use social currency as retribution. Ostracizing and excluding others is one of the most common practices among girls.
  • Male. Boys tend to express dissatisfaction and conflict directly. You will hear boys say, “I don’t like you” or “Don’t do that.” It may also be accompanied by a push or shove.
  • Female. Girls will more often acquiesce to others rather than challenge an emerging leader. There is an “alpha” girl type who exhibits dominance, and other girls will quickly defer to her.
  •  Male. Often the more a boy objects to something, the louder he becomes. It is common for boys to display dissatisfaction by loud outbursts such as “No,” “Leave me alone,” or “Stop that.”

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


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