How to Be an Effective, Well-Rounded Communicator
Understand masculine and feminine-style communication to help your relationship.
Posted Feb 09, 2020
“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideas.” —Emma Watson, United Nations speech
Are you a more “feminine” or “masculine” communicator or a combination of both? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each type of communication?
Psychologist Benna Sherman writes that masculine-style communication “has as its typical purpose the exchange of information”, whereas feminine-style communication “has as its typical purpose the achievement of connection.” In addition, masculine communication tends to focus more on controlling the conversation (and relationship), task orientation, and problem-solving, while feminine communication prioritizes empathy of feelings and validation of relationships.
It is very important to point out that masculine and feminine communication styles are not gender specific. Many men and some women communicate in a more masculine style, and many women and some men communicate in a more feminine style. The most effective communicators tend to be skilled in both feminine and masculine styles of communication.
It is also important to emphasize that communication is largely a set of learned skills, and as such can be improved-upon, developed, and strengthened. However we each currently view ourselves as a communicator (with accompanying weaknesses and strengths), it is possible for us to learn and access our greater potential.
With this in mind, below are some key characteristics and potential drawbacks of masculine and feminine communication, with references from my books How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People and How to Communicate Effectively with Highly Sensitive People.
Characteristics of Masculine Style Communication — An individual with this style tends to show one or more of the following patterns:
- A. More power oriented (i.e. firm handshake, strong voice, declaring title or position, giving directions, orchestrating activity, stating rules).
- B. More self-oriented (i.e. “I will start by saying…”, “I think you should…”).
- C. More verbal-domination oriented (i.e. interrupting, imposing, correcting, teasing, pointing out weaknesses of others, etc.)
- D. More action oriented (i.e. some are the so-called “strong silent type” – saying few words but showing actions.)
- E. More goal and issue―solution oriented (i.e. informational, matter of fact, to the point communication).
Weaknesses and Failures of Masculine Style Communication
- A. When overly aggressive, overbearing and domineering, create destruction in relationships, family and society.
- B. When highly insensitive and impervious to others' pain and suffering, cause relational cut-offs and estrangement. Bring about separation and isolation.
- C. When overly self-oriented, it may become narcissistic.
- D. May be disconnected from, and unable to express genuine human emotions (with some exceptions – such as anger). May feel alienated from humanity.
Characteristics of Feminine Style Communication — An individual with this style tends to show one or more of the following patterns:
- A. More relational and human-connection oriented.
- B. More inquisitive and other-directed (i.e. “How’s everything going with you? I want to know”, “You look upset; do you want to talk about it?”)
- C. More affirming (i.e. “Yes,” “uh-huh”, “right”, engaging eye-contact, affirmative body language”).
- D. More validating of others’ thoughts and emotions, even when opinions differ (i.e. “I understand where you’re coming from,” “I appreciate you sharing your concerns.”)
- E. More humane. Even in formal or business-like situations, feminine-style communicators are likely to strike a personal note in conversation, such as saying “Thanks for meeting me, this must be a long day for you…” or “How’s everyone in your family?”
Weaknesses and Failures of Feminine Style Communication
- A. When overly empathetic, place greater emphasis on others’ priorities at one's own expense.
- B. May not be assertive enough to clearly express one’s own wants, needs, and feelings.
- C. When overly compliant (i.e. “too nice”), more likely to be controlled and dominated by a highly masculine communicator.
- D. When overly others directed, may lose a sense of one’s True Self.
Again, masculine and feminine communication styles are not gender-specific. Many highly effective communicators, both women and men, are adept at utilizing both masculine and feminine communication. They are strong and assertive when necessary, and sensitive and empathetic when important.
For tips on how to be a highly effective communicator and improve relationships, see references below.
© 2020 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
Ni, Preston. How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People — 2nd Edition. PNCC. (2006)
Ni, Preston. How to Communicate with Highly Sensitive People. PNCC. (2017)
Ni, Preston. Are You Highly Sensitive? How to Gain Immunity, Peace, and Self-Mastery!. PNCC. (2017)
Ni, Preston. How to Successfully Handle Narcissists. PNCC. (2014)
Allen, Mike, editor. Gender and Communication. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods. (2017)
DeFrancisco, Victoria P. Gender in Communication: A Critical Introduction. 3rd Edition. SAGE Publications. (2018)
Ivy, Diana K. GenderSpeak: Communicating in a Gendered World. 6th Edition. Pearson. (2011)
Richards, Rebecca. Diffusion of Concepts of Masculinity and Femininity. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. (2018)
Sherman, Benna. Relationship Maps: Masculine vs. Feminine Communication. Capitalgazette. (Jul 13, 2016)
Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. 12th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing. (2017)