Will Manley is a retired librarian and city administrator, and author of several books. I have enjoyed reading his monthly column Will’s World in American Libraries for several years. I love his humorous commentary on library and life in general.
Four months ago he entered the blogosphere with Will Unwound. Today he posted an interesting topic on his blog: “Women and Men – Is there Really a Difference?”
He shared his own observations and asked several questions for readers to comment on.
He asked: Are women more verbal than men? If so why? Can you think of any anthropological or sociological reasons for this? What are women always talking about? Is there really that much in life to talk about so continuously and quickly? …
I found some of his responses to readers’ comments interesting:
“Not sure guys are as obsessed with happiness as women. Or maybe our definition of happiness is so much simpler than yours. What makes women happy…companionship, communication, validation, self esteem, cuddling, unconditional love. What makes men happy…tickets to the Super Bowl.”
“I grew up a huge sports fan, played all sports in high school and college, and then followed sports pretty closely. Then I stopped getting television service when I retired two and a half years ago, and now the only sport I care about is golf, which I play everyday. When I look back at my life one of the things I regret most is wasting so much time following sports. what good has it done me now? I would have been much better off reading through the Great Books starting with Homer and ending with Finnegans Wake. Who really gives a flip who won the ’93 Super Bowl?”
Understanding the difference between men and women has always been a very interesting topic for me.
Generally speaking, women are more verbal than men. But I know a guy in my circle of friends who is incredibly verbal, talkative, and knowledgeable. He can talk non-stop and talk about all kinds of things: sports, politics, history, current events, famous people, etc. What I couldn’t understand was why guys like my friend always talk about such topics that are so remote and have nothing to do with their own lives. How can you get to know your friends on a deeper level without talking and sharing about yourselves?
We women like to talk about things related to our own daily lives, through heart to heart conversations about our experiences, challenges, happenings, good or bad, we establish deeper friendship and relationship with each other.
I got a better understanding about the men-women differences after I read Deborah Tannen’s book “That’s Not What I Meant: How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Your Relations with Others.”
According to Tannen, men tend to communicate at the information level, and women at the relationship level. Men tend to focus on the message (information conveyed by the meaning of words) and women on the metamessage (what is communicated about relationships). It’s not what you said but the way that you said it.
Communication is motivated by our universal human needs – the conflicting needs to be connected to others and to be left alone/separated, to be involved and to be independent, to have safety and to have freedom, to show solidarity and to show power.
Communication is always a matter of balancing these conflicting needs. Communication will never be perfect, because whatever we do to serve one need necessarily violates the other need. In addition, we have different conversational styles.
Women have a relatively greater need for involvement, and men a relatively greater need for independence.
Women are more attuned to metamessage because they are more focused on involvement, on relationships among people. It is through metamessages that relationships are established and maintained.
Differences between male and female can be observed in girls and boys. Girls play in small groups or pairs. Their social life centers around a best friend. Friendships are made, maintained and broken by talking.
Boys tend to play in larger groups, often outdoor. They spend more time doing things than talking.
To women, the relationship is working as long as they can talk things out. To men, the relationship isn’t working out if they have to keep working it over.
The assumptions about what’s interesting are different.
Women like to tell/hear details of her daily life or the lives of other people, not because the details are important in themselves, but because the telling of them proves involvement – that you care about each other, that you have a best friend.
Men tell facts about such topics as sports and politics or how things work.
When man and woman talk about relationships, he feels out of his element.
In conversations, women pay attention to what is said and how, men pay attention to scientific explanations and facts.
Men and women have different expectations.
Men think like this: After all this time, we should be able to tell each other what we want. Women think like this: After all this time, you should be able to know what I want without my telling you.
Problems arise when we assume and expect the opposite sex should think, feel or act the way we do.
We must realize that men and women are different. We can not change others to suit our needs. Instead we need to adjust our behavior and make compromises to meet each other’s needs.
Acknowledging, understanding and accepting our differences are the first step in improving communication and relationships.