In 1992, relationship counselor John Gray wrote the highest-ranked work of non-fiction of the 1990s: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Gray drew criticism from every corner, primarily because he lacked credentials. Few thought his communication courses in psychology had prepared him to assert that most problems between men and women occur because of fundamental psychological differences between people who have acclimated to their own planet’s society and customs but not to those of the other.
After the book spent 121 weeks on the bestseller list, the verdict was in. However, the court of public opinion sided with Gray and against his many critics. The author was right: men and women differ, and that causes communication breakdowns. More than a quarter of a century later, we understand a little more—but not enough more. What differences exist, and so what? What does the research show?
Differences In Communication
- Women make fewer grammatical errors.
- Men talk more in mixed groups.
- Women use “tag” questions (Don’t you think?) more, which weakens their statements.
- Men introduce and change topics more often, often taking control of conversations.
- Women smile more, often when not happy.
- Men interrupt women and each other more often.
- Women have more eye contact.
- Men stare more, sometimes intimidating their listeners.
- Women nod more, even when they disagree.
- Men are usually more still while speaking.
- Women touch their hair and face more often, a gesture that can imply a lack of confidence.
The best way to improve communication is to be more receiver-oriented and harmonious in your word and non-word messages. When people of either sex experience a disconnect between what their ears hear and what their eyes see, they will believe their eyes.When people of either sex experience a disconnect between what their ears hear and what their eyes see, they will believe their eyes. Read more about gender differences in communication: Click To Tweet
Therefore, when people smile when they aren’t happy, nod when they disagree, interrupt, and violate personal space, they confuse and often insult their listeners. Similarly, when people allow themselves to be interrupted and confused, they gamble with communication effectiveness. Statements like: “I’m not finished” and “I’m confused” go a long way to strengthening both efficacy and outcomes.
John Gray didn’t get it all right, but he did make us examine how we communicate with each other and why we so often fail in our attempts. Psychologists hadn’t done as much to send the message that we cannot not communicate, but we can learn to communicate more successfully.