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Genderlect Styles - Deborah Tannen

Communication Theory

Wendy Beswick

on 28 June 2013

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Transcript of Genderlect Styles - Deborah Tannen


Presented by: Wendy Beswick

Defining the Genderlect Styles Theory
What is Genderlect?
The Cultural Context of Men and Women
Rapport Talk vs. Report Talk
Types of Talk
1. Telling a Story
- Stories highlight visions, desires and values.

Women: Rarely tell stories because they mostly highlight something good they did as an individual. This contradicts their desire to build a sense of community. In the event that women do tell a story, it will most likely be about others. If it is a story where they are a central feature, women will portray themseleves as not having acted intelligently.
Why? By doing this, women are able to 'level the playing field' with others, and move more towards acheiving that connection and support they desire through rapport talk.

Men: More often tell stories than women do. The stories portray men in a heroic light and allow them achieve that 'one-up' and status in conversations. Humor and jokes in stories that men tell, also allow them to achieve the desired 'can-you-top-this' feeling that Tannen describes they strive for.
Why? Stories of grandeur, heroism and humor elicits laughter and status: the goal of men in their conversational style.

Rapport Talk vs. Report Talk
Types of Talk - Asking Questions

This clip from Disney's movie 'Cars' shows us the cultural difference between males and females report and rapport talk when asking questions.
Deborah Tannen is an author, University Professor and Linguistics Professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
Genderlect is the term used to suggest that masculine and feminine discourse are distinct cultural dialects. The term assumes that the conversational styles adopted by males and females are equal, and neither way is superior or inferior to the other.
What will we examine?

Definition of Genderlect
The cultural context of men and women
Rapport Talk and Report Talk
Types of Rapport and Report Talk
What causes the differences?
Cross-cultural conversations. Is it possible?
Other types of Rapport and Report talk.
Deborah Tannen
Why should we believe Tannen's theory?
Deborah Tannen is an author of non-scholarly books, scholarly books and articles. Her publications of scholarly works number over 100.
Her works have won her many
awards and have also landed her
on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
The clip at the end relates to masculinity, report talk and asking questions, in two ways.

Firstly, asking questions reduces men's self-worth and self sufficiency. Secondly, they no longer have that 'one-up' they strive to maintain in the conversations. (How can pepper spray to the eye and a taser to the thigh emit masculinity?)
1. Appointed as University Professor in the College of Arts and Science at Georgetown University
2. Member of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation Board.
3. Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California.
4. Princeton University's Distinguished Lecturer.
5. Residence at the Insitutute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.
5. Recipient of five honorary Doctorates.
Why should we believe Tannen's theory?
Tannen's credentials:
What causes the differences?
Men and women engage in conversation where they expect only their own style of communication to be used. That is '
' for women and '
' for men.
Men and women rarely appreciate the different conversational styles between each other.
Not all women adopt a cultural context in conversation that seeks connection. Depending on their own culturalization they may adopt a 'status' style achieved through report talk and vice versa. The roles are not definitive.
In conversations, women strive for connection, through
rapport talk
, while men strive for status, through
report talk
Rapport and Report Talk
Rapport talk is the cultural style adopted by women seeking to achieve connection with others in conversation. The aim of rapport talk is to create relationships as well as a sense of belonging for those in the relationship. The subject of rapport talk is more intimate in nature.
Report talk is the cultural style of men whereby their conversations are monologic. The purpose is to achieve attention, provide information and get a 'one-up' and win arguments. Report talk is central on content, noteably public affairs. Example, the economy, politics and sports. This conversational style allows men to discuss their knowledge on a topic providing them with status.
2. Private Speaking v. Public Speaking

Women: Tend to avoid discourse in public. They speak less than men, when they do talk in a public setting. Women are more comfortable talking in personal or small group settings where they can more easily achieve a sense of community.

Men: More comfortable than women, talking in a public setting. Even in private conversations, men seek to dominate.
Rapport Talk vs. Report Talk
Types of Talk
Rapport Talk vs. Report Talk
Types of Talk
3. Asking Questions

Women: Asking questions provides connection, regardless of the length of time connection occurs. In the event that women make statements or give opinions, they will use '
tag questions
' at the end. Tag questions promote dialogue rather than a possible disagreement. Example, "I love that new store in Springs Mall, do you?"
Men: Seek to 'save face' by not asking for help. They engage in self 'face-restoration' which is a facework strategy "used to preserve autonomy and defend against loss of personal freedom," as defined by Stella Ting-Toomey.
Rapport Talk vs. Report Talk
Types of Talk
4. Listening

Women: During conversations women maintain eye contact, nod and use other affirmative reponses. By engaging in this kind of behavior, women show compassion and express overtly, that they are actively involved in the conversation. '
Cooperative overlap
' is that supportive interrupution during a conversation. Cooperative overlap shows agreement, camararderie and solidarity with the speaker. This is rapport talk that supports connection.

Men: Active listening downplays or reduces a man's status. For men, when someone interrupts them, they view the move as an attempt to gain a 'one-up' on their conversation and de-stabilize their status and masculinity.
The difference in telling a story between men and women' is shown in this 'Friends' Clip.
5. Conflict

Women: Try to avoid conflict which denegrates connection.

Men: Confilct is like a competiton for men, where they can build on their status and achieve a 'one-up.' Men are less inclined to enagage in self-retrospect when conflict arises.
Women can learn to be more aggressive and commanding like men, whereas men can learn to be more conscious and sympathetic like women . This shows that despite behaviors that may indicate otherwise, both genders are more cognizant of the conversational styles of the other than we may think.
Cross-Cultural Conversations.
Is it Possible?
The creator of the 'Genderlect Styles' theory, Deborah Tannen summarizes our discussion on the charactersitics of this theory, in a video which presents her findings. Studies were conducted among varying age groups supporting the differences between men and women's conversational styles.
"You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation"
Number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller for 8 months.
Translated into 31 languages
Highlights communication differences between genders.
"You Were Always Mom's Favorite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout their Lives"
New York Times Bestseller
Books for a better life Award
Feature on ABC's 20/20 program.
Feature on NPR Morning Edition
"The Argument Culture: Stopping America's War of Words"
Common Ground Book Award
.....and many more.
Em Griffin, Author of 'A First Look at Communication Theory' deems Tannen's theory to fall in the midpoint between objective and interpretative. One reason for this may be the use of the '
aha factor
' in examining conversational styles. The '
aha factor
' is defined by Griffin as "the subjective standard ascribing validity to an idea that resonates with one's own personal experience". But then again, how else could we test this theory? Only male and female genders exist. In my opinion, Tannen's theory at the onset, could only be grounded on personal experience.
Other views on the accuracy of Tannen's theory state that her omission of control, power, dominance, sexism and other other key characteristics of genders is wrong. This view posits that by doing so, it paints a false picture of communication between men and women.
What causes the differences?
Trouble Talk:

Women: Enagage in empathetic listening in conversations about problems to show solidarity with the speaker.

Men: Are dismissive and minimize the actual seriousness of problems.
Indirect and Direct Communication

For intimate and self-disclosing topics, women are more expressive and direct in their conversation. Men use indirect talk and provide minimal input in conversations of this nature, especially when their own weaknesses and shortcomings are being discussed. Alternatively, some situations will see the use of direct and indirect talk reversed when used by men and women. Example, when an order is being given, men will use direct language while women will be more indirect.
Other types of Rapport and Report Talk
Other types of Rapport and Report Talk
Full transcript