Gender Communications Verbal and Non Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1620 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Communication

Gender Communication

Most people are aware of the potential personal and social conflicts associated with communications between genders. Many would say that the issue of gender communication, or in some cases miscommunication occurs because of the perceived power conflicts between the genders, (Kalbfleisch and Cody 6) as if one or the other member of the differing gender, has more or less privilege to speak than the other, in part due to their social identity, an issue fundamentally influenced by gender. Those who live every day conflicts, perceived as gender conflicts, will often tell you that the conflicts occur as result of the inability of one or the other gender party to listen and respond, this is especially the case when one person in the conversation speaks more than the other and assumes that the person not speaking is truly listening. In truth the issue of gendered communication is a very complicated issue, all of the factors above influence it and are worth exploration. This work will do this, as insight into the causes of potential and real everyday communication breakdowns that have some root in gender social identity are worth understanding, as understanding can breed true communication.

Gender, influences context, in a fundamental way and context that elicits a privilege to speak is often challenged by gender issues. This is true across both genders as there are situations and contexts where each gender feels more privileged to speak as women and men from very young ages clearly have differing interests and therefore different contexts of comfort, in which they are afforded permission, through internal or external cues to speak. (Trenholm, Chapter 4) The comfort level of the context in differing situations is clearly tied to the concept of gender roles and interests, though it may seem stereotypical a woman may be more traditionally comfortable in a context such as a social situation where the issue of cooking is the topic, while a man may be more comfortable in a context where business or finance is being discussed. It is therefore logical that gender helps determine the permissive context for either gender to be involved in communication. The situation above, though highly stereotypical may also self perpetuate as traditional roles are transgressed when a man speaks up in a social conversation about cooking and/or a women speaks up in a conversation about business or finance. The idea that one or the other gender has more or less knowledge about a given topic based on assumption clearly occurs and can stifle open communication and this can occur even when the context involves people who are known to have knowledge of the topic, even if it is contrary to a gender stereotype.

These investigators found that those with greater social power (Dovidio & Ellyson, 1985), expert power, or reward power (Dovidio, Brown, Heltman, Ellyson, & Keating, 1988; Dovidio, Ellyson, Keating, Heltman, & Brown, 1988), either male or female, in same-sex and mixed-sex groups, showed greater visual dominance behavior. Dominant behavior associated with expert power was further found to be mediated by "gender-based familiarity" with the topics of expertise: each sex exhibited more power in discussing topics related to its gender (Dovidio, Brown, et al., 1988).

Henley 39)

The cultural context of power is an extreme example of a motivating influence. In a contextual situation, such as that of slavery, where power is clearly defined in communication, it can influence and some would say even poison even the kindest hearted person. Take the example of this passage from The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass:

MY new mistress proved to be all she appeared when I first met her at the door, -- a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings. She had never had a slave under her control previously to myself, and prior to her marriage she had been dependent upon her own industry for a living...But, alas! this kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.

Douglass 19)

In this passage Douglass describes the manner in which the unbridled power of the slave system changed a kind hearted woman who had previously demonstrated equal treatment to slaves, with unrestricted eye contact, affirming their humanity had quickly traveled toward the line of cruel.

Conversely communication between genders may break down as a result of one or the other party speaking, without listening, as listening is one of the most important aspects of communication. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a message of the extreme nature of the destructive capability of speaking without listening is offered when Douglass describes the slave trade, "A single word from the white men was enough -- against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties -- to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings."

Douglass 27) Speaking without listening is often dictated by the emotional nature of the communication. One or the other party may be highly charged emotionally, as we often are in conversations with the opposite gender, and especially in conversations with opposite gender partners. The potential to construct the words of the other person, incorrectly, based on historical communication, and to do so wrongly, ascribing your own emotional belief based on a false sense of closeness is a dangerous pitfall in communication between women and men. In Trenholm chapter three she discusses ways to improve interpretation, the first of which is to control his or her emotion, without emotions in check, be they emotions of perceived slight or extreme emotions guided by cruelty and depravity communication is rarely understood. In a very informative book about gender communications one expert details the manner in which emotionally driven communication can create tension and change in a relationship, as a result of the couple trying to preserve peace.

A individuals begin to differentiate, meaning one or both members of the couple begin increasingly to focus on the self instead of the pair. The next stage, circumscribing, involves restricting communication to safe areas. During this stage, the couple talks less often, depth of substance is reduced, number of communication attempts decreases, and poisonous exchanges occur. Couples may not even be aware or may not wish to admit that a change in the relationship is occurring. The couple then begins to stagnate, meaning they operate on a nonintimate basis with many areas of communication closed off.

Payne 81)

Conversely, listening is a matter of active participation and though many people will refrain from speaking, either man or women, given the context comfort, the perceived permission or power level, they may or may not be actually listening during a conversation. Hasn't everyone been in a conversation where the speaker, simply speaks to speak and seems to have no concept of the desire of the other member(s) of the conversation to hear what is being said. This can be dictated by interest, which we have established are different for men and women or it could be dictated by many other issues, one of which is the silent individual does not feel valued in the context or conversation. The individual may feign to listen and then simply be unable to speak, and so the dominant speaker simply keeps talking, potentially creating the same sort of error that occurs in the second premise when one speaks without listening, simply because there is no one else engaged in the active part of the conversation. From this two partied, one-sided communication either the listener or the speaker can learn… [END OF PREVIEW]

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