Coates: Male vs. female conversations


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  • "Men pursue a a style of interaction based on power, while women pursue a style based on solidarity and support"
  • All-male groups of speakers tend to be hierarchal and establish dominant and submissive roles
  • Groups of women are more flexible and cooperative, drawing out reticent speakers and expressing affection and concern
  • Coates labelled these features "women's cooperative discourse"
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Women's cooperative discourse 1

Topic and topic development

  • women typically choose to talk about people and feelings rather than things
  • topics are developed slowly, building on others' contributions and arriving at consensus

Minimal responses

  • active listernership and support are signalled subtly rather than overtly


  • used to encurage discussion and to avoid appearing challenging or threatening



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Women's cooperative discourse 2


  • interrogative forms are used to encourage participation rather than to seek information


  • overlapping conversation aids cooperation and topic development
  • the evidence suggests that women and men do pursue different interactive styles and that men seek to dominate and control...
  • ...adversely women tend to offer support via minimal responses
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