Difference Model

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Status vs. support

  • Men grow up in a world in which conversation is competitive - they seek to achieve the upper hand or to prevent others from dominating them
  • For women, however, talking is often a way to gain confirmation and support for their ideas
  • Men see the world as a place where people try to gain status and keep it
  • Women see the world as a "network of connections seeking support and consensus"
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Independence vs. intimacy

  • Women often think in terms of closeness and support, and struggle to preserve intimacy
  • Men, concerned with status, tend to focus more on independence
  • These traits can lead women and men to starkly different views of the same situation
  • Professor Tannen gives the example of a woman who would check with her husband before inviting a guest to stay - because she likes telling friends that she has to check with him
  • The man, meanwhile, invites a friend without asking his wife first, because to tell the friend he must check amounts to a loss of status
  • Often, of course, the relationship is such that an annoyed wife will rebuke him later
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Advice vs. understanding

  • Tannen claims that, to many men, a complaint is a challenge to find a solution:

"When my mother tells my father she doesn't feel well, he invariably offers to take her to the doctor. Invariably, she is disappointed with his reaction. Like many men, he is focused on what he can do, whereas she wants sympathy."

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Information vs. feelings

  • Historically men's concerns were seen as more important than those of women, but today this situation may be reversed
  • The giving of information and brevity of speech are considered of less value than sharing of emotions and elaboration
  • From the viewpoint of the language student, no value judgment is made regarding purposes and topics in speech
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Orders vs. proposals

  • Women often suggest that people do things in indirect ways - "let's" or "why don't we?" or "wouldn't it be good if we?"
  • Men may use, and prefer to hear, a direct imperative
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Conflict vs. compromise

"In trying to prevent fights, some women refuse to oppose the will of others openly. But sometimes it's far more effective for a woman to assert herself, even at the risk of conflict."

  • This situation is easily observed in work situations where a management decision seems unattractive
  • Men will often resist it vocally, while women may appear to accede, but complain subsequently

"Learning the other's ways of talking is a leap across the communication gap between men and women, and a giant step towards genuine understanding"

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