Last September, I wrote a post about gender which prompted a response from Marc Leavitt. It was just too enjoyable to leave lurking in the comments, so with Marc’s kind permission, I post it again here. Over to Marc…
To posit an evolutionary predetermination for the way men and women speak is like saying that dogs bark and birds sing. I base it on nurture, not nature. Women speak like the English, and men, like Americans.
If my female editor wants me to fill in for a vacationing colleague, here’s the scenario:
She: “Hi Marc, how are you?”
Me: “Fine, Lois, how are you?’
She: “Pretty good. How was your Labor Day? Did it rain where you were?”
Me: “OK. No, it was cloudy.but it didn’t rain.”
She: “That’s good. We had a few sprinkles, but everything turned out OK. Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you that Nevin’s on vacation next week.”
Me: “Good for him.”
She: “I wanted to ask you, do you think you might be able to sub for him on the editorial page?”
Me: “Yeh, that’s no problem.”
She: “Oh, gee, thanks a lot! That’s great!”
Here’s the reverse:
Me: “Hi Lois, howyadoin’?
She: “OK, how are you? Did you have a nice weekend?”
Me: “Fine. Listen, Nevin’s on vacation next week. Can you sub for him?”
She: “Sure, no problem.”
Me: “Thanks a lot.”
This is one example of my experience in the way in which men and women differ in their exchanges, but I think the roles are due to socialization and longstanding tradition. Men are taught to get to the point right away, women, to set the scene before they make a request. I’m not implying better or worse, just different aspects of communication.
So what do you think? Is your reaction, “But Marc, you’re promulgating a stereotype here”? Or are you thinking, “Marc, you might have put your finger on something here”? And could Marc be right that, “women speak like the English, and men, like Americans”?
Some other posts on directness and indirectness: