Posts tagged BBC

Say again? Men talk as much as women?

The news couldn’t be more shocking if it had been declared that the sky was green. A recent article by the BBC pointed out that the myth that women talk more than men is just that … a myth.

In Prattle of the sexes: Do women talk more than men?, BBC writer Claudia Hammond challenged the assertion repeated by a number of media outlets in connection with another story. Last year, neuroscientists revealed that they had discovered hormonal differences in the language centers of four-year-olds, which could explain why girls pick up language more easily. Mainstream media outlets ran from there, tying it to a much-quoted statistic rooted in mystery.

Men talk about as much as women

The BBC article also cites dozens of other studies that indicate no real difference between the number of words used by males and females. The most important and extensive was done a few years ago at the University of Texas. Researchers led by Psychiatry Department Chairman James Pennebaker learned that men and women use the same number of words during a given day. All these findings are vastly different from the widely-accepted rule of thumb that a woman uses 20,000 words daily compared to just 7,000 for her male counterpart?

So, aside from the obvious anecdotal evidence that women seem to spend more time interacting socially, how did this rumor start about women being three times more talkative than men? It seems the 20:7 figure is attributed to a dust jacket note from the 2006 book, The Female Brain by LouAnn Brizendine, a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who founded the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. Since then, she’s backed off the numbers and agreed to remove them from subsequent printings.

Back to the University of Texas study. While there is little difference in the number of words men and women use, Pennebaker indicates that there seems to be a difference in the content of their speech.

He does point out that women tend to jaw more about other people, whereas men are apt to hold forth on more concrete objects — so the stereotypes of ladies as gossips and guys engaging in car talk can live on.

Just as Brizendine’s book prompted the University of Texas study, Pennebaker’s work has spurred new research to settle the score about men and women and conversation. Here are some questions I’d like to see answered.

  • Do men spend more of their communication oriented on tasks (like at work) than in social settings?
  • Is the word count higher among women-only conversations than men-only, and do women dominate mixed gender conversations?
  • Are verbal interactions between husband and wife divided equally?

Maybe you could even ask yourself a question: How is your communication with your wife, or if you’re single, with your girlfriend or fiancée? It’s likely that you have very different communication styles, and are likely to talk about completely different things when you’re apart. Generally speaking, men tend to focus attention on ideas and activity, and women on relationships (report-talk vs. rapport-talk). But when you’re together, can you find enough common ground to communicate well and on the same plane? Are your communications the kind that build each other up and build toward a greater connectedness?

Communication is such an important aspect of the marriage union. Good communication almost always goes hand-in-hand with a good relationship.

One really helpful article I’ve found is by our friends at Power to Change (formerly FamilyLife Canada). You Make No Sense lays out the importance of listening and clarifying, recognizing communication differences, recognizing clichés, and learning to go deeper as you dialogue.

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