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10 Ways Men and Women Communicate Differently

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by: Susan Sherwood, Ph.D.
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For men and women, communication can be a very long drive, using different roads -- often to get to the same place.
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It's the middle of the day during a long drive. He's sitting at the wheel, cruising along. She's sitting in the passenger seat, reading, glancing up now and then at the passing scenery. Suddenly, she turns to him and cries, "Talk to me!"

She's not stir crazy; he's not ignoring her. They're just living the classic divide in communication between men and women. She's more discussion-oriented; he's all action. One reason for these differences stems from the way relationships develop during childhood.

Girls' friendships focus on making connections -- talk is essential to this process. Sharing secrets, relating experiences, revealing problems and discussing options are essential during girls' development. Boys generally take another approach to friendship. Their camaraderie is not less profound; it's just different. Buddy groups tend to be larger, focusing on activities rather than conversation.

This differentiation in youth leads to dissimilar communication styles in adulthood. Women communicate through dialogue, discussing emotions, choices and problems. Males remain action-oriented -- the goal of communication is to achieve something.

Research indicates that these are the general, even common, tendencies of men and women, but these divides are not absolute. There are certainly men who want to chat about their feelings and women who quickly tire of discourse. But one way to classify male-female interactions is to examine them through the lens of childhood: talk versus deeds. With that in mind, here is a list of 10 ways that (most) men and women communicate differently and how these differences affect their interactions [source: Tannen].

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