in the pecking order. They enjoy the competitive process, e.g. men
like their debate opponents better afterwards; women tend to like any
challenger or debater less afterwards. If we fully recognize these
major differences between men and women, we can understand that
the man, trying to be helpful, offers his wife a solution to the problem
she is sharing; she gets mad because he seems to be assuming that
he could handle the problem better than she could. Besides, his giving
advice cut her off from telling all the details and her feelings! He can't
understand why she becomes mad at him after he tries to help, and
then he gets mad at her for being a "typical woman."
Womens ways of knowing
This is a serious communication problem. Women start more
conversations than men, ask more questions, attempt to put the other
person at ease more, are more supportive of the talker, and generally
take more responsibility for the overall social situation. These are
valuable, commendable skills. Men not only change the topic more but
they do 95% of the interrupting of women in mixed company. This is
observable chauvinism. Kohn (1986) points out that it would be very
regrettable if women, in the process of being liberated, became as
competitive and concerned with status (feeling superior?) as men are.
Males too can learn listening and empathy responding skills (chapter
13) and it will be a better world. Tannen (1990, 1993), Gray (1993),
and Elgin (1993) are all good sources of information and help in this
general area. Tannen (1994) concentrates on communication between
the sexes at work.
Men and women respond differently to new and challenging ideas.
The book, Women's Ways of Knowing, by Belenky, Clinchy,
Goldberger & Tarule (1986) describes a feminine learning style that
fits well with women's conversational style. Example: When women
hear a new or different idea, they set their doubts and disbelief aside
and tune in carefully to what the person is saying; they try to see it
from the other person's view point. Women try to understand the
other person's opinion as completely and deeply as possible; they
cognitively "go with them," wanting to hear the person's views and
understand why they think this way. Women seek to make sense of
the new idea, to grasp how it can be seen as accurate and useful. This
is certainly a "way of knowing" and could be called the "believing
approach." It involves empathizing with the speaker to cooperatively
assimilate the truth together, i.e. cooperating. Women effectively use
this same listening style when someone has a personal problem.