Friday, September 16, 2011

She said/he said/we said: how family talk sheds light on language and gender-- Georgetown Linguist Deborah Tannen

Sponsored by SU Communication & Rhetorical Studies, iSchool, Department of Linguistics, Women in Science and Engineering, and Women's and Gender Studies.

Everyone assumes everyone else thinks like them, and that if they don't, there is something wrong with them.
Men vs. women:  Why don't men stop to ask directions?  People assume that "You mean the same as I would mean in that circumstance."  So women stop, make a connection, and haven't lost anything by asking.  Men, on the other hand, lose power by asking, and besides, the other guy won't know either, but won't admit it, and they will get lost anyway.  (None of the interviewed women worried about being intentionally misdirected.)   Women tend to face one another when they speak, and lean in.  Men sit at angles--which could be perceived as disinterest in what the partner is saying.   However, it isn't the case that men don't care about connections, and that women are disinterested in power. 
Girls vs boys.  Girls tell each other secrets to negotiate closeness and connection; they also cannot tell a secret to someone they don't like.  Hence, cliques.   A boy's best friend is the one he does everything with, the one who will be on his side in a fight.  They negotiate who is good at what, and play fighting is very common.  Boys are sensitive to being put down or pushed around as these affect status.  (Don't tell me what to do).  But one-upsmanship can be fun!  Girls, on the other hand, often dislike braggarts.
Moms vs daughters:  Can't say anything to daughter, because its perceived as criticism.  Daughters think:  she's always criticizing.  This is true, but it's out of care.
Sisters:  Sisters are always compared, and there is a hierarchy. Intentions and abilities are important.  Often think issue is with content of what is said, but it is often how it said (direct, circuitous, ritual)/
In selecting a therapist, is gender important?  An effective therapist is aware of the differences and bias due to gender, and allows for it.
How much is nature vs nurture?  Combination of both.  Can tease some out by looking at cultural differences.  In every culture, boys fight for fun, whereas girls will fight because they are mad.  There are others who think all nature or nurture.  Men are more likely ot argue for biological, women to say cultural.
What about training salespeople?  Tell to make eye contact.  She would bet that successful salespeople. like the therapist, allows for differences, cross-cultural differences as well (e.g., Korean and American south will not look at folks with higher status in the eye)