Many works have been devoted to the differences in communication between people. It has been proved that such factors as the interlocutors’ education or the status of the relationship influence people’s utterances. Furthermore, linguists claim that also biological sex influences the choice of language people use to communicate with each other. In discourse on different ways of communication of males and females, linguists have resigned with the term “sex” replacing it by the “gender” which refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and the attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. For most academics gender communication focuses on the expressions used by one gender in the relationships and roles between people. First of all, men and women approach communication with a distinct set of rules and interpretations of talk. While men focus on status and independence, women in the same time focus on intimacy and connection and this difference might make communication between the sexes problematic.
Deborah Tannen states that “communication between men and women can be like cross cultural communication, prey to a clash of conversational styles” (Tannen, 2001). In a similar manner to Tannen, John Gray (1992) presents theory that women use a lot of artistic words expressions like metaphors, comparisons or generalizations in their speech which men understand literally causing miscommunication between the sexes. He also states that men are more direct and straight in their speech. However he declares that in addition to a communication difference, there is a difference in thinking, feeling, perception, etc. Jennifer Coates (1986) wrote about her studies involving gender separated discussion groups. From her observations she noted that women reveal a lot about their private lives in their conversations, stick to one topic for a long time, let all speakers finish their sentences and try to have everyone participate.
In contrast, men discussed things other than their personal relationships and feelings, change topics frequently, dominate conversations and establish a hierarchy in communication over time. The influence of gender differences begins very early in childhood and can shape the communication of style of the adult (Tannen, 2001). Studies on children show that there are language differences between boys and girls as early as nursery. Tannen highlights differences in the way young girls and boys use language in childhood, stating that girls make requests, use language to create harmony and use more words while boys make demands, create conflict and use more actions.
The differences in adults are thought to stem from influences in childhood such as parents and playtime tools. In the first few years of life girls are more used to physical touch by their mothers during childhood compared with boys. Women therefore use touch to express caring, empathy and emotions. In contrast, men regard touch as way to communicate sexual interest, orders, and as a symbol of control. Men are more competitive and verbally assertive due to childhood influences of toys such as guns and swords. Summing up, person’s communication skills in addition to being partially genetic are therefore also shaped by factors such as society and culture.