Wednesday, July 25, 2007

who talks more: men or women?

Linguist Deborah Tannen, who distinguishes between men's "report-talk" (talk to convey information) and women's "rapport talk" (talk to build relationships) gives us her talk-take on the recent journal Science article that measured the number of words spoken by men and women, in an opinion column earlier this month in the Washington Post. The research concludes that reports of women overtaking men by over-talking are greatly exaggerated (though the study, done on college students, has some limitations in generalizing to the public at large).

We agree with Tannen that the circumstances of increased talking represent a significant gender difference in public speaking: Women speak more in personal situations, men more in public venues. As Tannen summarizes: "Studies that find men talking more are usually carried out in formal experiments or public contexts such as meetings." Her article notes studies in which there's:

....an overall pattern of men speaking more. That's a conclusion women often come to when men hold forth at meetings, in social groups or when delivering one-on-one lectures. All of us -- women and men -- tend to notice others talking more in situations where we talk less.

Counting may be a start -- or a stop along the way -- to understanding gender differences. But it's understanding when we tend to talk and what we're doing with words that yields insights we can count on.

When do you tend to talk, and when do you tend to remain silent? What do you use your speaking opportunities to do: report or build rapport? It's a good speech-preparation exercise and something you may want to journal about or discuss with a trusted advisor, to make yourself aware of your choices when speaking opportunities arise.

Check out our sister blog, The Eloquent Woman, for more on giving great speeches and presentations and become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook.

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