communication styles

Dianna L. Bourke dlb17 at PSU.EDU
Wed Feb 21 13:51:38 EST 1996

>       It seems to me that what
>     occurred here is just the type of male-female communication problem
>     that Deborah Tannen discusses in her books.  That is, Ed McNalley's
>     initial criticism of this group was that (please correct me if I
>     misinterpret) he was seeking specific information and that instead of
>     providing information the group spent most of its time complaining.
>     On the other hand, the women posters resonse was that this is the kind
>     of useful discussion that we as women need and desire.  According to
>     Tannen, the former (seeking and imparting information) is one of the
>     main objects of conversation for men, whereas the purpose of
>     conversation for women is connection and validation.

It's funny, but this morning I was thinking just that myself. I was
thinking I might post such a comment, but I was afraid I might start
another flame war. Since Margaret has started the ball rolling, I will pick
up on it.

A few years ago, I initiated and became the faculty mentor for a WISE
(Women in Science and engineering) group at our campus. I got on the WISE
list serve and started lurking LOOKING FOR "USEFUL" INFORMATION. At the
time I had  very specific goals and I was led to believe that the list
would address those needs. As it turned out, the list was pretty touchy
feely and everyone went to great lengths to let their psyches hang out.
Also, the list seemed to be dominated by just a few people who obviously
just did not have enough to do or had their fingers Superglued to the reply
button. Now there is nothing wrong with this, except it was not what I had
expected. At the time, I was very busy and the 50+ posts a day about such
things as "why it was so horrible that Mattel had made a Barbie doll that
said Math is Hard" kind of got to me. I fired off a couple of messages
asking whether the list would ever discuss things such as fellowships,
scholarships or networking matters and was either ignored or flamed (albeit
gently). So my reaction was much like Ed's. Eventually I unsuscribed and
have wondered ever since if I am missing something important by doing so.

But, here is my question. In reference to the Deborah Tannen stuff, I think
I have become much more of a hybrid between male and female communication
(and life) styles. I can dish with the best of them, but eventually I WANT
validation, some of my womenfriends, most of who are in science related
fields, seem content to let certain issues roll around in their lives until
the end of time and I find this frustrating. If I am in a meeting, I always
want to get straight to the point and resolve the issue at hand and wonder
of wonders, come out with some sort of "action plan." Have I developed a
"male" communication style and life attitude because of so many male
influences in my life? I started out with my father and two strong brothers
and have had many male advisors, although my dissertation advisor was a
female. What do you think?

Dianna L. Bourke
Penn State Hazleton

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