Whether you call it Mars vs. Venus, Left Brain vs. Right Brain, or Men's Brains are made of little boxes; Women's brains are like wires, the general consensus is that men and women have different, often conflicting, communication styles. That difference in styles may be just the match to light the fire in a litigated divorce settlement, stopping resolution in its tracks. Divorce mediation, on the other hand, allows for these differences to help couples resolve their issues in a creative, civil way. In this article entitled “Male and Female Communication: Differences Worth Noting,” three noted experts, Deborah Tannen, linguistics professor and author of You Just Don’t Understand, John Gray, Ph.D., author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and Lillian Glass, PhD, author of He Says, She Says: Closing the Gap Between the Sexes offer up their lists of communication characteristics by gender. Basically, they break it down into this:
- Women want intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
- Men want to give information while remaining independent of the other party.
During divorce, it’s easy to see how communications can break down, especially when caught up in the stress of adversarial litigation. Please see the experts’ lists below, specifically the differences in problem solving and negotiation.
Deborah Tannen notes:
- Women desire intimacy in conversation, to feel connected to others.
- Men desire to give information while remaining independent of the other party.
- Women try to avoid the appearance of “superiority.”
- Men are comfortable telling others what to do and appearing “superior.”
- Women want to reach consensus and consult with others before deciding.
- Men want to get straight to the bottom line and choose without consulting.
- Women communicate to build relationships.
- Men communicate to give information, solve problems and show expertise.
From John Gray, Ph.D.:
- Women use more words to make a point and express more feelings.
- Men use fewer words and express fewer feelings.
- Women use conversation to think through a problem and work toward a solution.
- Men think through a problem privately, then express the solution as the bottom line.
- Women give feedback with tact, tentativeness and sensitivity to the other person’s feelings.
- Men give feedback directly and with bluntness, without the intention that it should be taken personally.
- Women often change the topic in the middle of a conversation, then return to it later.
- Men tend to finish one topic before going on to the next.
And from Lillian Glass, Ph.D.:
- Women talk more about relationships. Men talk more about what they did, where they went, etc.
- Women tend to take verbal rejection more personally than men.
- Women are more likely than men to ask for help rather than figure things out on their own.
- Men appear less intuitive and aware of details than women.
- Women have a more emotional approach to problems. Men have a more analytical approach.
- Men use fewer voice tones and facial expressions while communicating than women do.
- Men make more direct statements; there’s less “beating around the bush” with men than with women.
With such differing communication styles, divorce mediation, with an experienced, skilled mediator, is more beneficial and productive to a couple than working with opposing attorneys who may feed into those differences, causing a divorce to spiral out of control. When exploring options for navigating divorce, couples discover that divorce mediation is the civil option, allowing them to work with their mediator, who will take the time to temper the conflict created when two communication styles collide. Because, really, both parties want the same thing: a resolution to their divorce and to move on with their lives in the healthiest way possible.
About the author:
Kim Werner, Program Manager
Divorce Mediation Group