How We Talk: Strengths and Limitations of Masculine and Feminine Approaches

The masculine and feminine ways of expressing ourselves and, literally, of talking are different. The masculine approach is to maximize and declare, speaking with certitude. Confidence breeds confidence so Max (our prototype for the masculine) will benefit by getting assignments and promotions. Its downsides are that it can sound arrogant and over promise. The feminine approach is to minimize, disclaim and qualify. Fran (our feminine prototype) may sound self-deprecating. Her ideas may not be heard or credited to her. But her form of speech is valuable when one needs to signal humility and respect for another’s superiority.

Masculine-Feminine Difference: How Max and Fran Talk–continued

Differences in how the prototypical male (Max) and prototypical female (Fran) talk at work is linked to foundational differences in the masculine and feminine worldview. Max sees himself as competing for status in a hierarchy–and so speaks confidently and assertively. Fran sees herself as part of a network of relationships–and so speaks in ways to maintain relationships. This area has the “double bind” trap for women. If a women speaks “Max,” she may be seen as uppity. There are nonverbal versions of the two languages that Max and Fran speak. Fran’s female brain picks up on more nonverbal cues. She uses nods and smiling more and is more likely to talk face to face with lots of eye contact.