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How to Talk to People of the Opposite Sex

Aug 17, 2007
If you feel like you don't know how to talk to people of the opposite sex, you might be onto something!

Men and women definitely have different ways of communicating. Learning how the other half uses language will help to improve your communication with the opposite sex.

And if you're still not convinced, there is even a term that is specific to the different languages of the sexes. The term is genderlect. Suzette Haden Elgin coined the term in her book, Genderspeak. Her book talked about different methods men and women could use to better communicate.

Deborah Tannen went into even more detail about gender communication in her book, entitled You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation (1990, Ballantine.) Tannen says that even when a man and woman are raised in the same neighbourhood or even in the same home they will grow up in different language worlds.

The question of how to talk to people of the opposite sex really needs to first be answered by understanding the ways men and women differ in how they express themselves.

Here are some of the biggest differences, starting at a very young age:

1. Girls talk or use language as a way to be liked. Little boys often talk to be boastful.

2. A little girl will request something. A boy? He makes demands.

3. Girls tend to use language as a way to create harmony - to get closer to someone. If you guessed that young boys keep conflicts going by talking, you are right!

4. Girls talk using words and will use more words to explain something. A young boy is more likely to use actions to emphasize what he is trying to say.

As we grow and learn how to talk to people, being aware of these differences can help (especially when the people you are talking to are of the opposite sex.)

Many of those early traits continue, as we grow older. Men will continue to use communication as a means of staying independent, while women will continue to use language as a tool for intimacy.

Grown-up men often will talk to establish status (remember the boasting as little boys?) Women will connect themselves to others by using language to build up rapport.

Tannen calls these differences 'report-talk' (men) and 'rapport-talk', for the women. Understanding this one specific difference can really show how women quite often take what men say, personally, when they really were only 'reporting' on a situation.

Learning how to talk to people is made a lot simpler when you understand genderlect - the language of the sexes.
About the Author
Peter Murphy is a peak performance expert. He recently produced a very popular free report: 10 Simple Steps to Developing Communication Confidence. Apply now because it is available only at: conversation starters
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