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Read Kristen Welker's heartfelt letter to her daughter about surrogacy, infertility. Sound familiar? In a recent poll, 42 percent of iVillage visitors say that they have a hard time getting their partner to share his feelings. When that happens, she feels shut out and he feels misunderstood. But in my years as a therapist and author, I've discovered something that many women don't realize. Men want to talk.

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In other public contexts, too, such as seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that they are getting more than their fair share. Effective talk in public and in the media can enhance your social status — as politicians and other public performers know well.

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Even when they hold influential positions, women sometimes find it hard to contribute as much as men to a discussion. Do men struggle to get a word in edgewise, as the stereotype suggests? Finally, and most radically, we might question the assumption that more talk is always a good thing. Here is the answer which one sixteen-year-old gave:.

It is much more likely that the explanation involves social factors. In this situation, the women contributed ificantly more speech than the men, both to the male and to the female interviewer.

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They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time. Sometimes it is the silent participants who are the powerful players. The way women and men behave in formal meetings and seminars provides further support for this explanation. Many studies have shown that teachers regardless of their gender tend to talk for about two-thirds of the available time. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions.

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So familiarity or expertise can also affect the amount a person contributes to a particular discussion. In New Zealand, we identified another context where women contributed more talk then men. For example, Miriam Meyerhoff asked a group of ten young people to describe a picture to a female and to a male interviewer. There is also some risk, of course, since a poor performance can be damaging.

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Until recently, girls have preferred to keep a low profile rather than attract negative attention. This explanation proposes that men talk more than women in public, formal contexts because they perceive participating and verbally contributing in such contexts as an activity which enhances their status, and men seem to be more concerned with asserting status and power than women are. If you are sceptical, use a stopwatch to time the amount of talk contributed by women and men at political and community meetings you attend.

Researchers analysing the functions of different utterances have found that men tend to contribute more information and opinions, while women contribute more agreeing, supportive talk, more of the kind of talk that encourages others to contribute. Formal public talk is often aimed at informing people or persuading them to agree to a particular point of view e. So what are the facts? One relative clue is the fact that talk serves different functions in different contexts.

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So on this evidence we must conclude that the stereotype of the garrulous woman reflects sexist prejudice rather than objective reality. To answer this question, we need to go beyond broad generalizations and look more carefully at the patterns identified. The research cited in this essay was first published in Do women talk more than men?

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In New Zealand, too, research suggests that men generally dominate the talking time. Despite the widespread belief that women talk more than men, most of the available evidence suggests just the opposite. Getting and holding the floor is regarded as desirable, and competition for the floor in such contexts is common.

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The woman with active hands and feet, marry her, but the woman with overactive mouth, leave well alone. If you know a lot about a particular topic, you are generally more likely to be willing to contribute to a discussion about it. Interestingly, the few studies which have investigated informal talk have found that there are fewer differences in the amount contributed by women and men in these contexts though men still talked more in nearly a third of the informal studies reviewed by Deborah James and Janice Drakich.

In this context, where talk is clearly valued, it appears that the person with most status has the right to talk most. But the boys dominate the relatively small share of the talking time that remains for pupils. Women talked more than men in only two studies. Public talk is often undertaken by people who wish to claim or confirm some degree of public status.

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The explanation for the seems to be that the women were being more cooperative than the men in a context where more talk was explicitly sought by the interviewer. Another piece of evidence that supports this interpretation is the kind of talk women and men contribute in mixed-sex discussions. And so did his male pupils. Why should they feel unconfident in the classroom? I found the same pattern analysing the of questions asked by participants in one hundred public seminars. The boys may therefore be asserting a claim to higher status than the girls by appropriating the majority of the time left for pupil talk.

The interviewers were young people with no influence over the interviewees. Janet Holmes sets the record straight and establishes the reasons for the lingering myth of female chattiness. Dale Spender explains this as follows:. However, while this is true, it must be recognized that talk is very highly valued in western culture. Additional Resources Language Prejudice Index. Two Canadian researchers, Deborah James and Janice Drakich, reviewed sixty-three studies which examined the amount of talk used by American women and men in different contexts.

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Evidence collected by American, British, and New Zealand researchers shows that men dominate the talking time in committee meetings, staff meetings, seminars and task-oriented decision-making groups. This may sound outrageous, but think about how you react when precocious children dominate the talk at an adult party.

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this Print. In some contexts the strong silent male is an admired stereotype. Women, it seems, are willing to talk more in relaxed social contexts, especially where the talk functions to develop and maintain social relationships. If social confidence explains the greater contributions of women in some social contexts, it is worth asking why girls in school tend to contribute less than boys. In a wide range of communities, from kindergarten through primary, secondary and tertiary education, the same pattern recurs — males dominate classroom talk.

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Classroom research suggests that more talk is associated with higher social status or power. Talk in this context could not be seen as enhancing the status of the people interviewed.

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Many researchers have compared the relative amounts that girls and boys contribute to classroom talk. In the private but semi-formal context of an interview, then, women, contributed more talk than men. Where the s of women and men present were about the same, men asked almost two-thirds of the questions during the discussion. In all but seven, men dominated the discussion time.

It was made quite clear to the interviewees that the more speech they produced the better.

Facts are more important than ever

A British company appointed four women and four men to the eight most highly paid management positions. By contrast, in more private contexts, talk usually serves interpersonal functions. This explanation also fits with the fact that women tend to talk more with close friends and family, when women are in the majority, and also when they are explicitly invited to talk in an interview, for example.

Why is the reality so different from the myth? Interviewing people to collect samples of talk for linguistic analysis, we found that women were much more likely than men especially young men to be willing to talk to us at length. There is abundant evidence that this pattern starts early.

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Social context and relative power determine who talks more, men or women. Women were more likely to ask questions and make comments when the topic was one they could claim expert knowledge about. Proverbs and sayings in many languages express the view that women are always talking:.

Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. The managing director commented that the men often patronized the women and tended to dominate meetings. The North Sea will sooner be found wanting in water than a woman at a loss for words.

Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. When women and men are together, it is the men who talk most. My favourite proverb, because it attributes not noise but rather power to the woman speaker is this Chinese one:.

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Clearly women were not talking more than men in these contexts. Do women dominate the talking time? The purpose of informal or intimate talk is not so much status enhancement as establishing or maintaining social contact with others, making social connections, developing and reinforcing friendships and intimate relationships.

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