Thursday, February 11, 2010

Communication Styles Part Two

Part Four of the Romance from a Guy's Perspective series.

Fairyhedgehog brought up a very good point in the comments yesterday. To summarize: she referenced a study done a few years back that shows the communication styles of men and women over the age of 40 aren't all that different, despite what Tannen's 1990 book says. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the study, or at least what I thought was the most interesting based on reading the research report, is that the researchers accounted for psychological femininity and psychological masculinity -- both of which are distinct from gender identifications.

An anecdotal example: My college mentor, whom I've blogged about before, told me that upon taking psychology courses in school, her daughter realized that (and I'm quoting my mentor saying this) "My mother is my father and my father is my mother." What's that mean? Well, my mentor (a retired college professor who was working part-time to replace herself) ended up being more of an authoritarian than her husband was while their children were growing up. In other words, her husband fulfilled the "mother's" role of nurturer, while she fulfilled the "father's" role of disciplinarian.

One of the things I didn't realize before fairyhedgehog brought up that research study is how much the psychology of a person determines how they communicate. Also, according to the study, younger Americans* are more likely to have smaller gender differences in communication because gender roles are less strict now than they were even thirty years ago.

That said, it's still worthwhile to pay attention to how men and women talk when you're writing your male or female character. Why is this? There are still things a man will say to his wife/girlfriend/fiancee/best female friend who's madly in love with him that he won't say to his male buddies. The Brad Paisley song "I'm Still A Guy" is, surprisingly, a really good example of this. The lyric "And I'll pour out my heart, hold your hand in the car/Write a love song that makes you cry/Then turn right around, knock some jerk to the ground/'Cause he copped a feel as you walked by" is particularly explanatory.

The best thing to do, I feel, is for the writer to give their MS to a trusted friend of the opposite gender. My friends Casey and Jenna are reading Callarion at Night for this very reason (they also happen to have experience with psychology, which is another plus).

NOTE: This is going to be a two-post day today because I want to address Susan Quinn's question from yesterday too.


Kelly Lyman said...

I like your suggestion about giving a copy of you MS to someone of the opposite gender.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I always keep gender differences in mind when having betas of the opposite gender do a critique. They catch things I never would have regarding the guys. The things they have to say about my female protagonist are often eye opening too!

L. T. Host said...

Since V is from a male first-person perspective, I'm really quite pleased with how the guys have liked it so far. Once I took all the soft crying James did out, that is.

Davin Malasarn said...

This is a really interesting topic, Matthew. As a scientist, we actually have a lot of discussions about this because people often bring up the importance of having a "male" brain, or a "male" personality, which usually just means more aggression, a willingness to stand up for one's ideas and to cut into conversations during discussions. People here tend to realize that it's not a male/female thing, but that's the perception from tradition, when males dominated the sciences.