Communication in the Feminine and Masculine Worlds

It has been well documented that gender differences have not only a biological basis, but an environmental one as well. The culture in which one is reared has specific sex roles that are assigned to a child from the moment of birth, and despite the perpetuation of any double standards borne from these cultural beliefs, gender identity is defined by sex roles. How we behave, how we are perceived, or how we are esteemed by others is often tied to stereotypical definitions of what is masculine and feminine, however inaccurate these representations may be. The psychosocial ecology of females and males provides valuable insight into the ego differences that seem to exist in the respective gender worlds. Men and women are psychologically oriented in characteristically different ways, which must be taken into account when exploring gender differences in behavior.

pinkWomen tend to see themselves as connected to others and their behaviors will be shaped to sustain relationships. They are seen as less competitive, more cooperative, and more concerned with social relationships than men. Females experience self, others, and time in terms of “communion,” which focuses on the interpersonal, subjective, and the immediacy of the moment. In contrast, the male style is referred to as “agency” which defines a relationship to self, others and time in individualistic, objective and distant ways. In other words, rather than being concerned with connecting and maintaining social relationships, males tend to be more personally oriented whereas females can be considered to be more concerned with connection with others.

Even the purpose of communication differs between the sexes. Females learn early on that peer acceptance requires interactions that are characterized by intimacy and connection to group members. Debrorah Tannen, linguist at Georgetown University describes that the types of female games and their conversations together reflect female “rules” of cooperation and equality. Conversely, young males find themselves in a gender world that stresses that they establish and maintain status and independence. Their games are rule-bound by interactions and behaviors that create competition and an hierarchical status among the players. Is it any wonder that females and males are challenged in their communications with one another?

purpleflowerAs females and males move into adulthood their ecological niche continues to reflect these differences. The traditional male role leads a man to venture out into a habitat outside of his own more familiar ecological niche–home. The male milieu continues to emphasize status and independence. He enters the work world and finds it necessary to adjust to a political structure that is primarily impersonal and governed by rules. Fortunately, he has been “trained” for this world of hierarchy and status. His maturational environment among his childhood male peers helped him to develop the necessary skills to succeed in the competitive work market. It is practically second nature that he continues to assert independence and status in his interactions.

In contrast, the traditional female habitat is more familiar and constant and reflects her hand in its shaping. For many reasons, when children enter the picture females generally become the primary caregiver, spending more time in the home to rear the little ones. Her ecological niche is filled with all the familiar surroundings of her personal world if she is lucky enough to be able to stay home with the children. At least until the children are grown, her involvement outside the home usually involves neighborhood groups or community projects. This is the traditional female setting. The focus of experience is on the center of communal events and ties. This sphere has a self-serving purpose in which females can thus identify with the groups and members of her world. This contrasts with the masculine world of separateness. A female’s ecological niche tends to blur the distinctions between self and others and thus women come to define their perceptions and self in relation to their social habitat. It is a continuance of the earlier developmental patterns inherent in the young female’s experience. Consequently, the ego differences between the sexes become more pronounced in this traditional setting.


Of course, contemporary society has created the necessity of the two-income family as practically mandatory for survival. Both genders now venture into the more impersonal work world, but we each bring to that arena our specific genderized perspectives and patterns of behavior that impacts our adjustment. We continue to interact in the familiar patterns learned in childhood that often translates into misunderstandings between the two sexes. “She’s from Venus!” a man declares. “He’s from Mars!” delares the woman. When sex or gender differences are explored, consideration of the impact of these maturational milieus will enable us to more objectively evaluate our findings. It is not only biology that makes the two genders different. Sociocultural factors as well as biological influences impact our behavior. Both are intricately woven into the fabric of behavior.