Do women talk more than men? Many people believe that women are more talkative than men, and many proverbs supported this stereotype. Surprisingly, this is not the case. Men actually dominate the time allotted during most opportunities to speak. These are some of the point discussed by Deborah Tannen’s article “Put Down That Paper and Talk to ME!”: Rapport-talk and Report-talk” and Janet Holmes’s article “Women Talk Too Much”. In their articles, it becomes clear that women are far behind men when actual talk times were measured. The two authors, Tannen and Holmes both claim that men talk more in public, while women talk more in private, however, Tannen provides more convincing evidence to support her ideas.
Both Tannen and Holmes claim that men speak more in public. Tannen believes that men look for attention and acceptance from their peers when talking in public settings, which is why they contribute more during public conversations. Men use opportunities to speak in public to establish their position within the group via Report talk. Report Talk focuses mainly on providing or obtaining information and details based on the speakers knowledge or skill concerning the subject. To be successful at this, men usually need the courage to initiate conversation with confidence. Therefore, we fine that men tell more jokes and ask more questions at meetings, school, and in groups of their peers. This is what Tannen, believe to be the usual behavior of men in public. Tannen supported her claim by using a variety of examples, such as her personal experiences and information obtained from various studies which confirmed many of her beliefs. The examples Tannin used from her experiences clearly illustrated that men dominated talk time in public situations. This shows the opposite of the stereotype that women talk more overall.
Tannen provided us with a good example from her personal experience while at a group discussion about the communication differences between men and women. During the group discussion, one very talkative gentleman, explained how much his wife talked at home; while his wife stood by him in silence. However, at home he became the quiet one while she was the one initiating most of the conversation. On another occasion, Tannen witnessed a similar case at a PTA meeting, where the husband was asking all of the questions and participating, while the wife sat by quietly. Noticeably, the man did all of the talking even though the woman most likely had more relevant information to contribute on this occasion.
Likewise, Holmes also claims that men talk far more than women do in public. She stated that the reason for men talking more in public is due to the different objectives men and women are trying to achieve with verbal communication. The main objective for men is to establish themselves as knowledgeable in front of their peers in public settings. By doing so, this is how men build relationships within their social circles. Men’s talk tends to focus more on expressing opinions and sharing information with the audience. Their position in the group is often determined by the value of the information they share. “Where talk is clearly valued, it appears that the person with most status has the right to talk most” (Holmes 44). By offering more information and opinions, men are trying to add value, thereby raising their social status within the group. Therefore, to assert themselves in public, it can be seen that men confidently participate in formal discussion, political speeches, television debates and radio interviews. Holmes mainly used academic studies to support her claims. From one study, Holmes stated, “When men and women are together, it’s the men who talk most” (42). Two Canadian researchers, Deborah James and Janice Drakich, reviewed sixty-three different studies that examined the amount of talk by men and women. Only two of the sixty-three studies showed that women talk more. Moreover, another study was conducted at a school, which also revealed that male students talk and participate far more than female students. Males begin to assert their power and status in front of others early on in life, whereas female students are more apprehensive about participating, due to the social norm that views women who assert themselves critically and in a negative light. “Talking in class is often perceived as ‘showing off’, especially if it is girl-talk” (Holmes 47). Men usually have more social confidence which is why they feel more comfortable speaking in public. Regarding Holmes’ findings, it can be ascertained that men dominate conversations and oral participation more than women in public, as this helps them to assert their social status in the group.
In addition, Tannen and Holmes are in agreement that women talk more than men in private. The main reason for women talking more than men in private is because the purpose of conversation between men and women is different, especially in private. For women, talk is more for interaction with their loved ones; women want to build relationships and share feelings with close friends. For example, women have a strong need to share more personal details of their day with their loved ones. Tannen believes that women use what is called Rapport Talk, which is a way of establishing connections to maintain strong personal relationships, as bonding with others creates a support system for them. Therefore, in conversation women tend to be more supportive agreeable and encouraging then men. In her article, Tannen provided many examples from various researchers to support this idea. Most of the research Tannen presented implies that women dominate private talk time. Tannen quoted Dale Spender, who while doing research on this subject stated, “Most people feel instinctively that women, like children should be seen but not heard” (Tannen 77). Therefore, any amount of female verbal participation would be considered too much by men, even if it could be proved that the men actually spoke more. Women usually talk in a situation that men don’t; at home, during dinner, or while watching TV. Women believe the home is the place, where they can relax and speak freely without having their views scrutinized. “The comfort of home means the freedom to talk without worrying about how their talk will be judge” (Tannen 86). That is the main reason why women contribute more in private; and they do not contribute more in public. Similarly, Holmes believed that women talk more than men in private. “Women, it seems, are willing to talk more in relaxed social contexts, especially where the talk functions to develop and maintain social relationship” (Holmes 45). Women talk more in private as this is the time they usually spend with close friends and family building bonds. At home, women feel more relaxed to talk about personal matter because they don’t care how they will be judged by others. Mainly, this is because many women do not have the social confidence to be more active in public discussions, such as in school discussion and business meetings. Holmes relied on many academic studies from various sources to support her argument which illustrated the similarity between her claims and Tannens’. Moreover, a different study showed that women need social confidence to feel comfortable enough to contribute in public. Women can feel more socially confidence if they are knowledgeable about a certain topic under discussion. As specific knowledge and information is not needed, private talk is surely the form of communication, most women are comfortable with.
The supporting evidences Tannen used in her article is more convincing than Holmes’s. There are many reasons why Tannens’s evidence is more effectively supports her claim. First reason, the style she uses to structure her sentence makes it easier for the reader to read it and to understand it clearly. She cited the researches by name allowing us the opportunity to review her findings in more detail, as well as separating the issues in sub headings in the article in a way that makes it coherent. Second reason, Tannen shared her own experience and backs it up with evidences and studies that assure what she believe, based on her experience. Holmes on the other hand, only stated academic studies done be researchers to support her claim, but did not contribute any examples from her personal experience which was incoherent, and not entertaining to read. She used entertaining personal experiences, supported by accurate studies. Third reason, she identified the differences between private and public talk, providing details which supported her views about the topic, whereas, Holmes failed to cover both parts of the issue, focusing only on “public” speech patterns. Conversely, Holmes did not specify the details and sources of her ideas which left us to question if her findings were accurate. Tannen also touched on many subjects and examples that Holmes did not; such as telling jokes, illustrating the use of logic between men and women, and the Report and Rapport- talk definitions. All these factors and reasons proved that Tannen supports her argument and evidences better than Holmes.
The fact that women do not talk as much as men do, may come as a surprise to many people still. Inherent stereotypes have always been difficult to change, even when sound evidence is presented to disprove them. Both Tannen and Holmes explored the misconception of women being more talkative and highlighted the different environments in which men and women change roles with sound academic evidence and personal experiences to support.
Hopefully, this helped to change the opinions of some concerning the mistaken belief of a women’s talkative nature. While Holmes offered many good points towards the subject, Tannen surely went into this issue more deeply using many more academic citations which will certainly make her argument more receptive to the reader. Understanding the facts will only help us to communicate more efficiently and effectively with one another. So many of us rarely consider the different objectives men and women seek concerning verbal communication. This lack of understanding has been the root of many marital and male/female relationship problems. Therefore, the effort that Tannen and Holmes made toward this topic will have surely save many relationships from death by stereotype.
Holmes, Janet. “Women Talk Too Much.” Language Myths. Ed. Laurie Bauer, Peter Trudgill. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.75-95. Print.
Tannen, Deborah. “’Put Down That Paper and Talk to ME!:’ Rapport-talk and Report-talk.” You Just Don’t Understand. New York: Quill, 1990.75-95. Print.