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Why Men and Women Speak Differently

Language Is Still Evolving

Scientists estimate our species (Homo sapiens) developed language approximately 250,000 years ago. Today men talk differently than women because their brains evolved differently over the past quarter-million years. Men were the hunters and concentrated on ways to effectively stalk, kill and transport home the catch-of-the-day for the family group or tribe. Hunting was serious business and required physical endurance, but it did not require much talking.

While the men were away on the daily hunt, the women tended the children and worked in groups for safety while gathering roots, berries, nuts, etc. They talked much of the time while doing their chores and improved their relationship within the group of women.

At the end of the day when the family came together in a cave, hut or wherever they slept. There was not much discussion between men and women due to few shared interests other than security, eating, sex and sleep. (Has this changed much today?) This daily living pattern was quite consistent and made a distinctive difference in how men's and women's brains developed differently to process language.

Researchers using brain imaging technology have identified differences in the brains of men and women. Males talking and listening primarily use only the left hemisphere of their brains. However, the brains of women showed activity on both the left and right brain hemispheres when they speak. This difference indicates that females have much more capacity and complexity in dealing with language. School teachers have well known that girls from an early age have stronger language skills than boys.

Recent human lifestyle is very different than how our millions of ancestors lived. Men and women today tend to maintain the old style of talking patterns because the brain has not had time to evolve to fit today's lifestyle. Much like in the computer world, all too often we are using obsolete hardware and software to do a new job. Here is a comparison of how men and women talk differently:

  • Women speak and listen faster than men. Women in a group can even all talk at the same time and make it work! Teens talking
  • Women speak in a softer voice and use pitch and inflection to emphasize points. Men speak in a louder voice and use volume to emphasize a point.
  • Women sound more emotional when speaking because they normally use five tones. Men sound more monotonous when speaking because they normally use only three tones.

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  • Women stick to one topic for a long time until all present have added their comments and feelings on that subject before moving to the next subject. Men want to express their opinion and not hear the opinion of others. Men want to have the final word, especially with women.
  • 2 couples talking In decision making, women seek the input of all the other women present and make decisions based on the consensus of all present. Men try to make the final ruling, no matter what others think.
  • In decision making, women prefer a group decision. Men want to show their high status by making their decisions without input from others.
  • Women reveal their feelings, private lives, and relationships easily. Men hardly ever do! That would show their weaknesses and lower their status as a dominate male (in their mind). Man and Woman talking
  • Men don't spend as much time and interest on anything not physical, especially abstract concepts dealing with 'feelings' and emotions.
  • Women want to talk about their feelings to improve their relationship with the listener. Men talk to emphasize their high status and dominance to all present.
  • Women want to discuss and explore all aspects of a topic and spend more time on it than men like.
  • Women try to strengthen relationships with others by discussing their problems. Women ask more questions about what others think. Man and Woman talking
  • Women make indirect accusations, i.e. "Why do you often do that?" Men make direct accusations, i.e. "You always do that!"
  • Women like to relate, but men rather debate.
  • Women interrupt all others less and allow others to interrupt them. Men interrupt others more and allow fewer interruptions, especially from women.
  • Women are more cooperative when talking. Men are more competitive with talk and try to raise their status and establish dominance. Man and Woman talking
  • Women show concern and try to establish empathy and support for others. Men try to fix things and give advice to others.
  • Men are opinionated and want to resolve problems quickly, often not studying the situation.
  • Men try to be an authority on everything and therefore ask fewer questions.

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© Copyright 2005, revised 2009 by Lawrence Rodrigues, M.S., Director: EastWest Institute for Self-Understanding.
All rights reserved worldwide.