The truth is that male and female conversation is wildly different. That’s not just limited to what we talk about but also how we connect. Understanding the specific differences can make you a better communicator all round.
Deborah Tannen, an American linguistics professor, carried out research studying videos of children and adults talking to their same-sex best friend. The first thing she noticed was the difference in body language. Whatever their age, females in the videos preferred to face each other directly and focus on each others’ faces to pick up on subtle changes of expression.
Boys and men, however, were very different. Males of all ages preferred to sit at an angle to each other and largely averted their gaze from their friend with only the occasional sidelong glance.
This reinforces the belief of Professor Geoffrey Greif, author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. He famously categorised women’s friendships as “face-to-face” while men’s friendships tended to be “shoulder-to-shoulder”.
When men get together, Greif found, they tend to bond most effectively when they’re involved in an activity that keeps them side by side. Whether it’s shooting pool, playing golf, going for a drive or watching sport, men naturally gravitate to these types of activities. As a result, these pursuits also provide the most conducive scenarios to have a good chinwag and connect.
Greif believes this behaviour may have its roots in prehistoric times when men would stand side-by-side to fight off sabre-tooth tigers or woolly mammoths.
But your take-home for the here and now is simple: the next time you’re catching up with a mate for a beer, you might want to take a seat at the bar.
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