Crossgender Issues

Much research has been done related to how women and men communicate and process information. Add to this the fact that the roles of women and men differ dramatically between cultures and you have a formula for potential communication breakdown in the classroom. Like any other issue of diversity, you cannot generalize about any group or issue.

Because this topic is far too complex to adequately address in this small section of the book, I encourage you to visit your local library and the Internet to research it in depth. There are also a number of books on the issue of gender communication cited in the Resources for Trainers section of the appendices.

A key gender issue that has surfaced in research is that men and women listen and communicate differently. There is a physiological difference in the structure of the brain in men and women that often leads to women taking in and attempting to process multiple signals and pieces of information while men often filter out background noise or input and focus on one issue. These differences and approaches to communication can sometimes lead to frustration, confusion, and even relationship breakdown.

Deborah Tannen, John Gray, and many others have written numerous books and articles on the way in which men and women listen and communicate. According to Tannen, women often listen for more emotional or rapport type messages, as well as for details. On the other hand, men often want the bottom line and listen for report type of information, such as facts, figures, or specifics. These differences in the classroom add the need for you to provide a variety of information in differing formats to address the needs of all of your participants. For example, you might pass out a fact sheet for the bottom-line people while telling an embellished story that gives background information related to the handout for the detail-oriented people.


Think of situations in which you were interacting with someone from the opposite gender and you encountered message breakdown.

Did their listening and communication style differ from yours? If so, in what ways?_

What challenges or complications did these differences create?

In retrospect, how did or could you have overcome the challenges?

How can you apply lessons learned in that situation to your classroom?

Communication does not begin with being understood, but with understanding others. —W. Steven Brown

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