Gender and CommunicationDo girls "overtalk" problems?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I completely agree. Being an unwanted expert on problems (sheesh!), I found that if I wanted to keep up my courage and something like a sense of equanimity, I had to focus on what needed doing--action (even if it was only putting one foot in front of the other)--and talk, when time allowed (and time rarely allows!), about something else! Talk about something that would interest me or make me laugh or challenge my thoughts. Dr. Peter Kramer, author of Against Depression, would certainly agree with the assertion that focusing on problems links to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Linguist and author, Deboarh Tannen, confirms and addresses the foundations of this concept in You Just Don't Understand. Her studies show that--at least for Americans--girls and women have intense eye-to-eye conversations with eyes riveted and lots of murmured interruptions of "umm humm," while American men and boys sit side-by-side and look elsewhere when talking amongst themselves. Their conversational listening is silent with short remarks designed to put the problem or feeling in perspective, as opposed to offering supportive remarks of sympathy or empathy.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There was an interesting report on NPR maybe three or four months ago about research done with Holocaust survivors.  Those who spoke little about their experiences, did not dwell on them, and "moved on," had far happier lives than those who thought and spoke frequently about their pasts.  The report was focusing on the larger context of therapy, I believe, with the idea being that dredging up one's experiences and deconstructing them might not be the best road to mental health.

With what we now know of how the brain works, it does make sense to me that not focusing on the negative is likely to minimize the possibility of strengthening the negative neural pathways.  After all, is not PTSD a problem of remembering too well?

If we consider the different approaches males and females have, those which are not pathological, I do wonder to what degree the usual female approach is, if not harmful, then at least, is not helpful.  The statistics on female depression versus male depression are astonishing.  Could this in part explain those statistics?

In the interests of full disclosure on my personal stake on this topic, I am a female who is more of the "move-on" type, married to a man who can ruminate on every little thing.  I can personally attest to some variability in gender, but I do agree that generally, there is a difference in communication styles.


Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I love Tannen but really, one of the best analyses on the way men and women communicate comes from humorist Dave Barry, in his classic essay, "Roger and Elaine." (Read the whole thing, it's so spot-on!)

At the end of a long night of conversation with her boyfriend,

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them,
and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In
painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he
said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression,
and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.
They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe
months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored
with it, either.

I find this to be VERY true. And it does seem to be endemic to the female condition. On the plus side, like Elaine, I run all male-related problems past my girlfriend first. Guys, just think about how much angst you are spared! It could be much, much, much worse :)

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I read a very interesting article today on the way boys and girls choose to address/not address things that are bothering them.

I was a Women's Studies minor in college (Master's) so naturally had a lot of talk (and talk and talk) about this.

I also did not have children at the time.

Now I have two, a boy and a girl, and most of what I thought I knew has gone out the window.  Both my son and my boyfriend do not feel "weird" or "embarrassed" by talking about problems, they just don't see the need or the point.

Whereas my female friend and my daughter... uggh.

The article asserts that as women, we may be overtalking our problems so much that we may actually be contributing to depression and anxiety. Thoughts?




lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This topic is also addressed in the now classic, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The author's premise is that women need to talk things out in order to process them and to come up with a solution.  They don't need to talk in order to be GIVEN a solution -- just to work it out for themselves.  Men tend to want to just solve the problem and they mistakenly think that a woman talking about a problem needs his help or suggestions, when in actuality, she just needs a living person to talk at as she actually works it out for herself.  As a woman, I personally find this to be very true.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Think about the stereotypical teen-ager spending hours talking on the telephone (yes, I know - I'm showing my age in using this example!). Is the teen in your mind's eye a girl or a guy? I'm betting it's a girl for most of us!

Some of it may be "over-talking", some of it is simply differences in the ways we process thoughts, events, and feelings. Of course, it's not 100% for either sex, and most of us may be more talkative (or non-communicative) at some times or in response to some situations than to others. But as a generalization, I agree that the female tends to do more talking than the male.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would have to say yes. I teach high school and have a thirteen year old daughter. Anytime her and her friends talk they completely over-analyze things. I see the same behavior in my female students as well.

I have to be honest...I do the same thing. Nothing, for me, seems to be simplistic. Everything must be analyzed over and over. Why this? Why now? What was the purpose? What is going to happen now? I completely over-analyze everything.

My fiancee, on the other hand, seems to find everything very simplistic. It is what it is...let's deal.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with everything, there are clearly exceptions.  My wife is NOT a talker.  We joke that she's the man in our relationship because I want to talk about feelings and such and she doesn't.  I'll speak the equivalent of an essay to her about something I'm thinking and she'll nod because she agrees and feels she has nothing to add.  So maybe some girls/women overtalk their problems, but my wife is not one of them.  My older daughter is 9 now and I'm exceedingly interested to see if she (and my younger daughter) turn out like their mother in that regard.

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What I have noticed having both genders as children, AND teaching communication to both genders in school is that boys utter the fewest number of words possible to get their point across...and what they utter is directed toward "fixing" the problem. Whereas girls care much less about solving anything....they just want to "vent"....or get their emotions out. These key differences can make for some very interesting relationship conversations.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think girls talk through problems. By talking, especially to each other, they are able ro explore all sides of a problem. Guys may take a more direct approach, but I think the girls' result is just as good or better, even if it takes longer. You might say women take a more social approach to problems.