Nonverbal cues are often used to communicate some innate feeling that the individual is maybe experiencing. Understanding nonverbal communication is necessary for ensuring sufficient and positive human interaction. However, mastering the nonverbal cues is difficult since this form of communication through direct is also ambiguous. The resulting miscommunication can often be due to differences in communication patterns, especially where the individual passing the message and the individual receiving the message are of different genders. There have been several attempts to describe and understand gender communication. According to (Manusov and Patterson 2006), most scholars defy gender communication as the expressions applied by one gender when attempting to pass on a message in their relationships. Researchers have been interested in mastering the distinguishable differences in nonverbal communication among genders for several decades. The results, however, have often drawn conflicting views with few agreements in between. Some scholars hold onto the view that differences in nonverbal communication are due to biological differences, but others insist that the same differences result from social upbringing and psychological structuring.
From the data gathered, most women often turned to hand gestures as a form of nonverbal communication. This is an occurrence with many studies and assumptions, where women are found to involve hand gestures in their conversations. Conversely, men are much lower in hand gestures; only 34% of the men are found to have expressive hand gestures. Furthermore, women tend to have more detailed and structured hand gestures than men. The collection of hand gestures is more; they include a variety of messages and are applied in various environments. Even when unaware, women tend to apply more hand gestures. Men, on the other hand, are more restrained, often turning to other forms of expression.
For social learner scholars, the use of hand gestures can easily be attributed to the fact that women seem more open and outgoing. Further, from traditional times women have often been suppressed in communication and have therefore had to rely more on non-verbal cues. On the other hand, hand gestures, as used by men, are often found to be too emotional. In addition, they can be easily misconstrued as a form of violence. It is, therefore, not surprising that men are less willing to apply hand gestures.
The hypothesis in this area is that women again tend to use more facial expressions than men—the results of the fieldwork upheld this observation. Of the participants who were observed, 65% f the women showed significantly more facial expressions. While for men, facial expressions can easily be categorized into groups of emotions, the array of facial expressions is much richer and more difficult to categorize for women. Several facial expressions tend to fall in the same category of emotions. This is, however, not to be confused with the complexity of such facial expressions but rather the ambiguity of the message being communicated.
Social constructionists believe that facial expressions and eye contact in women are used to establish a connection with the individual. As such, an array of emotions often fall into the expressions phase. Conversely, men are cultured to sever emotional connections and show as little emotions as possible. In addition, women are usually more focused on facial expressions to gauge trust and sincerity. Based on this, they tend to mirror the expressions they desire from the other party when communicating.
The subject of touching has been reviewed strongly by many researchers. The conclusions, however, contrast each other. From the fieldwork, the subject of touching and observations drew several conclusions and enriched the data in several ways. The data gathered was subdivided into several categories, as seen below:
Woman-to-woman communication: Among women, touching was prevalent. All the participants observed were comfortable touching and being touched as a form of nonverbal communication. Touching among women is often viewed as expressing empathy and friendship to the other woman. Women feel more comfortable touching each other even when in a group. When in a group with men, for example, women tended to exhibit more touching among themselves than their gender. Whether a shoulder pat or a slight hand touch, women are more comfortable with touching among themselves.
Man-to-man communication: Very little touching was observed among the men. Where touching was observed, the individuals touched showed signs of discomfort and annoyance. Men whether despite their sexual orientation, often interpret touching with sexual interest. As such, they tend to minimize touching among themselves as this could easily be misconstrued as a declaration of sexual interest.
Communication between both genders: In a conversation where both genders are involved, women exhibited more comfort and use of touching. However, it should be noted that although there was a presence of touching, it was much less than where the conversation was between women. In this conversation, again, men exhibited much lower percentages and frequencies of touching. This could be attributed to the fact that men often assimilate touching with sexual interest. Further, there are times when touching can be misconstrued as aggression. Either way, men are socially programmed to restrain from nonverbal touching, especially where the opposite gender is concerned.
Hierarchical Alpha View
The majority of the research has often suggested in a communication setting, one gender is often the leader, drawing the conversation and often guiding and leading the conversation. During this study, two conflicting views were observed. First, men tend to start the conversation where two genders are concerned. When men showed a lack of interest in conversing with the other party, the conversation died down. (Grinder 1997) This could result from culture, where women are often trained and socialized to let the men lead.
Similarly, men are equipped with skills that build their egos and the desire always to lead. This could easily be observed in two men’s conversion or communication sets. Such conversation was plagued with competition to determine who could start, lead, and direct the conversation. Interruptions were plenty and often led to a change in the topic.
A conflicting view observed was that even though most men started the conversations, women tended to have more power in directing the conversation. They were also more likely to interrupt the conversation with new tidbits of information. In this way, they carried a large portion of the conversation despite the men instigating the same conversation. Interestingly when the conversation was among females, it was possible to observe a hierarchical system. However, unlike men, the hierarchy, which is based on competition to appear as the alpha male, was based more on friendship and the underlying currents of power in the group. Women tended to defer to particular individuals during the conversation. It seems that among women, each individual has particular strengths and skills that all the others in the group defer to during the conversation.
Gender conformity: as observed, women and men tend to act differently as inspired by their socialization. Men, for example, have nonverbal cues which draw attention to their masculinity and tend to downplay their emotional selves. On the other hand, women are more drawn to their emotions, although they tend to take a submissive role in communication and conversations. Conformity revolves around acceptance not just of status but also of the roles society has placed on a particular gender. Whereas today’s society does not place much significance on gender roles, observation of nonverbal conversations shows individuals trying to conform to the expectations and roles they deem society has placed on them. For example, women do not take the initiative to start conversations unless where other obligations force them. Instead, they defer the leadership role to the men and take up the follower role.
Social construction: Stanton (2009) states that like language and behavioral roles, most nonverbal cues are socialized into individuals. Nonverbal cues exist within culture and children of different genders are socialized into making use of different cues based on these genders. Men, for example, are expected to show no emotion; they, therefore, master their facial expressions by learning to use fewer facial muscles and remain impassive even during emotional conversations. On the other hand, women are socialized to motherhood, which includes a lot of emotional communication. They are, therefore, more comfortable with touch and facial expressions. They learn and master these skills from a young age. Gender communication is a social construction that involves psychological conditioning during the early formation years; this often translates to future interrelation communication behaviors. Nonverbal communication among the genders can therefore be said to be a result of society, existing cultures, and the environment.
Grinder, M. (1997). The science of nonverbal communication. Battle Ground, Wash: M. Grinder & Associates
Manusov, Valerie Lynn, and Miles L Patterson. 2006. The SAGE Handbook Of Nonverbal Communication. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
Stanton, N. 2009. Mastering Communication. London: Palgrave Macmillan
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