Group Members: Chera Marshall, Lauren Wood, Jennifer Levine, Maryellen Elliott, Amy WrightGenderlect Styles

Genderlect styles, communication, linguistic, status, independence, human connection, rapport talk, report talk, cooperative overlap, tag question, aha factor

According to Deborah Tannen, Genderlect styles theory emphasizes the different ways in which men and women communicate or miscommuncite. Tannen looks at these differences from a linguistic rather than psychological point of view. These different styles of communication can best be seen as two distinct cultural dialects rather than a inferior or superior way of speaking. Whereas, men’s reported communication style emphasizes status and independence; women use communication as a way to seek human connection.

Biographical Overview

Dr. Deborah Tannen
American academic and professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC

Completed her undergraduate studies at Harper College (B.A. in English Literature)

Earned masters in English Literature at Wayne State University, MA and PhD in

Linguistics from the University of California

Lectured world-wide in her field

Written and edited numerous publications on linguistics, discourse analysis and interpersonal communications

Her book " You Just Don't understand Women and men in conversations" stayed on the New York Times best seller list for almost four years. This book has highlighted gender differences in communication style to the forefront of public awareness.

Our class presentation on Genderlect Styles can be viewed at:

You tube video to help define Tannen's meaning of Genderlect:

Dr.Deborah Tannen's personal webpage:

Key Terms
Genderlect, Rapport Talk, Report Talk, Cooperative Overlap, Tag Question, Aha Factor

Genderlect: A term that suggests that masculine and feminine styles of discourse are best viewed as two distinct cultural dialects and not inferior or superior ways of speaking.
Rapport Talk: The typical conversational style of women, which seeks to establish connection with others.
Report Talk: The typical monologic style of men, which seeks to command attention, convey information, and win arguments.
Cooperative Overlap: A supportive interruption often meant to show agreement and solidarity with the speaker.
Tag Question: A short question at the end of a declarative statement, often used by women to soften the sting of potential disagreement or invite open, friendly dialogue.
Aha Factor: A subjective standard ascribing validity to an idea when it resonates with one's personal experience.

Theory Specifics
-stories women tell about themselves reveal a great deal about their hopes, needs and values
-downplay themselves
-show attentiveness through verbal and nonverbal cues
-interrupts to show agreement, to give support, or to supply what she thinks the speaker will say (a cooperative overlap)

-humour stories have an air of "can you top this one?"
-tell more stories and jokes than women (masculine way to negotiate status)
-are heroes in their own stories
-may avoid attentiveness to keep from appearing "one-down"
-regard any interruption as a power move

hold eye contact, offer head nods or yeah...uhuh or other responses to show they are actively listening. Interruptions offer support.
overt style is to say "I agree with you" to avoid a one down stance. Men interrupt to take control of the conversation or to switch the conversation.

-don't ask for help as questions are a form of verbal sparing and public face is more important
-don't ask for help because it exposes their ignorance

-ask questions to establish a connection with others
-when stating opinions often use tag questions to soften the sting of potential disagreement and to invite participation in open, friendly dialogue; "That was a good movie, don't you think?|

-threat to connection, to be avoided at all costs

-life is a contest therefore more comfortable with conflict, usually initiate it
-wary about being told what to do

-seek human connection

-strive for one up positioning and avoid small talk or self disclosure
-Tannen does not believe that men and women seek only status and connection, respectively, but these are their primary goals

Theory Critiques
  • The “aha factor” is a subjective standard of validity—to test truth claims.
  • The theory's assertions about male and female communication styles run the risk of becoming self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Theory is accused of ignoring issues of male dominance, control, power, sexism, discrimination, sexual harassment, and verbal insults.
  • Tannen claims both female and male communication styles are equally valid, yet many of her comments and examples tend to disparage masculine values.
  • Her ideology of intimacy discounts the ways that men draw close to each other.
  • Experts challenge the cultural perspective that is at the heart of Tannen’s genderlect theory, citing their work on comforting as equally valuable to both sexes.

Teacher's Classroom Strategies Should Recognize that Men and Women Use Language Differently-Tannen

Genderlect Styles-Tannen

Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). United States: The McGraw-Hill companies, Inc.