Do men and women communicate the same?

Can (some of) you remember that 1981 song of FR David about Words? “Words don’t come easy to me, how can I find a way to make you see, I love you, words don’t come easy to me”, or something like that.  Whatever. The silly competition about women who communicate more than men will never stop, ever. It is just too convenient to say that women never stop talking.

puzzle-1487340_1280Some men get that bored look on their faces when their wives/girlfriends/mothers/daughters start talking about her day, her shopping, her meetings, plans and her instructions.  Because there is a fixed idea in society that women always talk more than men.  But it is not just about talking, is it? It is, after all, about good communication.  Making sense, in a sense.  It is not only about words.

Some years ago around 2007, there were reports that women on average speak about 20 000 words per day, and men only on average 7 000 during that time.  Both genders believed that they communicated really well. Men grinned behind their hands and their women’s backs; meanwhile, women just talked more about how stupid those talk studies are. Nobody knows why there is a competition to prove who communicates the most and the best, but life in general, is about showing off for the hunter, after all.

This was yummy stuff for many researchers.  It only seemed fair to get to the truth of this matter about men and women and good communication.  Let’s rile them up and have them argue more.

First, a very valid reason for this “overtalk” on women’s side was offered.  An in-depth academic study in 2013 proved why women communicate more than men. The University of Maryland found some answers.

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Ever heard of the Foxp2 protein? Let’s call this the ‘good communication’ protein.  In rats, said the scientists, this protein is much higher in males than in females, and in rat-communication, that means that the rat-boys really out-communicate the rat-girls.  They are so needy and scream so much, these boy rats, that their mommies are forced to give them far more attention than to the girl rats. This is what the study said.

But in humans, women have more of this Foxp2 ‘good communication’ stuff than men.  We can call this the language protein. So there was now biological proof that explained why human women and rat-boys are communicating more.

Let’s go further, said the clever professors.  Let’s take some human girls and boys.  They found 30% more of the language protein – Foxp2 – in the girls than in the boys.  This explained another interesting fact about communication: girls talk earlier and easier than boys, and they have larger vocabularies than boys.  And then they perform better at school, and even better at university.

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False rumors continued: females speak 13 000 more words than men per day.  This sounds about right, if I think about my parents, myself and my daughters: we women love lots of communication.  We would complain to each other about The Silence of the Men-lambs.

Enter another academic from the University of Arizona, Dr. Mehl.  He used empirical research over longer periods, involving more people.  Guess what the good doctor found? Women speak 16 215 words per day.  Men? Only 15 669 in comparison.

No real difference thus between genders, said Dr. Mehl and his team.  In this study, the person who spoke less was a guy – only 700 words for an entire day. (Heaven helps grumpy bear’s loved ones.)  The person who spoke most, must have been a woman, then? Sorry, guys, it was another man who used 47 000 words on one specific day.  (Heaven helps talking-machine-gun’s loved ones.)

Now that makes one wonder: how many words does a person speak in one lifetime? Alexander Atkins claims that there were only two studies in that regard.  In 1984, Brandreth said that an average person speaks 860,3 million words in his or her lifetime.  In 2005, Nick Watts did his sums and made a documentary, The Human Footprint, about the findings.  The average person, Watts said, communicates 123.2 million words per life. Wow.

So, let’s communicate about that.  There are people who speak … so … slow … you … want … to …   hit … them.  Others communicate so fast that you.cannot.remember.a.single.word.they.said.  Some are academics who swallowed a dictionary, and others live and die without ever having seen a book.  Some people have very busy, eventful lives; others prefer to be loners in order not to talk.  (I think it is mostly men, not women, who prefer this. Maybe I’m wrong.) Then, also, there are some people who die young, and others who turn 100.  That must surely make a difference. We are talking average communication here.

Others communicate so fast that you.cannot.remember.a.single.word.they.said.  Some are academics who swallowed a dictionary, and others live and die without ever having seen a book.  Some people have very busy, eventful lives; others prefer to be loners in order not to talk.  (I think it is mostly men, not women, who prefer this. Maybe I’m wrong.) Then, also, there are some people who die young, and others who turn 100.  That must surely make a difference. We are talking average communication here.

Some are academics who have swallowed a dictionary, and others live and die without ever having seen a book.  Some people have very busy, eventful lives; others prefer to be loners in order not to talk.  (I think it is mostly men, not women, who prefer this. Maybe I’m wrong and it is another wrong stereotype.) Then, also, there are some people who die young, and others who turn 100.  That must surely make a difference. So we are talking average communication here.

The point of all of this is that any person can speak a lifetime of nonsense.  Or not. Any person can express a lot of good communication also in a lifetime. Others take their time to think about every word they communicate.

I have a lovely, dear friend with deep, soulful eyes and the loveliest skin.  Whenever I would ask her anything – and I am asking many questions, trust me – she would look into my eyes.  Be silent for at least 30 seconds, and only then would she communicate.  I don’t know why I remember this so well.  It just seemed that she really thought (and still thinks) about what she wanted to communicate.

Maybe we should all think more about what we say.  Maybe we can sometimes talk inside ourselves and our own minds before just blurting everything out.  Have a sort of internal communication process, instead of just saying words.

Words, don’t come easy, or they do.

With some of us, it just streams. Others, their tongues are really struggling.

And that is fine. As long as we keep trying to communicate well.

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