Man or woman? Never mind. Just be both interesting and interested

Sexism is an incomplete explanation for why men lecture women.

In her book, You Just Don’t Understand, Deborah Tannen talk to determine and achieve status. Women talk to determine and achieve connection. To use a metaphor, for men life is a ladder and the better spots are up high. For women, life is a network, and the better spots have greater connections.

In patriarchal businesses, or any command-and-control environment, the ladder is worshipped. But not all the lessons should be aimed at getting women to speak more like men. Both genders should be taught that there are, at the very least, three reasons to talk with others:

  1. To exchange information
  2. To achieve status
  3. To achieve connection

In conversation, if one party expects an equal exchange and the other is expecting a competition, things get asymmetrical and frustrating.

So, girls and boys, if you have something to say, speak up – your partner may not necessarily hand you the opportunity. And if you find yourself having talked for a while, shut up and listen – your partner isn’t necessarily thick; it could be the other person is waiting for you to show some skill by asking a question.

Yes, both sexes need to learn the old-fashioned art of good conversation… and that is: Be both interesting and interested.

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