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Men vs. Women

There is no need to expound on the fact that human beings are a diverse lot. We maintain a subjective view of the world. We all have different wants and we fulfill those wants by using our own distinctive approaches. Consequently, conflict is inevitable because we can’t all have our own way. Not surprisingly, the manners in which we handle conflict also vary.

There are numerous reasons why men and women differ. They range from biological difference, parental influence, education, and birth order, to cultural conditioning by society, the media, and history. As a result, there are remarkable differences in the ways men and women deal with interpersonal conflict. All of the above factors play a part in how we perceive things and how we think, just as much as what we think, govern the way we act.

Where communication is concerned, men and women even have contradictory notions involving the usage of conversation. These notions are based upon how men and women view themselves. Many men see themselves as an individual in a hierarchical social order in which he is either one-up or one-down. Hence, conversation is a tool in which people try to attain dominance over one another. Once this is accomplished, they need to be constantly safeguarding their position. Life is seen as a constant battle to maintain autonomy and to avert failure.

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In contrast, many women approach the world as an individual in a network of connections.

Accordingly, conversation is used to maintain a certain degree of understanding with each other where people’s aim is to support one another. Affirmation is sought out and given freely. Their struggle is not in terms of preserving autonomy but in trying to maintain solidarity. Life is seen in communal terms. This world is not without its hierarchies but these hierarchies are not based on authority, control and achievement. They are based on friendship.

Just as men are less focused on the goals of achieving solidarity and avoiding isolation, women are unconcerned about achieving status and avoiding failure, they are simply less focused on these goals.

Another major difference is in how men and women perceive the idea of interpersonal conflict. As can be understood by the way women observe the world, conflict is deemed as something that should be avoided at all costs. It is a threat to the connection they strive to have with one another. Direct confrontation is not seen as acceptable. This does not mean that women do not want to get their way, but they do not want to acquire it through conflict.

To many men however, conflict is necessary. It is their means of gaining status. It is even expected, if not sought after and welcomed. Male behavior typically entails contest, which include combat, struggle, conflict, competition and contention. This is commonly epitomized by rough play and sports. Male friendships tend to have some form of friendly aggression.

Females, on the other hand, are more likely to use intermediaries or to fight for real rather than ritualized purposes. In a relationship, for example, a woman would see having a disagreement as a threat to intimacy, whereas a man would feel that to be able to have disagreements in the first place was a sign of the closeness he shares with his partner.

Men and women take different measures to prevent interpersonal conflict based on differing principles. As mentioned, women are wary of the very concept of conflict and direct confrontation. The steps men use however, to prevent conflict, are their methods of achieving dominance early on, thus being able to better defend their status.

The distinction comes from the fundamentally different social structures of girls and boys, and women and men. Adults are influenced by what they learned as children from their parents. Studies have shown that fathers issue more commands on their children than mothers do, and they issue more commands on their sons than to their daughters. Therefore, in the hierarchical order that men find, status is gained by telling others what to do and resisting being told what to do by those they consider inferior. Women, however, learn early to avoid direct conflict so they formulate requests rather than give orders to make it easy for other people to express their preferences without a disagreement.

Other studies have also shown that in preparing for a game, boys followed a certain hierarchy. The leaders told the others what to do. Giving orders and getting others to follow them was the way that certain boys became and remained leaders, ranking themselves in accordance to their skills in different activities. In contrast, the girl’s groups were organized in an egalitarian way.

In a conversation, control of topics is normally shared equally between participants, but this pattern only occurs when the conversation is held between members of the same sex. When one speaker is male and one female, male speakers tend to dominate. Well-informed speakers also tend to control the conversation more than less informed speakers. Male speakers who are well-informed tend to fully dominate the conversation while well-informed female speakers tend to invite discussion and support from the other participants of the conversation. The general tendency among women is to seek agreement. Men feel that raising a different point of view is a more interesting contribution to make in a conversation than merely agreeing. Also, men feel that by playing devil’s advocate for the opposing view, the topic can be explored further. This stance however is more appreciated by men than by women. When actually drawn into conflict, women and men tend to take different stances as well. Instead of directly expressing dislike or dissatisfaction, women do it as subtly as possible. Most of their energy is taken up in avoiding points of conflict to begin with. Men have no such tendencies. Boys not only order each other around, but also insult each other. If they had a grievance about another boy they tended to voice it in his presence. The girls did their complaining however, in the absence of their target.

Women’s opinions are given less credence as compared to their male colleagues, because they tend to use their own experience as evidence and even share anecdotes. Men argue from an entirely different angle, making absolute statements about right and wrong. This does not mean that women are less logical, they simply have a different system of logic. The logic women use makes sense of the world as a private endeavor. They examine and incorporate their own experiences, making connections with the experience of others. The system of logic that men are used to is a more public endeavor. They collect information, conduct surveys, or develop arguments following the rules of formal logic, the way one might do in a research setting.

In resolving a conflict, men rarely say, “I’m sorry”, because to them those words are an admission of guilt and they are apologizing. To women however, “I’m sorry” means “I care about what you are feeling”. They are not apologizing for doing something wrong.

In conclusion, men and women are essentially different. Their views are necessarily diverse. The way they do things and the way they deal with others vary. The skills they learned while growing up to help them deal with interpersonal conflict came from different spectrums altogether. This does not mean that there is no middle ground. By learning how the opposite gender deals with conflict and their various styles of communication, we can gain that crucial bit of insight on how to get along. This will not, of course, eradicate interpersonal conflict, but it goes a long way towards understanding each other.

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