“If you’re a girl, try smiling more, if you’re a guy, try being more confident and talk more.”
I saw that stellar advice in a post on the r/Feminism subreddit. Before a moderator cleaned up the trolls, someone quoted this article to prove that it’s good advice for women to talk less, because, he said, women talk more than men.
Do women really talk more than men? Nope. Men talk more than women.
The irony was that the article — which he brought to the discussion but undoubtedly didn’t read — undid his whole premise. The Truth About How Much Women Talk — and Whether Men Listen by Deborah Tannen is not about how women talk more than men. It’s about how men talk more than women. The exception, she writes, is when women talk to each other. In these private, personal conversations, yes, women talk more to each other than men do in their personal conversations.
Tannen is a linguistics professor at Georgetown and the author of many bestselling books about communication in relationships. Her newest book, You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships, centers on these personal conversations in women’s friendships, the times we feel comfortable enough to speak freely without worrying that we’ll come off as too aggressive or bitchy or crazy or nagging.
We already know that men monopolize the conversation in movies. (See Amber Thomas’s Women only said 27% of the words in 2016’s biggest movies, or this huge analysis of 2,000 major motion pictures, by Hanah Anderson and matthew_daniels.)
Tannen’s research shows that this isn’t just a media phenomenon: In real life, men talk more than women. (It’s not just in our heads!)
So, women just don’t like to talk?
If this were the case, men could feel okay about the verbal disparity, but Tannen’s research shows women want to talk more. When we feel comfortable talking (like when talking to a female friend)…