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Men are Just as Chatty as Women

The results of this study indicate that there is only a statistically insignificant difference of 500 words per day between men and women. So there goes another stereotype. Women who walk around town with their fathers or husbands and happen to come across on of that man’s acquaintances have always known this--or they have suspected that men were more chatty. Men, I suppose, believe that women are more chatty because their wives and mothers seem always to wish to talk with them about matters upon which they would prefer to remain ignorant or--at least--undisturbed. The bottom line is this: if a person is talking about something you want to hear, he or she is not chatty, but outgoing and engaging. If a person is discussing something you find boring, he or she is chatty.

Discussions - 12 Comments

While that may be a decent number and sample of college students, it is not clear that college students represent all Americans--even allowing for the fact that more people attend college these days than ever before. Which schools' students are being surveyed (elite, state schools, community colleges), are allowances made for their majors, or are they entirely at random? We call the educated elites in this country the "chattering class" for a reason; many value talk above action. There are plenty of men, and perhaps some women too, who have the opposite priority. The usual demographic profile takes other factors into acccount, including race and age, as the last part of the article suggests. What do we know now except that college students, regardless of sex, talk at about the same rate?

Sorry Julie, but I don't buy this either as the whole story. The "stereotype" is definitely true. Mansfield cites a different study in Manliness that shows dramatic differences. You might check out the methodology there. To add to Richard's point, boys in college are not only chattering about books and lectures (or begging lecture notes from girls), but chatting up girls generally for other reasons--and talking with fraternity brothers too.

And so how, precisely, are men out of college any different from their younger counterparts when it comes to chatting up the girls? It has been my observation that when it comes to that sport, men do seem to out-pace the women . . . at least until (or to be more precise--within) marriage. Is it just that the younger ones have more opportunity for this sport and so are, in your view, more chatty? But as far as that goes, older women have less opportunity to chat with their girlfriends after college and marriage too. Unless we're counting blogging, I am certain that I speak fewer words on a typical day than my husband does--though many of mine may be louder as they are mostly directed at children and the dog.

I do not recall the study in Mansfield's book but I would suspect a difference in kind rather than in volume is more precise. You men (and Mansfield) may think what you wish. But you may be more inclined to like the suggestion--also from this study--that the vocabularies of most women are not really any better than those of most men. It seems we all say about the same number of words and they are of about the same quality. I think it is in the stringing them together where we most differ.

And I might have added the purposes for which they are strung together.

I heard that the methodology was questionable - computers monitored speech and tabulated the results. If I'm right, they probably counted grunting as speech. That would widen the gap considerably.

Surely, if grunting counted then the gap would have been 500 + more in favor of the men! And I won't even discuss the other noises . . .

I've been hesitant to re-engage, but....dropping the business of the numerology and taking another tack, let me just speak ex cathedra. Speech matters more to women in private life, that is, in speech between the sexes. It is then fitting that they are more agile at it at an early age. Apart from their bodies, speech is perhaps the most natural of the beautiful attire of women. The speech of women fascinates and attracts men (written as well as oral in my experience--of course some women more than others). The other side of this is that it can become tiresome and irritating. Male independence constantly reasserts itself, and women often try to assert control directly through speech, which is always unpleasant. I do not know if this means that women talk more, but the speech of women is I think more present to men than is the speech of men to women. This is despite the fact that women seem to care more about intimacy than men. To elaborate again, women's speech is more circuitious than that of men since they seek rapport and create contexts more than get directly to the point. Men are not only more abstracted, they are more interior and more psychically unstable--not a recipe for glibness. Evidence of this for me is the fascinating datum that instances of stuttering in women are extremely rare.

Perhaps you've read Darwin's notes to himself before he decided to marry Emma Wedgewood, called "This is the Question,"--a list of the pro's and con's of marrying. On the pro side he wrote, "charms of music and female chit-chat." On the con side he wrote, "Choice of Society and little of it. Conversation of clever men at clubs......perhaps quarreling."

Do we handle the problems arising here in a democratic way by making marriage, and male/female relations in general, more of a joint task and friendship right away. Romance and charm less evident, as Tocqueville said? I think of that study the other day that cited sharing housework as the number one standard for a successful marriage. omygod!

You see . . . we do agree! There is no question that there are vast differences between men and women, their speech, and the purposes to which that speech is directed. I think this is one of the reasons why girls (as a group) usually outperform their male counterparts in school during the early years. They are accustomed to speaking and reacting and pleasing. Boys, of course, would rather "do" something and are not as eager to please their (generally) female teachers. I have observed, however, that a particularly stern female teacher or an especially good looking and young female teacher can inspire some pretty good behavior in little boys. Still . . . I think they talk plenty (especially when they are not supposed to).

The only part of your post above with which I might have some difference with you is where you say that the speech of women is more present to men than that of men to women. I understand, I think, what you're getting at. That it can be more cloying and nagging and enervating--pushing men to escape or sink into gloom. But men sometimes forget the power of their words--particularly critical words. Men insult each other with impunity and remain intimate friends. But a man who insults a woman (if she happens to care at all for his opinion) has wounded her to the quick and made an enemy for life. A woman will walk around for years playing and replaying a conversation (good or bad) that she had with a man. She will, very likely, discuss this conversation with trusted friends. I don't think men do that very often, if at all.

Your correction of me is absolutely on the mark. Men have no idea that their thoughtless words will be forgotten with so much difficulty. This comes at them out of the blue. The shame is when you keep doing it nonetheless. I admit I don't quite understand the psychology of this at bottom. Most men yearn for the approval of women, but the words don't stick as much.

My wife says the stern nuns were the top with their beloved bad boys! Glad we're in synch again. Whad'ya think of that obit on Bismarck? Amazin!

Robert: I think he needed a stern nun--and better parents. And I think he's the extreme (and even more tragic) Euro version of our own Paris Hilton. Odd--or perhaps not--that Americans tend to put women in the center of this kind of negative but ceaseless and obsessive attention. I'm not sure what it means yet, but I've been thinking about that ever since I read the obit. And I've also been wondering about the sons and daughters of people who achieve great things (or, in America, great wealth) finding themselves so hopelessly unable to strive. Thinking in the context of Lincoln's Lyceum speech a bit--is it not only greatness that disdains the beaten path but also those of whom so much is expected and nature has not well endowed? I find both people terribly sad and tragic.

Back to our other subject--and connected with our other thread about deserving loyalty--men really do need to try and remember how much thoughtless words injure the women they love. These words will still be spoken, I know, because men are so much more prone to flashing anger than women are. But women need to remember than men get angry easily and that, very often, it is not personal or even sustained. It's very easy for us to exacerbate men's anger, however, because angry words usually cut us where it hurts the most . . . our vanity (or, if you prefer to use modern psychological terms, insecurity). And when men touch that spot they know not what they do. Women's anger is not the white hot burning rage of men's but something much worse and less useful. It is a smoldering, plotting, soul-blackening kind of rage. Just remember Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. She did not dislike Darcy just because he appeared to be haughty and aloof. He might have been as haughty and aloof as he liked to the rest of the world, if only he did not dare to imply that there was something inferior about her. If he had immediately recognized her virtues (as the cad--whose name escapes me this moment, did) he might have been a perfect pig . . . at least for a while. Darcy was not angry when he said what he said about EB, but he hit the same spot in her soul that men's angry words tend to hit. That's a dark place and men really should work hard to avoid it if they wish to be happy and to see their women happy. On the other hand, women should work hard at lightening that dark spot up with reason and, I think, humor. The self-deprecating kind is the best for this.

I forgot to mention the obvious (but still worth mentioning) converse effect of men’s speech to women. If an angry or unkind word can do terrible damage, don’t underestimate the power of an especially kind or heartfelt compliment. (But it has to be real--and, I’m afraid, if to be believed also rare.) Men should check their indicator light on this as often as they check their oil. Perhaps they should put a note under the hood to remind them! Women of course, should compliment their men at least as often as they brush their teeth! Men don’t need praise to be rare in order for it to be believed! And, I think, you don’t really have to believe it either! :)

Julie, I don't have time now to do you justice in responding to your generous thoughts. Your description of woman's rage is most finely drawn and very helpful. I recognize it. I think you are right in everything you say. Many thanks. More later...

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