"Everyone is trying to matter above the chatter. Talk shows have become shout fests, online venting grows increasingly opinionated, and our chosen paths seem to be judged at every turn.
Our fuses may be shorter, and what sets them off ever-changing. But how men and women respond—and what they expect—goes back a long way. "Men have grown up in a world in which a conversation is often a contest," says
Georgetownlinguistics professor Deborah Tannen. "For women, even a healthy debate—if there is such a thing—is about exchanging information and support." This piece is not, let me say up front, an argument for one sex doing it better than the other.
Obviously, it's hard to find statistics on how many times a day people disagree, or whether we do it more with our own, or the opposite, gender. We do know that in a survey for a
Baltimoreradio station that asked men and women, "What can't you stand about each other?" the number-one reply from males was "argument techniques." (Women didn't like men's lack of cleanliness.) Specifically, they claimed that women say, "I'm fine" when they are not, and "win fights by crying."
Well, maybe they cry more in
Baltimore, (probably because they took The Wire off the air) but I am not seeing a lot of female tears. What I am seeing is a just-under-the-surface, self-critical anxiety that is easily triggered."