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  • Reverend James Squire

You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation: The Presidential Debate That Wasn’t

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

America needs lessons in Gender Studies, which analyses, among other things, the communication that occurs between men and women. The person who has been most helpful to me in helping others in counseling is Dr. Deborah Tannen who is Professor of Linguistic Analysis at Georgetown University. I have read many of her books and viewed her lectures virtually. Hillary and Kamala shouldn’t have to worry if they interrupted President Trump for fear of being rude if the nation knew that the research shows that men interrupt women much more.

I knew that Trump interrupted Biden throughout the evening, but I am not sure that I would have guessed that he did this on 128 occasions. Interruptions are overt forms of a desire to dominate. Women to women conversations have connection as the goal. Men to men conversations always have status or hierarchy as the goal even if it is not a debate. A debate just heightened the tendency for this to occur.

Interruptions violate a person’s right to speak which we could see clearly in the debate.

There are two different conversation styles. Tannen refers to these styles as “high considerateness” and “high involvement”. It is readily apparent that Joe Biden is the epitome of a gentleman and Donald Trump is not. Think back to the Democratic Party Primary Debates.

Whenever the host would indicate that Joe Biden’s time was up, he would literally stop mid-sentence and yield his time. His natural conversation style is “high considerateness”. Donald Trump’s interruptions were over the top examples of a “high involvement” style.

Something that was missing at the First Presidential debate was rapport talk where each person was attempting to connect in relationship. Their conversation was almost exclusively report talk where both were interested in communicating what they had done and what they would do if elected. The situation required that, but some rapport talk certainly would have helped the situation be more productive.

Often males will change direction in a conversation to manage and control. An example was when Joe Biden was citing the impressive life of his son, Beau, to hear President Trump say, “I don’t want to talk about him. I want to talk about Hunter who has earned so much money when he didn’t know a thing about gas. He’s a drug addict!”

One additional thing that research studies point out is an interesting fact. Keep in mind that there will be other elections this Fall where women and men will be on the ballot. Research shows that there are two things that make a person electable. One is personality or likeability and the second is the policies that they represent. Men are elected based on their policies and not their likeability; however, women are elected on their likability AND their policies. They have to have both ingredients for a successful election where men need just one.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Given this gender issue, if all things are equal, why not vote for a woman as one way of correcting this cultural bias. Makes sense?

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