Eugene Cho

her diary. his diary. too funny. but true or false?

Have you seen this?

It’s hilarious. Almost painfully hilarious. [RSS readers: click here]

But is it true?

Do women and men have that huge of a disparity in the amount of words they use? Or is it a myth perpetuated by stereotypes?

To be honest, I’ve often cited the disparity in the # of words between men and women without necessarily knowing if it was scientifically documented. Like others, I’ve referenced a book called The Female Brain (published in 2006) where its author, Louann Brizendine, has been widely quoted claiming that “a woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000.”

Basically 3 to 1.

But more recent studies have shown that it’s a gross exaggeration. A myth that keeps growing.

According to a study done and published in Science Magazine in 2007, researchers found that women speak a little more than 16,000 words a day. Men speak a little less than 16,000 words.

Not quite the 3 to 1 disparity.

According to this NPR report from 2007, there’s danger to the myth of the great verbal disparity between women and men:

Mehl says the stereotype needs to be debunked. Not only because women are harmed by the “female chatterbox and silent male” stereotype, but because men are disadvantaged by it, too.

“It puts men into the gender box, that in order to be a good male, we’d better not talk — (that) silence is golden,” Mehl says. “The stereotype puts unfortunate constraints on men and women – the idea that you can only happily be a woman if you’re talkative and you can only be happy as a man if you’re reticent. The study relieves those gender constraints.”…

In general, they found that women tend to talk more about relationships. Their everyday conversation is more studded with pronouns. Men tend to talk more about sports and gadgets, and their utterances include more numbers.

Hmm. More stereotypes.

Your turn. What do you think?

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22 Responses

  1. I think my wife and I are the opposite. I’m the communicator who has to pry words out of her sometimes. But maybe that’s why I’m a good school teacher and she’s a good veterinarian…

  2. Emily Jones says:

    I really don’t like gender stereotypes at all, including this one about how we communicate. It seems to me that there are going to be men and women on either side of the spectrum and a bunch in the middle. The reality is that no number of words is going to accurately communicate everyone’s experience as a man or woman, and when generalizations are made for what is “normal,” it forces the majority into a box and the outliers are seen as “not a normal man” or “not a normal woman.” Talkative men can be seen as not manly and quiet women as not feminine. The differences and quirks of men and women are interesting and can definitely shed light on relationship dynamics, but I think it avoids the bigger question of what is true masculinity and true femininity. I’d rather explore the dynamics of my individual marriage, figure-out how we best communicate, when one of us wants to talk and one of us wants to be quiet, than try to fit us in a box of “you’re this way because you’re a man/woman.” I like to look at it as “You’re this way because you’re Clay, because you’re an individual and this is just the way you are.” I really don’t care how other men communicate and if he’s in the majority or minority. For what it’s worth, he’s an awesome communicator but rather silent at night time unless I start conversation because he’s been talking all day long at work. (I suppose some would say he’s reached his word limit, but I’m the same way when I’ve been talking a lot, we’re both just introverts.) Interesting that the original study on words is wrong, I tend to believe that men and women are much more alike than we are different, so I definitely believe that our word limits are similar as well.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      wow. lots of words in this comment. 😉

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I’m just kidding, Emily.

      I agree with you. I don’t like gender stereotypes but I acknowledge that they impact all of us in some way or another and impact the way that we “see” one another.

      What I’m trying to do…is to see and hear each person uniquely. It sounds great but I’m amazed how difficult it is to do so with a clean slate.

      I understand what you shared about long haired Clay because there are days when I’ve had meetings after conversations as a pastor and when I come home, I just want to go into cocoon mode which isn’t fair for anyone.

    • Miles Migliara says:

      I didnt even have to read what you said. i just looked at the amount that you wrote, then looked back to the story, then back to what you wrote. Same length, probably filled with the same stuff. fit the stereotype.

  3. Matt Miles says:

    “In general, they found that women tend to talk more about relationships. Their everyday conversation is more studded with pronouns. Men tend to talk more about sports and gadgets, and their utterances include more numbers.”

    Great. Let’s replace one stereotype with another. How about we take them all and flush them down the crapper? Cause I try not to take it personally when I keep hearing that I must have a vagina if I’m not good at math or obsessed with sports, but it gets old after the millionth time. (I talked about my feelings, but I used the number so it should even out)

  4. .elise.anne. says:

    i think it also has to do with gender stereotypes of emotions and acknowledgement of emotions.

    The man could have said when they were at dinner that his motorcycle was not working, and that he was frustrated by that and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

    The woman likely sensed the frustration, being trained in female stereotypes to pay attention to that especially in a romantic relationship, and she did ask him in a variety of ways about that frustration. His lack of admitting it (to himself or to her) left her wondering what was wrong.

    Because you know men talk a lot too….just not about emotions, which ties to macho myths etc

    • jp says:

      @.elise.anne. : I am a male and I talk about emotions all the time, so just as Matt Miles commented earlier, “Let’s [NOT] replace one stereotype with another.”

      I could say a number of things but they would still be interpreted as perpetuating stereotypes. The reality is, that each situation must be appreciated for its uniqueness. There are behavioral generalities, most often defined by stereotypes or social norms, but we must be careful NOT to necessarily apply that understand to all individual situations.

    • elderj says:

      Or maybe the man didn’t feel like talking about it, and that it wasn’t her fault and she shouldn’t worry about it, which is what he told her in many different ways including directly. She then could have dropped it, took his word for it, and stopped worrying about it.

      Her lack of willingness to believe him left her wondering what was wrong (though he knew very well what was wrong but didn’t want to talk to her about it), and conceitedly assuming that his unwillingness to talk was someone connected to her — though he had told her explicitly that it wasn’t.

      • jp says:

        That is why there are always deeper issues to miscommunications…In this example, it might be trust of the loved one. We too often have conditions attached to our love rather than trust.

        The easy way to deal with such an issue is to fall back on the stereotype, rather than address the trust and miscommunication issues in a relationship. In this case the man should probably say that he does not wish to talk about but will explain later.

        As you say, she should have trust in their relationship and let it play out over time, rather than push the point or jump to conclusions. We can see from this simple example that people are complex and I agree with Eugene, that we must recognize the stereotypes we have a tendency to fall back on, so that we can reject them and focus on the reality of each situation.

  5. Ian says:

    All I know is the couch in that picture is the longest I’ve ever seen, breaching at least two time zones.

  6. elderj says:

    I thought the picture thing-y was hilarious. I showed it to my wife; she agreed with me.

    There is a distinct difference between stereotypes and what might be termed “typical” behavior (for lack of a better term. Stereotypes collapse people into simplistic categories, often for the sake of discriminating (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively). That is much different than recognizing that between groups there are typical ways of interacting and communicating. That’s what we call culture. How much more so is this true between the sexes where there are not only differences in socialization, but physiological differences that affect “typical” behavior. It is simply true that men & women literally “think” differently — our brains are wired differently. It is true that the typical guy is better at spatial reasoning than the typical woman — and that the typical woman is better at reading non-verbal cues in communication. This is no different that saying men are taller & stronger than women (though not every man is taller or stronger than every woman). Acknowledging these differences isn’t perpetuating anything — it is simply telling the truth.

    What is problematic is when different is deemed to the automatically better or worse, or when people are flattened into 2 dimensional stereotypes and interacted with solely on that basis.

  7. There are two points being conflated here: (1) Gender (stereotypical) chattiness, (2) Lack of communication.

    #1 can be discarded. There are just as many couples with male talkativeness as female.

    #2 can happen in any case where one of the two is pre-occupied with something that does not matter to the other. The reason it does not matter is lack of past communication. This is especially serious in the modern context where each has a totally different job, spends 8hours or so (fully half the waking time) doing something the other has no part in.

    Nevertheless, my wife and I both found it hilarious, so there is a germ of truth in it.

  8. Peggy Londre says:

    Fun reading!

    If one were interested in delving deeply into the topic of Gender, an excellent resource is: Five Aspects of Woman by Barbara Mouser. This came from her 6-year study of the Bible with a group of college girls, searching the scripture for God’s design for the genders. As a long-time Christian, there were many “Aha” moments and useful, encouraging, challenging insights. Many obscure truths were explained. Fascinating and empowering! There is also a Five Aspects of Man, which I have not had time to review, supposedly less in-depth – does this say anything about Man’s attention span? Blessings!

  9. Jung-Hoon says:

    Enjoyed reading it very much. It so incredibly hilarious that I got my wife to read it, and she loved it too. Having married to my wife more than ten years now, I also find it true as well. Marriage is full of mysteries.

  10. […] her diary. his diary. too funny. but true or false? (eugenecho.com) […]

  11. Beth says:

    i think this is more about the thought process and the way we think differently (emotionally) than it is about how many words we use

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