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Getting Over Gender Walls Essay Research Paper

Getting Over Gender Walls Essay, Research Paper Randi Borenstein June 7, 2000 Final Paper Professor Umana, Law and Society 150 Getting Over the Gender Walls

Getting Over Gender Walls Essay, Research Paper

Randi Borenstein

June 7, 2000

Final Paper

Professor Umana, Law and Society 150

Getting Over the Gender Walls

Men and women come from different worlds. Let’s face it, they simply can not communicate. Take the following story for example:

Tom and Mary were going to a party. Tom was driving and after about twenty minutes and going around the same block many times, it was clear to Mary that Tom was lost. She suggested that he call for help. Tom became silent. They eventually arrived at the party, but the tension form the moment lasted the entire evening. Mary had no idea why Tom was so upset. Mary, on one hand thought that she was offering Tom help. Tom, on the other hand “heard” that he was incompetent and couldn’t get them there, (Gray, 20).

In most instances, men and women interpret each other wrongly as well as attempt to make amends in the same mistaken manner. Communication has become the source of our problems. Men expect women to think and react the way men do. Women expect men to feel and communicate the way that women do. Both are mistaken. If we could understand each other better, many conflicts could be prevented. But more importantly, if we could only understand each other better, when conflicts do arise, we could overcome them a lot quicker and easier. Men and women have different values. Men and women cope with stress differently, and are motivated differently. Men and women speak different languages and commonly misunderstand each other. Finally men and women keep score differently and have different needs for support. Painful arguments, regardless can be avoided. Understanding these differences are crucial in day to day situations, but they become even more crucial when dealing in situations when conflicts must be resolved. “If we recognize and understand the differences between us, we can take them into account, adjust to, and learn from each other’s styles,” (Tannen, 17). An example of this is in mediation; divorce mediation in particular. By looking at the work done by Ph. D’s such as John Gray and Deborah Tannen, and author’s like Roger Fisher and William Ury, we can see how gender plays such as important role in Alternative Dispute Resolution. In this paper, I will first explain how men and women come from different worlds, the reasons behind the communication barriers that exist between them, how communication relates to divorce to finally define the importance of gender interchange that lies embedded in the practice of mediation.

I. Men and Women: Two Different Worlds

Most frequent complaints

Men offer solutions and women seek to improve. Women complain the most that men do not listen. Either they completely ignore her, or offer a solution to fix it. He is confused that that she doesn’t appreciate the gesture. She just wants empathy, and he thinks that she needs a solution. Men complain the most about women trying to change them. She keeps trying to help him, but he just wants her acceptance. “A man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results,” (Gray, 16). To offer a man excessive advice is to assume that he doesn’t know what to do himself. Men do not talk about their problems unless he needs advice form an expert. This is part of the reason why men persist on offering solutions to women’s problems. He doesn’t understand that support can be enough. On the other hand “A woman’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and quality of her relationships,” (Gray, 18). Communication is of primary importance. Women are more relationship than goal oriented, and they are intuitive. These two traits are completely opposite for men and women, because women can not understand that offering advice is offensive to a man any more than a man can not understand that he shouldn’t try to fix every problem and just listen instead. Offering solutions and seeking to improve are both two positive aspects of mediation. The more solutions the better, and improvement can never do any harm. A collaboration of the two would be ideal.

Stress

Coping with stress is a big difference between men and women. Men become withdrawn as where women become emotionally overwhelmed. When a man becomes stressed he will withdraw into a cave and he will begin to focus on a solution and lose awareness of all that is around him. He becomes distant and preoccupied. If he can not find a solution, the problem is that he will remain stuck in the cave. Women find it hard to be accepting of his isolation. She starts to resent him. At the same time however, men do not even realize that they have become as distant as they are. When women are stressed, they feel the need to talk. “A woman under stress is not immediately concerned with finding solutions to her problems but rather seeks relief by expressing herself and being understood,” (Gray, 36). When women try to talk, men begin to resist. He does not want to be held responsible. But from all this, men have learned that even when they have been attacked and blamed by women, it is only temporary. Men have also realized how important it is for women to talk about their problems. Women conversely have learned to be more accepting of men when they go into their cave; that it is not a direct reflection of how he feels about her at all. Negotiations encourage talking and sharing feelings. This may serve to the woman’s advantage. If men stop talking, and try to deal internally with the conflict, the women will never understand his true interests.

Different Languages

Men and women often say the same things, however, are usually misunderstood by each other. If men were able to understand a woman’s complaint, they would be able to argue less. The problem is that women express how they feel differently than men, according to Gray. Women in fact actually say things that mean something completely different than how they feel. Women like to talk. But women talk for the same reasons that men stop talking quite often. Men hate to be pitied and that presents a problem since it is difficult for a man to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Women offer a lot of empathy when in hope that they are being of help. Regardless listening requires practice. “Little changes can be made without sacrificing who we are,” (Gray, 84). Just by changing a few phrases, relationships can be improved dramatically, but it requires effort from both sides. Men and women almost need to be retrained in my opinion to be able to communicate better. There are certain traits that are so inherent in our society that changing would be difficult. Men are taught at an early age not to cry for instance and are thrown into a world that is competitive. Women are nurturing and are taught to have compassion. The “female” communication style is intimate and relationship oriented as where the “male” style is independent and hierarchical, (Professor Umana, Lecture June 5, 2000). With such conflicting styles, a compromise must take place somewhere along the way in order to form successful relationships. In negotiations, understanding what each gender is actually saying will help get to the true interests of both individuals and facilitate in coming to an agreement.

Avoiding arguments

Men and women can find any subject to argue over. Whether it is about money, children, or other responsibilities, there is always room for conflict. Men do not like that women complain, worry extensively, expect things from him, and try to read his mind. Women do not like when men, minimize them, forget to do things, blame them, or raise his voice. Men and women need to refrain from feeling the need to argue about such topics. “Most arguments escalate when a man begins to invalidate a woman’s feelings and she responds to him disapprovingly. Women unknowingly start arguments by not being direct when they share their feelings,” (Gray, 164). With a third party available to stand between the two parties, escalations can be controlled much easier and feelings can be directed, as they should be. Men argue because they want to be free and women argue when they want to be upset. Men yearn for space and women, to be understood. In adjudication, the men are catered to more in this scenario. They are separate from the women and they have their space to think. Mediation caters more to the women because they have the chance to be understood better.

Difficult Feelings

There are several emotions that make communicating difficult. A simple conversation can turn into an argument. Women unintentionally place a lot of blame on men and try to make them feel guilty. As men become upset, they become judgmental of women and do not realize that some of the things he may say are very hurtful. Gray points out that “Successful communication would be second nature if we grew up in families that were already capable of honest and loving communication,” (Gray, 229). We were taught to avoid negative feelings. Speaking from experience, I always watched my parents fight at home. They are still married and very much in love, yet that is what I grew up with. I have a hard time communicating with loved ones. That carries over to other negotiations and relationships. In divorces, there are many negative feelings already at the surface. If the two parties desire an ongoing relationship and civil arrangements, then mediation would be a good choice. Negative feelings do not have to be suppressed in mediation. They can be communicated aloud by each party and then resolved.

II. Gender Paradigms

Understanding the role of gender is best seen through three levels. These levels are an individual level, and interactional level, and a societal level. Within these three levels there are two very different gender paradigms. The first paradigm, called the essentialist paradigm assumes that females have a separate world. This view says that by nature, women are different and experience a different reality. The focus is on women’s caring and peaceful attributes. The other paradigm denies this assumption. It instead focuses on the social construction of individuals involving language, symbols, and meaning.

At a societal level, “patriarchy is characterized by a historic discrimination and injustice,” (Birkhoff, 1). Patriarchy, controls reality. This theory states that churches, families and other institutions reaffirm these norms of oppression that women have experienced. This system helps contribute to conflict. This is comparable to saying that we live in a man’s world. Times are changing, but it can not be argued that for so many years, men have been and remain to be the dominant force behind society.

At an interactional level studies have been performed by Patricia Gwartney Gibbs. She studies how gender surfaces in the workplace. According to Gibbs, both men and women experience problems in the workplace. This is due to interpersonal relationships. “Women reported more personality conflicts and men appeared to be more sensitive to them. The problem arose when the stereotype was not directly related to the job,” Birkhoff, 1).

There are many perplexities found in studying how gender affects conflict. Many of them all lead up to the way that men and women communicate. Despite the gender paradigms and levels, men and women must live and communicate with one another. Following this segment is one that explains the different communication styles that have emerged from gender differences. By understanding these styles we can begin to understand one another.

III. Conversational Style Differences

A Balancing Act

There are two worlds, one of intimacy and one of independence. Where individuals are trying to minimize differences, reach a consensus and avoid superiority, intimacy is a major issue. Where status is important, independence is key. According to Ph.D Deborah Tannen, “Women tend to focus on the first, and men on the second,” (Tannen,26). Women expect to discuss decisions first decide by consensus after. Men do not like lengthy discussions. Intimacy and independence are at two separate ends and finding the balance between the two is the trick to good communication.

At Odds…

When looking for validation and encouragement, we often look to those closest to us. When they do not come through for one another, such as with men and women we become troubled. Women and men are frustrated by each other in many ways. Men often can not respond to a woman’s troubles in a “matching” way that women can. Instead they try to offer solutions and fix the problem. This causes problems on both ends. Women can not understand how men can be so insensitive but men can not understand how women do not take their gestures as thoughtful ones. “Women and men’s frustrations with each other’s ways of dealing with troubles talk amount to applying interpretations based on one system to talk that is produced according to a different system,” (Tannen, 54). This just means that men do not respond to each other the way that women do, and so it is difficult to act in the way that is most favorable to the opposite sex. It is important to understand why and how men and women respond the way that they do. Men and women will not always understand one another. It is like the saying “We agree to disagree.” If men and women just understand that they converse differently, confrontations can be minimized.

Framing

Even, as conflicts are minimized they will continue to take place. When negotiating in very day conversations or in the courtroom, there are ways to help the situation resolve quicker and easier. In attempt to change the nature of a conversation, a technique called framing can be used. The art of reframing is, “redirecting the other side’s attention away from the positions and toward the task of identifying interests, inventing creative options, and discussing fair standards for selecting an option,” (Ury, 78). He refers this idea to a picture frame. When you put a new one around a picture, you change the context of it. The same is true for putting a new frame around a conversation. It is important to not reject what the other person is saying, but try to almost align yourself with what the other person. This is essential pertaining to gender because misunderstandings can be put aside, or changed. This works because suddenly two opponents appear to be working on the same side and for the same outcome. It all comes down to how we interpret. If one party does not reject the other’s position, the negotiation can proceed. Focusing on the outcome helps us to forget about the process along the way. So as Ury says, “The way to change the game, is to change the frame,” (Ury,80).

There are a few tactics to help the reframing process. Ury explains that we can “go around stone walls.” This can be done three different ways. First, in extreme positions, you can ignore it, and just treat it like a statement without it having a lot of meaning. You can reinterpret it to mean something else. Or you can test it out. If that does not work, you can deflect attacks by shifting the focus from the past to future solutions. Also by changing positions like “you” and “me” to “we” will change the connotation of the negotiation. It shifts the focus to shared beliefs. One last tactic is exposing tricks. This is not easy. Exposing tricks can be accomplished by asking a lot of questions to get at the truth. Clarification will do away with the misunderstandings that may arise in conversation. Men and women can use these framing techniques in order to help align themselves with one another better. With different communication patterns, framing helps to correct the misinterpretation once it arises.

Styles

Studies have shown that one of the reasons that men and women run have so many problems communication is because of what Deborah Tannen refers to as community and contest styles. It appears that males are more competitive and prone to conflict as where women are more cooperative. Tannen says that women are more comfortable using language for expression and men for self-display. But she says “It is much more complicated because ’self display,’ when part of a mutual struggle, is also a kind of bonding. And conflict may be valued as a way of creating involvement with others,” (Tannen, 150). Women prefer to use as little confrontation as possible in pertaining to disputes. But with men, conflict is necessary in determining status factors. A study done by Walter Ong revealed that “pervasive in male behavior is ritual combat, but women would rather use intermediaries,” (Tannen, 150). This is reflective of adjudication versus alternative dispute resolution respectively. Further. Ong explains that women may misinterpret the “adversativeness” of the way men speak and men can be confused by the “verbal rituals” used by women.

Dominance

The problem is that women talk too much. Or is it? Recent studies on gender and language have shown that it is the men that interrupt women, (Tannen, 188). The real issue at hand however is that no matter who is doing the interrupting, it is a malicious act. Interruptions are seen as intrusions or acts of domination. Women and men feel interrupted because they have different objectives they are trying to convey when they speak. It is also frustrating when you are accused of being interrupted and you feel that you have not. It all refers back to power. Men like to be in control of conversations and many women do not know how to grasp that control. But women feel violated and repressed. In mediation, no interruptions are a primary concern. Each side is supposed to have equal opportunity to speak. The other party can not speak until the first has completed. This way no one can be interrupted and both sides can be heard.

Interpretation

The phrases that men and women use are often interpreted differently depending on which gender is speaking. An example of this would be with bragging. Girls are taught not to boast or brag because this displays that they are better than their peers are. Boys learn that by achieving a high status that they can obtain what they want. Another study done by Patricia Hayes Bradley brought forth similar results. It deals with “tag questions” which are statements with little questions added onto the end. The results showed that when women used tag questions they were seen as less intelligent than men that used them. When women did not give support for their arguments, they were also seen as less knowledgeable. But when men advanced arguments without giving support, they were not, “Tannen, 228). In mediation, many open-ended questions are used. These are similar to what are known as tag questions. In pertaining to this topic, mediation would better serve women because there would be less room for judgement of language by other people. In front of a judge or a jury, language can be a setback for women. In front of your partner, or mediator it can only help equalize discussions. That is not saying that under these circumstances, men can not benefit as well. For men in mediation, women will be less apt to feel dominated and interpret discussions differently to help expedite the process.

Asymmetry

Each topic considered above brings us to the bottom line that men and women live asymmetrical lives. The challenge is how to travel past it. Gender inequalities begin in the home, at an early age. As time goes on, the alignment of men and women are “epitomized by the positions that they take,” (Tannen, 284). Even in the most intimate moments she explains, when lying down to sleep, a man usually lays on his back, a woman on her side, with his arm around her. Everything in our society can be directly reflected to gender, especially communication. Alternative Dispute Resolution is a way in which parties can resolve their problems in a more agreeable manner. Divorce mediation can help save a lot of time, money, grief, and what remains of a relationship.

III. Divorce

Divorce is an unpleasant thought and a very painful process. It does not have to be as bad as we make it though. Edelman, author of The Tao of Negotiation, says, “when we hear the word ‘divorce’ we think of some conflict of some sort. But divorce is not a conflict. Divorce is simply a desire on the part of wither one or both partners in a marriage to restructure the relationship,” (Edelman, 209). Further he explains that divorce is a result of conflict or may lead to conflict.

There are four stages of divorce. The first is denial. Denial is a form of awareness but it is a form of disbelief. Following denial is anger. Anger needs to surface before you can go any further. Third is bargaining which serves as a last attempt to save a marriage. Finally there is acceptance. Edelman then poses the question “Are you ready to listen to each other, (Edelman, 215)? By listening, Edelman means being present to and for the other person. When you are present you need to be empathetic. All prejudices need to be forgotten. If not, either side may not be understood.

With all the problems with divorce, at least there is one thing that is helpful. That is divorce mediation. The question is whether or not it works. The answer is yes. The main advantage is that the parties stay in control of their own divorce, which can make all the difference with resolving a divorce and moving on. With mediation, there will be a lot less conflict than experiencing adversarial divorce. Both parties can work together to achieve the most desirable results. A mediator remains neutral at all times. Mediation produces agreement in 50 to 80 percent of cases. Costs are lower, the amount of time disputing is less, and the procedure is completely voluntary. Agreements become more comprehensive in which help lead up to a higher compliance rate than in adjudication. Divorce mediation helps parties to communicate in the best way possible to reach a resolution that is a win-win one on both ends.

V.Conclusion

Alternative Dispute Resolution is a more feminine approach to negotiation. On one end, the feminine side there is the collaborator/mediator. The female side encompasses qualities such as intimacy, relationships, as well as a symmetrical and circular structure. The male paradigm seeks justice. The male side is hierarchical, independent and linear. The masculine side is the adjudicator, opposite of the female collaborator, (Professor Umana, Lecture June 5, 2000). According to a study done by Belenky, Men base their moral decisions on notions of fairness and justice, women on fairness and care. Men say “What is right, is right.” What is fair to men is identical in all cases,” (Belenky,85) Feminine notions look for to avoid hurting others, and a response to the needs of others. “Men use communication to ‘focus on the jockeying for status’ in conversation. They attempt to figure out if someone is trying to one up on him,” (Tannen,85. Women are more “attuned” to the negotiations of connections. By looking at the studies of John Gray, we can look at the two genders in our society like two different planets. By separating the two to such extremes we can justify the complications that men and women encounter in order to explain how men and women are so different. Stemming from the notion that men and women have such different qualities we learn that their conversation styles are just as complicated. Deborah Tannen helps illustrate these patterns and how to avoid unnecessary arguments as well as amend one’s already in progress. Finally, by examining authors such as Fisher and Ury and examining case studies, we can learn the importance of negotiation in resolving conflicts and how gender plays such an important role due to the fact that negotiations are based solely on the need for good communication. With good communication along with empathy, and a little luck the connections we make and the negotiations we encounter will be successful ones.

Author Unknown. “The Economic and Societal Context” (article from Professor Umana in section)

Birkoff, Juliana. “Gender, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution,” 5-28-2000,

*http://conflict-resolution.net/articles/birkoff.cfmplain=t*

Edelman. “Divorce: From Pain to Peace” Reader

Gray, John, Ph.D. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Harper Collins: New York, 1992.

Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand. Balentine Books: New York, 1991.

Ury, William. Getting to Yes. Penguin Books: New York, 1991.

Bibliography

Birkoff, Juliana. “Gender, Conflict, and Conflict Resolution,” 5-28-2000,

Edelman. “Divorce: From Pain to Peace” Reader

Gray, John, Ph.D. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Harper Collins: New York, 1992.

Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand. Balentine Books: New York, 1991.

Ury, William. Getting to Yes. Penguin Books: New York, 1991.

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