Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A or B Communication

We offer children A or B.
That's how they will communicate with the world. They will learn to become A or a B.
What we don't tell them is that the more you practice one style, the less you can relate to the other.

A: consensus, community
A according to A: Communication is an opportunity to show support by relating. Share personal stories so that no one feels alone in their struggles. There's no need to dominate others, we can make decisions together. It's embarrassing to appear inferior or superior. Interrupting to finish someone's sentence is a show of camaraderie. It's easier to communicate in private than perform in public. Fighting is to be avoided.
From B's perspective: A's are too needy and weak. They are too dependent on others. They're manipulative because they only drop hints even when they know what they want -I don't get it.
Want to hurt an A? Threaten their connections to others.

B: competitive, hierarchical
B according to B: Communication is an opportunity to prove your worth. If you're going to take the stage make sure you have something funny or informative to say. It feels good to talk at length and teach someone about something you're an expert on. It's embarrassing to be corrected. Interrupting to win an argument is fair game. Fighting is a fun game.
From A's perspective: B's are too aggressive. I don't understand the obsession with the confrontational tone. They bully each other and then they're best friends -I don't get it.
Want to hurt a B? Threaten their independence.

It's amazing how difficult it is for someone operating in one framework to relate to the other. It seems designed for disaster. A and B are more commonly referred to as:
A = feminine
B = masculine

What's you split?
No one perfects any one style -you probably notice that you have traits from both styles. Offhand, I would say I'm a 70-30 split in favour of B. -but my understanding of A is more of an academic level than experiential. I'll never fully relate.

This entry is largely based on the ideas in You Just Don't Understand by sociolinguist/genius Deborah Tannen (I highly recommended). I hope I did them justice. I don't like when the world is broken up into "men" and "women" but I thought Tannen's approach was reasonable. We continue to treat children differently by encouraging boys to act masculine and girls to act feminine so these categories do have some meaning. I found this book articulate -it put words to observations that I had yet to voice.

I think my favourite part of my reading experience is that I detect a low level bias that is pro-women. Many of her literary examples, for instance, come from female writers. I also feel that she is more willing to criticize the masculine style of communication and defend the feminine style (which she points out is often misunderstood by stereotypical characterizations). I liked the presence of her bias in the book. It became a steady, subtle background noise -I imagine much like the masculine voice that secretly resonates behind most of our culture.


lfar said...

I like how you set this post up!

I'd give myself about an 80-20 in favour of B... which would be higher except sometimes I'm intentionally more A intentionally, especially when I'm around other A types.

Seriously, really cool post.

Liz said...

I'm 70/30 or 80/20 slanted towards A.
That is, of course, if it's okay with you...

Andy said...

You posted the exploding dog pic but don't host the image yourself. I think people don't enjoy that, 'cause it's their bandwidth you are using. Also I don't have a steady background noise in my speech. All my words are fair and balanced. You might have seen me on TV?