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Communication Postures

When men and women speak, they say as much with their postures as with their words, observes communication theorist Deborah Tannen:

Differences in physical alignment, or body language, leap out at anyone who looks at videotapes (of conversations) one after another. At every age, the girls and women sit closer to each other and look at each other directly. At every age, the boys and men sit at angles to each other--in one case, almost parallel--and never look directly into each other's faces. I developed the term "anchoring gaze" to describe this visual home base. The girls and women anchor their gaze on each other's faces, occasionally glancing away, while the boys and men anchor their gaze elsewhere in the room, occasionally glancing at each other.

The boys' and men's avoidance of looking directly at each other is especially important because researchers, and conventional wisdom, have emphasized that girls and women tend to be more indirect than boys and men in their speech. Actually, women and men tend to be indirect about different things. In physical alignment, and in verbally expressing social problems, the men tend to be more indirect.

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