Counseling Center workshop explores communication between men, women

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By Courtney Klemm

A Counseling Center workshop aimed to explore the communication myths that have led to phrases like “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” last night at the Illini Union.

The presentation, “He Says, She Says: Gender Communication,” was organized by Counseling Center Paraprofessionals and interns Kate Conrath and Jackie Roe. The presentation is part of a weekly series organized and led by the Center’s interns.

“(This program is) based around differences in communication styles, specifically between men and women,” Conrath said. “We try to make it as interactive as possible.”

Kathy Franczak, junior in LAS, said she came to the workshop because she wanted to become part of the Paraprofessionals program, as well as gain useful and interesting facts about communicating with the opposite sex.

The presenters had several topics for the workshop, such as factors affecting communication, the differences in communication style between the sexes and effective communication strategies to overcome such differences.

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    Allison Beck, senior in business, said she thought she could learn a lot from the session.

    “I saw how my friend was struggling in communication with her boyfriend and it made me realize how important it is to be able to communicate with the person you’re dating,” she said.

    Throughout the workshop, Roe and Conrath stressed the importance of disregarding stereotypes and keeping an open mind. Participants began by using an ice-breaker to establish different stereotypes in the ways men and women communicate. To expand on this, Roe and Conrath role-played to create a scene where participants guessed who was playing the man and woman based on their words and actions.

    After breaking up into small groups, students talked about common characteristics when speaking, like using hand gestures or smiling. Students then discussed which characteristics were more likely to be exhibited by men or women. Many of the participants said they were surprised by the different perceptions each had about the ways women and men communicate.

    Conrath discussed why stereotypes could be harmful in affecting the way a relationship forms. Socialization was given as one of the major reasons why stereotyping occurs.

    “Clearly, how boys and girls are raised affects their communication as adults,” Roe said.

    After much discussion about stereotypes, the workshop shifted to academic theories about the communication differences between males and females. Some studies have shown that women are more likely to be indirect and use generalizations to express their feelings while men tend to be direct and literal about their words. Other studies have shown that male supervisors in the workplace tend to give more neutral feedback to women and more positive and negative feedback to men.

    Students were then provided with tips and resources such as books, University courses and phone numbers for the Counseling Center and Campus Mediation Services to further learn about and improve their communication skills.

    “Communication is a really difficult skill,” Roe said. “It’s important in all facets of life, not just romantic (areas).”