Thursday, October 18, 2012


Interruptions are such an intrinsic part of normal male communication that ESPN has even turned the name of its now-legendary "PTI" into an acronym.

For females, not so much.

And, that gender difference in normal conversation is one of the primary reasons for prep on any radio station, team or personality wanting to appeal to women.

Deborah Tannen has been researching, writing about and speaking to help couples "understand" how the things each person says, the way they say it, is perceived by the opposite sex for at least thirty years.

Her reactions to the last two weeks' campaign debates (click to read her New York Times Op Ed on it), with the two candidates' in-your-face approach to one another is a great reminder of why it's important to always know who is going to set up and start delivering content, where it's going and who's going to end the bit.
"Speakers can exploit the sense that they have a right to finish their turn, but demanding that right can backfire. Members of the audience gasped when Mr. Romney told Mr. Obama, “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.” A courteous “Please let me finish” might have been looked on more favorably.  How much can a listener talk and still be a listener rather than a wannabe speaker? For some the limit is a word or a phrase like “Exactly,” “Yeah, right,” or maybe even “I know what you mean.” But for others it can be much more — “I know, the same thing happened to me” — or even a short story that expands a topic another speaker raised." 

The Georgetown Prof
notes that it's not just a case of needing to know your partner.  You also need to understand your listener as well.
You might think it’s obvious that an interruption is when a second person starts talking before another has stopped. But how long a pause means “I’m done” rather than “I’m catching my breath”? This, too, varies by region and culture — and the difference can lead to unintended interruptions. In 1978, I tape-recorded a Thanksgiving dinner conversation involving two Christians raised in California, three Jews of Eastern European ancestry from New York and a British woman. At times the Californians felt interrupted when their Jewish friends mistook a pause for breath as a turn-relinquishing one. At other times, exclamations like “Wow!” or “That’s impossible!” which were intended to encourage the conversation, stopped it instead.

If you're pert of a male-female team and you want both genders to like you, including prep on "your back and forth/taking turns" of normal conversation requires advance thinking before the mic opens.
"It’s well documented that women tend to be interrupted more than men, and that women who interrupt others are seen more negatively than men who do. (Some years ago John McLaughlin showed me a tape to illustrate what he’d noticed — that Eleanor Clift was cut off far more often than the men on his show.) But it’s also been found that there are more interruptions in all-women conversations, though the talking-over may be more a talking-along in a lively free-for-all." 

What do listeners expect each character to do?  How do you want your listener to respond?

Your team's conversational style may determine whether they seethe quietly, call in to voice their opinion, yell at the radio or turn you off.

1 comment:

Robert Durant, a professor of public policy at American University in the LA Times said...

Women with families are especially busy. When it comes to campaigns, they arrive at the theater midway through the third act, look around, and decide who the heroes and villains are."