“Mm Hum” is a sound that many, if not all of us, make during a conversation. But, does it really mean the same for everybody?
Considering the English Language in the United States, studies show that there are several problems of communication, either interethnic or in cross-sex conversation. It is a language with more than sixty thousands words, and five hundred of them could have as many as fourteen thousand meanings! It is easy to conclude then, that miscommunication is its central problem.
Cross-Sex conversations or “Cross-Sex Miscommunications”, just like the interethnic ones, happen because the participants possess different sub-cultural rules for speaking. Men and women in fact, do not play the same role when they interact in dialogue: the set of rules applying to friendly conversation is learned from peers, who are usually of the same sex.
Women’s speech appears to be of a collaborative nature. Actually, the language that women and girls use is to express and establish relationships of closeness and equality. For men, on the other hand, talk often serves the purpose of asserting one’s position within the hierarchy of the group. Therefore, men-only talk is of a more competitive, monologue based nature than women’s talk.
Studies on gender difference indicate, for example, that minimal responses such as nods, “yes” and “mm hum” are common features of conversation. Those responses, however, usually provoke conflict as they have different meanings. For women, a minimal response of this type means only that she is listening. For men, instead, it means that he is agreeing. So, women will get upset with men who never seem to listen and men on the other hand, will think that the woman is always agreeing and then, changes her mind!
It is often explained that the different roles in speech are caused by the social system which gives men the control, and makes women unassertive and insecure, as a consequence of sex requirements. However, the reason why men dominate...