Man Down

Man Down

“Man up”. Regardless of your gender, sex, or identity you have heard something to this effect in a time of crisis—feel free to let me know if I am wrong.  However, in communication, this may be not the easy fix all that some people would have it be.

Per Dainton and Zelley there is evidence suggesting that sex does not show significant difference in communication styles (it suggests more similarities than not).  Rather, the perceived differences in communication we focus on are those of gender roles—those expectations which are established by a community; research in which gender roles are swapped supports such beliefs.

But what might these gender role swaps be?  Well, that is where my story comes in.  Prior to considering CICS my heart was set on becoming an occupational therapist, specializing in pediatrics—this field is dominated by a mostly female work force.

When working with children in hospital systems, I used a more feminine style of communication both verbally and physically—I “manned down” so to say.  As explained by Deborah Tannen, I used communication to form and solidify relationships, rather than assert status or power—the more masculine side of expression (Dainton & Zelley, 2011).  With the children, my stature was open and welcoming, I wore casual clothes to match their own, and I always tried to enter the room with a smile.

In the process of entering CICS I have found myself shedding the focus of how I convey my message and becoming more focused on what I say.  I dress in less vibrant colors, fold my arms when talking to others, and try to manage rigid posture.  Without realizing it, I conformed to what our society expects of people in a business setting.

Where else might we see this?  Pay attention to your own communication when with a group of all females or males.  Does your presentation of yourself differ: the way you sit, facial expressions, do you greet with a handshake or a hug?

In my own experience I think that the fluidity of communication styles was important—when working with young children you cannot effectively communicate with them if you do not build and maintain a good relationship; I think they prioritized how I said things before what I said.  As I move to a field surrounded by other adults, I think that finding a balance between how/what I say is key in mature communication; mature communication needs to be balanced, like most everything else in our world—so I will continue man up and down as I see fit.


–  Aaron Khoury

Dainton, M., & Zelley, E. D. (2015). Applying communication theory for professional life: A

practical introduction (3rd ed.). California: SAGE Publications.

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