Friday Feminine Gamification Viewpoint: communication styles
Traditionally men and women tend to behave different when communicating with people of the same gender. Men form friendships based on common interests, women look to friends for mutual support. When a man and a woman become friends however this divide is merged into friendships based on proximity, acceptance, effort, communication, common interests, affection and novelty.
The context of these variations is important still.
Men expect an element of competition in their friendships and hence will avoid discussing weakness and vulnerability. They avoid communicating personal and emotional concerns. Their basis for a friendship is to take part in activities together and exchanging favours in terms of activities, for each other. Their communication tends to be shoulder to shoulder, men talking whilst also watching a football game, building something, etc. Whilst listening men tend to remain silent.
Women on the other hand are more likely to speak about emotions and show their vulnerability and when they feel these emotions strongly that is when they most likely look for their best friend. It is also why girls often feel closer to their friends than guys do. Women tend to value their friendships for listening, communicating non-critically with each other, support, building each other self-esteem, offering comfort, validating beliefs and feelings and encouraging growth and development. Women tend to talk face-to-face and make a lot of eye contact. While listening women tend to make noises such as ‘Hmm.. yes, uh-huh’; to keep the conversation flowing and show respect.
In public situations men tend to talk more, because there is an opportunity for competition and a good debate will bring out skills you can put on display. Women tend to talk more at home, where they are looking for support and comfort and ways to process their emotions of that day. Women tend to express agreement and support as opposed to debate.
From a design perspective in gamification we are often looking to encourage certain actions, behaviour and communications, so to ignore how the different communication styles play out, would be a big mistake in my view. I would also say that assuming that as soon as someone belongs to the male or female group of communicators and using only this as a stereotypical indicator of the communication you are aiming to design and stimulate is dangerous and a little shortsighted. In my view know the gender differentiators and then delve deeper to find the nuances and break a group of men or women into smaller more defined categories based on interests, demographics, education, behaviour, location, activities they take part in.
Finding a balance is an act of fine-tuning and when on a particular project deciding who the core target audience is right now. If they are mostly ladies then speak to the supportive and emotional side, but break it down further into the type of woman you are after. For example career women, may well have taken on a lot of masculine communication habits and may abhor soft communication, however I will bet on it that they still have a girlfriend to share emotions with outside of work. If you are aiming at a group of mothers, you may well need to speak the emotional tongue of dealing with children and not always knowing what to do in any given situation.
Do you have any fun examples of where the gender divide was well or not so well catered for? We would love to hear it, so please do share.