Masthead CMC Magazine / January 1, 1996

* A Plea for Understanding--Beyond False Dilemmas on the Net, by Charles Ess

Women's Communication Styles in CMC Environments

In contrast to men, Herring found that women as group tend towards a "positive politeness ethic," one which takes care to establish equality in discourse relationships--in part, by downplaying one's own views, accomplishments, etc., while further attending to the "positive face" of the other, e.g., through praise, encouragements, offers of help, etc. This ethic is rooted in consideration for the wants of others, including their desire to be ratified and liked.

It is crucial to note that Herring is not claiming all men take up an adversarial style, while all women take up the positive politeness ethic. But enough men tend towards the adversarial style, while enough women tend towards the positive politeness ethic, that we often rightly guess the gender of our correspondants based soley on their communication style.

These differences in style become -- problematic for the prospect of democratic communication.

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