Deborah Cameron takes on a myth.
The proposition that men and women communicate differently is particularly uncontroversial, with cliches such as 'men never listen' and 'women find it easier to talk about their feelings' referenced constantly in everything from women's magazines to humorous greeting cards.
The idea that men and women 'speak different languages' has itself become a dogma, treated not as a hypothesis to be investigated or as a claim to be adjudicated, but as an unquestioned article of faith. Our faith in it is misplaced. Like the scientists I have mentioned, I believe in following the evidence where it leads. But in this case, the evidence does not lead where most people think it does. If we examine the findings of more than 30 years of research on language, communication and the sexes, we will discover that they tell a different, and more complicated, story.
The idea that men and women differ fundamentally in the way they use language to communicate is a myth in the everyday sense: a widespread but false belief.