Menstuff® has compiled information on the issue of communication.

Women's Brains/Men's Brains

Teenage Slang Explained By Clueless Adults

Mars, Venus: Communication Clashes Have Biologic Basis
Pssst. Want to Know a Secret?
Body Language Basics
Lies Women and Men Tell
Gals don’t gab that much more than guys
Words Women Use
Finally a fair way to fight
10 Things You Should Never Say to a Tall Woman

Louis C.K. on Communication plus

Mars, Venus: Communication Clashes Have Biologic Basis

We've all experienced the exasperation. He's sitting in front of the television when you share a telling tidbit or recap the intimate details of your disturbing day.

When he finally turns around, all you get is a blank stare. He hasn't listened to a word you've said.

Results of a recent study add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that there is a biological basis for what many women have suspected for ages: while men and women might hear the same thing, they listen quite differently. In addition, the new findings suggest that communication difficulties associated with aging may begin more than a decade earlier in men compared with women. This information may provide a physiological explanation for the stereotypical complaint, "he doesn't listen to me," theorized Teri James Bellis, Ph.D, in an interview with iVillage. Dr. Bellis is an audiologist at the at the University of South Dakota inVermillion and lead author of the study.

Furthermore, the new data indicate that the female study subjects between 55 and 60 years of age had a hard time interpreting subtle communication cues, such as tone of voice, due to a deficit in the right side of the brain. Dr. Bellis speculated that this might be one reason why women going through menopause have been labeled as taking "everything the wrong way…Behaviors we assumed were caused by hormones and emotions may also be due to changes in the brain," said Bellis.

The Brain's Role in Listening

Scientists have been studying the role of the corpus callosum -- the big band of fibers connecting the right and left sides of the brain - in language processing for 40 years. Research findings have confirmed that this so-called "interhemispheric function" is essential to communication skills such as interpreting nonverbal cues like pitch and intonation and understanding speech in a noisy environment. Furthermore, preliminary data have shown that with age, the two halves of the brain communicate less effectively.

The effects of gender on language processing are far from clear. The literature is replete with contradictory findings -- some concluding that the corpus callosum is different in men and women and others suggesting that there is no gender discrepancy. Virtually all of these studies fail to control for age, handedness, and whether or not female subjects were taking hormone replacement therapy.

Bellis' interest was peaked when she realized she "…was seeing a lot of men in their 30s and 40s coming into the clinic complaining that they had a hard time hearing." "And though their hearing was normal," said Bellis, "when I looked at their central processing of language I found that they had problems similar to children with learning difficulties."

So Bellis and colleague Laura Ann Wilber set out to examine the effects of age and gender on language processing. They hypothesized that these men with "hearing" problems were actually experiencing an age-related decline in the brain's ability to interpret language.

"We knew interhemispheric function declined with age," said Bellis, "But I said I 'm going to bet that interhemispheric function declines at different times for men and women."

They studied 120 right-handed adults (60 men and 60 women) divided into four age groups (20-25 years, 35-40 years, 55-60 years, and 70-75 years.) Each group took three tests to measure their ability to process sound. For example, one exam assessed whether or not a person could listen to two different words or numbers at the same time and accurately report what he/she had heard.

Both sexes displayed declining language processing capacity between the ages of 40 and 55. But the timeline for this decline was different. Men experienced waning ability starting as early as 35, while women preserved their performance until the postmenopausal years, according to the report, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research. By the time men and women reached their 70s, however, their language processing abilities appeared to be on par.

Why the Sex Difference?

Bellis speculates that the gender discrepancy is the result of differing levels of estrogen. A few recent studies, including a report released late last month from the Institute of Medicine, have confirmed the positive effects of estrogen on cognitive abilities. Thus, since a woman's estrogen levels decline in her menopausal years, it might follow that her language processing skills might also taper off.

Bellis' results strengthen results of earlier reports showing that men and women listen with different parts of their brains. Joseph T. Lurito, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis reported that when listening, men use only the left side of their brain while women use both hemispheres. Our results "fit together quite well," said Bellis. They both show that "women listen with both sides of their brain requiring good interhemispheric integration."

The way a woman processes sounds may help explain why mothers often seem to easily manage several things at once. Other studies and consistent clinical observations have also suggested that it is easier for a woman than a man to juggle more than one conversation at once, said Bellis. Frustrated women may take solace in the fact that men's brains may not be able to process more than one thing at once.

Menopausal Changes

But women may not always be more adept at communicating. The study showed that immediately after menopause, women temporarily lose some of their language processing abilities. All 15 women in the 55-60 year age group in Dr. Bellis' study had problems interpreting tonal patterns, which indicates right brain deficits. Thus, the age-related decline in interhemispheric function may manifest itself a bit differently in women.

"In the immediate postmenopausal years women showed significant right hemisphere deficits," said Bellis, "They may therefore have difficulty interpreting nonverbal social cues, the what-do-I-mean clues." This may explain why menopausal women seem to react inappropriately. If they can't comprehend things like tone of voice, they are more apt to misinterpret language," said Bellis.

Emerging sex differences in language processing offer a physiologic foundation for the stereotypical grievances until now attributed to social and cultural causes. "We [audiologists] hear these gender-based complaints all the time. ' He doesn't listen.' 'She takes everything the wrong way,'" said Bellis. "Now we have a biological basis for these differences."

Please Note: Information provided here is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. The Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research and iVillage/iVillageHealth make no representation or warranty regarding the content of this information. If you are concerned about your health or that of a child, please consult a health provider immediately and do not wait for a response from our professionals.


Bellis TJ, Wilber LA. Effects of Aging and Gender on Interhemispheric Function. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 2001;44:246-263.

Shaywitz BA, Shaywitz SE, Pugh KR, et al. Sex differences in the functional organization of the brain for language. Nature 1995 Feb 16;373(6515):607-609.

Lurito JT. 86th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, 2000, Chicago, IL.

Exploring the Biological Contributions to Human Health: Does Sex Matter? National Academy Press. Theresa M. Wizemann and Mary-Lou Pardue, Editors, Committee on Understanding the Biology of Sex and Gender Differences, Board on Health Sciences Policy, Institute of Medicine. 2001.Full text available at:

Source: Sophia Cariati,,11299,231822_253483,00.html

Pssst. Want to Know a Secret?

A new study finds that keeping some things to yourself could be better for your health than confessing them.

A women's deodorant company recently launched a major promotional campaign that encourages women to "Share your Secret." In national TV ads and on outdoor billboards—including one in New York's Times Square—women are being applauded for their candid revelations of long-buried shames and thrills. "M" finally unburdens herself about her 20-year struggle with bulimia, while Donna fesses up that she has slept with 70 men, not the mere four she told her husband. Wendy has had both her nipples pierced for a year and nobody knows.

Neither the secrets nor the ad campaign is particularly shocking. After all, we live in a confessional culture. There is a lot of pressure to reveal our private lives, lest our dark secrets eat away at us from the inside and do serious physical and psychic damage. The impulse is evident everywhere, from the psychotherapist's consulting room to 12-Step meetings to the pages of yet one more personal memoir of cruel parenting, sexual promiscuity or addiction.

There are a lot of theories about why secrets might be toxic. One holds that lying inhibits the natural inclination to tell the truth, and such inhibition takes physiological effort. This drain on psychic energy in turn stresses the body, causing everything from back pain to depression. A similar theory holds that people who bury shameful secrets in the closet come to feel like imposters, with no true self, a stressful state of falsehood that over time undermines health and well-being.

There is one problem with these theories. Given all this sharing and confessing in our society, it would follow that Americans ought to be a pretty healthy and contented group. Yet a lot of evidence indicates that's not the case. Faced with this seeming contradiction, psychologists have recently been questioning the idea that keeping secrets takes a toll on minds and bodies.

When psychologist Anita Kelly, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, began to explore the link between secrecy and illness, she was surprised to find that it had never actually been tested. So she and her colleague Jonathan Yip decided to take a look at secrecy in the laboratory. To do so, they asked about 100 healthy people whether or not they were currently hiding something important. A striking number—three out of four—confessed that they were indeed concealing something from friends and family. With the secret sharers, Kelly and Yip pried further, asking if the secret had to do with family, sex, a romantic relationship, an abortion, an eating disorder and so forth. This was just to verify that their secrets were not frivolous. Some had held their secret for just days, others for months. But some had been carrying their burdens in solitude for more than six years.

The researchers also gave the participants a personality test, to see if they had a predisposition to conceal things in general. And they asked them about their sources of social support, on the theory that people with dark secrets might tend to isolate themselves, and that this social isolation would cause stress and illness later on. Then they sent them home.

When they called them back nine weeks later, they examined them for symptoms of psychological distress. They wanted to know if they were depressed or anxious or paranoid, but also whether they were experiencing psychosomatic symptoms like chest pain, dizziness or nausea. The findings, which are scheduled to be published in the Journal of Personality in October, were interesting and a bit counterintuitive.

Contrary to the wisdom of deodorant marketers, the people hiding something actually had fewer psychosomatic symptoms than did those with clear consciences. By contrast, those with secretive personalities—people who guard everything from their golf handicap to their mother's maiden name—were experiencing greater distress than the more open types.

Why would this be? Well, Kelly and Yip weren't all that surprised really. When you think about it, there are many social situations where there are significant benefits to not dishing personal stuff. A problem drinker, for example, is no doubt calmer knowing her habit is not public knowledge; sharing that secret with a boss or coworkers could only add to the stress. In addition, fessing up about something like promiscuity or addiction or bulimia necessarily shapes one's sense of identity. Well chosen secrets can preserve a more idealized—and healthier—self-image.

So keep those pierced nipples to yourself. (It may be more than we want to know anyway!) But here's the rub: People who habitually hide everything—you know them, they skulk about and don't talk much—do have cause for concern. Indeed, these people's health problems were already apparent at the beginning of the study, suggesting they live in a chronic state of stress.

So two cheers for honesty, I guess. In the end everyone has to decide for himself what's a risky confession and at what point secrecy tilts toward paranoia. Speaking for myself: I'm saving my most sordid secrets for my memoir.
Source: Wray Herbert writes the "We're Only Human . . ." blog. It appears at Article at

Words Women Use

Men. This is to help you avoid and deal with future arguments. It's important to remember the terminology!

FINE - This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

FIVE MINUTES - If she is getting dressed, this is half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given 5 more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

NOTHING - This is the calm before the storm. This means "something," and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with 'Nothing' usually end in "Fine"

GO AHEAD - This is a dare, not permission. Don't do it.

LOUD SIGH - This is not actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A "Loud Sigh" means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over "Nothing" . This can also mean something is on her mind and she wants you to ask what's wrong, even though she probably won't tell you.

THAT'S OKAY - This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man. "That's Okay" means that she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

THANKS - A woman is thanking you. Do not question it or faint. Just say you're welcome.

Oh, and before we forget ...

WHATEVER - It's a woman's way of saying FUCK YOU!

DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT, I GOT IT: dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking "What's wrong?" For the woman's response refer to Nothing.

Finally a fair way to fight.

As long as relationships exist, there will always be arguments that coincide. These fights will usually go on for an extended period of time until one person decides to shamefully admit defeat, even though they knew deep down that they were right. Now with, we finally give you the opportunity to prove yourself once and for all. No relationship therapists. No biased opinions from friends. No cost. No Dr. Phil. Simply results. Being hailed as "The kids who are taking on Dr. Phil", (WVUD 91.3), is sure to turn some heads. Offering an interesting option for couples and friends. Does it really work you ask? Take a look for yourself. The Fair Fight...because someone's right

10 Things You Should Never Say to a Tall Woman

Statistically, Americans may be getting shorter, but like all evolution, that takes time, and not everyone has shrunk. Take, for example, that tall girl you've got your eye on across the bar. You'd like to impress her, right? Two key pieces of advice: A) Be yourself (as your Mom told you about 10 years ago) and B) don't make a big thing of her height.

In the interest of aiding your love life, we asked a whole WNBA team's worth of willowy women what clichéd lines turn them off most. Heed their warnings and you might just get to check "chick over six feet tall" off your "to do before I die " list.

10. "You must be a model!" (This line shows that you're not trying very hard, even if you clarify up front that you're only asking because she's really really pretty.)

9. "You can't be 5' 10". I'm 5'10"!" (It's one thing to lie about your height while you're sitting down or on an Internet profile. When you say this to someone who has to lean down to hear it, you're busted.)

8. "Is it hard for you to meet people taller than you?" (If she has to explain the bell curve to you, you might not be an intellectual match.)

7. "Now there's a tree I'd like to climb." (Yummeh.)

6. "How do you kiss?" ( Or the skin-crawling subset: "Wow, I feel like I'm the girl!" You do realize that kissing doesn't require her to use her legs, right?)

5. "I could eat my way to the top." (Stop. Just stop.)

4. "How tall are you, anyway?" (Think about it: Whatever she answers won't make much difference, except that you'll look sorta insecure for having asked. Use some deductive reasoning and you should be able to guess within an inch or two.)

3. "How do you wear heels?" (Like everyone else: one foot at a time. She looks even better when she does it, shortstack.)

2. "It won't matter much when we're lying down." (Only a fool would invite commentary on the inches that do make a difference during horizontal integration.)

1. "Do you play basketball?" (People don't ask "Do you play professional baseball?" just because you're paunchy and chew tobacco. Pay it forward by giving tall women the same courtesy.)

Tall Women: Brooke Shields 6'; Yao Defen, 7.74 feet tall.. believed by doctors to be the tallest woman in the world.; Australian basketball-star Lauren Jackson, at 6'5"; Connecticut Sun's 7-foot-two-inch center Margo Dydek, of Poland.; Naomi Campbell, 5' 10" and Claudia Schiffer, 5' 11".; Sandy Allen,who stands 7 feet 6 inches is registered as the tallest woman in the world by the Guiness World of Records; U.S. national team head coach Anne Donovan, at 6'8".; Liberty's Katie Feenstra, 6'8"; Actress Cleopatra Jones, 6'2"; and Kara Wolters of the United States Women's National basketball team.

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Someone's therapist knows all about you.

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