Gender Differences in Communication
by Connie Glaser
Best-selling author and keynote speaker Connie
Glaser is one of the country's leading experts on gender communication and women
in leadership . Exploring communication differences
between men and women, Connie offers corporate seminars on effective communications
and overcoming barriers to leadership.
Connie Glaser, bizwomen columnist and author of GenderTalk
Steps for Cracking the Gender Code at Work, dissects the differences between
the way men and women communicate in this Q&A first published in the
Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Q: What is the main difference between the way men and women talk?
A: Men tend to use conversation as a means to assert their opinion and negotiate
-- and maintain status. Conversation is a medium for giving advice, directions
and information. They tend to use short sentences and be very direct. For
men, conversation is often perceived as a game of one-upmanship ... shoot,
For women, communication tends to be a more collaborative, give-and-take
exchange. They use conversation to establish rapport and connection, the
subject of the conversation often being secondary to building the relationship.
Women tend to use language to communicate feelings, as well as convey information.
Q: You state in your book that women tend to use more qualifiers
in their speech, i.e., "I might be wrong about this, but ..." or "I
think." Explain the problems with this type of talk in the workplace.
A: In the female culture, women often try to avoid coming across as too
direct or boastful. Consequently, they tend to use qualifiers that play down
their authority or status. Men will take these qualifiers literally and if
a woman says, "This may be a stupid question, but ...," they'll
assume a stupid question is coming right up.
Q: How can women get out of the habit of apologizing excessively?
A: When women say, "I'm sorry," they're often told, "Don't
apologize; it's not your fault." But typically, they're not apologizing
for having done something wrong, but rather feeling sorry that something
happened.Typically, they're not apologizing for having done something wrong,
but rather feeling sorry that something happened. By all means, apologize
if you've done something wrong. But women need to monitor themselves for
constant apologies, as men perceive it as a sign of lacking confidence and
Q: Another point you make in the book is that men can't take a hint. What
are the potential problems with this trait?
A: As women's language tends to be more indirect, a woman might say, "It's
really hot in here," which translates into "Turn down the thermostat." Women
tend to be more intuitive and typically understand the intent of the statement.
Men tend to be more literal, and less likely to read between the lines. They
probably think she's complaining about the room temperature.
Q: How can women learn to be better self-promoters?
A: From kindergarten on, girls are taught that if they do a good job, they'll
be recognized for their work and be promoted accordingly. Unfortunately,
success in the business world doesn't work this way. The right people need
to know about your accomplishments if you want get ahead. Women need to seek
visibility for themselves -- volunteer to make a presentation, write a press
release about recent accomplishments, network with company influencers, and
let key people know about your successes.
Q: How can men learn to curb interrupting when others speak?
A: The language patterns of men and women are strikingly different. Women
subscribe to the "fairness" doctrine ("I speak, then [it's]
your turn.") Men subscribe to the "if you've got something to say,
say it now" theory. Men can benefit by curbing their verbal enthusiasm
and hearing a woman out. Women need to stand their ground and finish what
they're saying without allowing themselves to be interrupted.
Q: When, if ever, does profanity work in the workplace?
A: In certain industries I've consulted with, profanity, unfortunately,
seems to be the norm. On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, for instance.
I was told by one female surgical resident of a large hospital that she was
advised that she needed to use more profanity to demonstrate her authority
and credibility! As a rule, I advise checking profanity at the front door.
It can make others feel uncomfortable and violates workplace protocol.