Men and women working together, swapping ideas as equals and sharing power has become the workplace norm. But because they may lead in different ways and communicate in different ways, misunderstandings are often inevitable.
Both men and women’s communication styles make sense within the context of their gender culture. They each have their strength and weaknesses. But both can take simple win-win steps to increase understanding and help bridge the gender gap in communications…
Strategies for Men
- Invest time in building rapport with women. Relationships are important to them, and a few minutes of small talk can reap big benefits.
- Avoid monopolizing conversations. Hear women out. Ask them for their input. Keep interruptions to a minimum.
- Listen between the lines. Recognize that when a woman says, “I’m sorry,” it does not necessarily mean she’s apologizing.
- Give credit for a job well done. Since many women are reluctant to boast or take credit for their good work, they’ll be appreciative of your acknowledgment and praise particularly if you do it in front of others.
- Keep criticism constructive. Be cordial and polite. Women often take criticism personally, and what you consider direct communication can come across as abrasive to them.
Strategies for Women
- Cut to the chase. Speak in bulleted points and sound decisive. Focus on presenting your thoughts and ideas logically and succinctly. Avoid hedging, tag questions and sharing unnecessary details.
- Choose your words carefully. When it comes to emotional topics, men may panic easily. So, play to his conversational strengths. Don’t ask him how he feels about something; ask him what he thinks about it.
- Speak up. Don’t allow men to interrupt you. Be firm and tell them, “I’m not finished,” or “Just a minute, please.”
- Stop saying “I’m sorry” just to be polite. Apologize only if you’re wrong.
- Don’t expect men to be mind readers. If you want/need something, ask for it. And don’t dilute comments or criticisms. Be direct, as men expect this and appreciate it.
Above all, remember that regardless of gender, the focus should be on appreciating and celebrating each other’s differences. Only then can both men and women—and the companies we work for—thrive.