We all know that men are different than women. Whether it is due to nature or nurture matters not- the key is that it results in communication differences that can make us feel like we are speaking a different language. And that can be a mine field at home and even more perilous at the office.
Men, who carry more Masculine Energy, are usually more direct and driven by action. They talk to give information or gather it to help in order to reach their goals. Women, who tend to carry more Feminine Energy, talk to collect information. They want to understand other people and find common ground so they will use collaborative phrases like, “Tell me more about that…”
We each need to develop our opposite so women dealing with men would be wise to focus their communication on solving problems rather than on thoughts or feelings. Men dealing with women would be wise to slow things down, taking time to appreciate the big picture. Both energies have their advantages but either energy is a problem if it isn’t balanced.
A man who discounts others ideas, wanting them to acknowledge and follow his way, all the while telling them what they “should” think, is someone with an overabundance of Masculine Energy. And, a woman who lacks an opinion of her own, constantly seeking the reassurance of others and vacillating when it is time to make a decision, has an overabundance of Feminine Energy. Each will benefit from inserting some of the attributes of their opposite energy in their communications.
A study at the University of California Santa Cruz reinforces this. It found that men and women speak roughly the same amount but their objectives are different. Men’s style of speech is more assertive. They use words to achieve dominance and reach their goals. Meanwhile, women use affiliate speech to connect with others – they talk more when it is about their feelings or when seeking to understand others.
Interestingly, the study, which was conducted over 50 years, showed that gender communication differences are decreasing. I’d like to believe that we are all developing our opposite and finding good, balanced “Gender Physics” where each of us can comfortably move from one energy to the other.
However, we’re not there yet and because we live in a Masculine Energy world we women must adapt. To be successful at work it’s important to get our point across and be recognized for our ideas, which isn’t always easy. To gain acceptance and respect, while avoiding snafus, try using these tactics:
1) Don’t ask too many questions: Men will mistake your desire to establish an information base as incompetence. (Likewise, men should appreciate that when women are asking questions their input can slow down the process and help prevent potential mistakes by rushing into a situation).
2) Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted: Men will think you don’t believe in your ideas if you aren’t willing to fight for them.
3) Don’t add extra and unnecessary detail: Men will lose patience for you and your ideas before your presentation is over. (I have a friend whose husband is always saying, “land the plane”, inferring that she circles with her stories far too long).
4) Do offer solutions: Men like action and will appreciate you for providing an opportunity to “move the ball forward.”
5) Do use sports metaphors: Men relate to competitive sports so you are speaking their language if you describe projects using these comparisons.
6) Do have your analysis ready: Men need specific and logical information to have confidence in your proposal. (They want to know that you are operating from facts and not just women’s intuition).
7) Don’t blow off steam: Men are uncomfortable with emotion so calm down before you talk about something upsetting.
8) Do communicate clearly: Men want concise communication so use the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where and why.
9) Don’t talk about the past: Men want to focus on the future and will think you are a drag if you can’t let go of the baggage.
10) Do project your voice: Men don’t take seriously a soft voice that sounds unsure. They’ll measure you confidence by your tone. (If you are confident they will be too).
11) Don’t apologize unnecessarily: Men will take this as a sign of weakness.
12) Do learn to say “No”: Men will take this as a sign of strength and you’ll feel more confidence for having said it.
These points aren’t necessary with all men or in all work environments. Masculine Energy will be greater in some men and in some work places, such as an investment bank or a construction site. Places that are more hierarchical will demand that women use more of the above rules to fit in as they won’t be as flexible. Creative environments, such as advertising agencies, which depend upon people working together and building upon one another’s ideas will often have more Feminine Energy.
I’m encouraged to think that gender communication differences are decreasing and that both sexes are using more of their opposite energy in their daily communication practices. Not only will women find more success in presenting their ideas and getting credit for them but their presence will contribute to better decisions. By considering the other before taking action we’ll all benefit. Under these conditions we’re sure to find that we are indeed speaking a common language!