Men vs. Women in Communication
We all have different styles of communication, developed by various influences, including our:
- Economic, cultural and geographical environments
- Educational background
- Personal experiences
While no one style is better than another, men and women generally talk differently with varying degrees of male/female speech characteristics. The styles have been described as "relate vs. debate," "competitive vs. cooperative" and "report vs. rapport."
- Men generally go for the straightforward solution to a problem. They tend to come up with advice.
- Women try to build relationships by discussing problems. They show empathy but don't give advice unless asked.
Understanding gender differences in business communication creates a more productive workplace, definitely builds rapport and helps avoid costly misinterpretations.
Logic vs. Intuition
When communicating, the split between "male logic" and "female intuition" is a debate as old as language itself. Since men and women are motivated by different factors and have different needs, they simply do not understand each other. It's not about being "equal" -- men and women just choose different ways to process and convey information.
Generally speaking, we find the following to be true:
- Women use language to create intimacy and build rapport with others; they converse.
- Men use language to negotiate and maintain their status and independence; they talk.
There are a number of great books that assess the differences in communication styles based upon gender and personal relationships. Tuning in to these differences can reinforce successful business relationships, regardless of gender. Following are some of the most widely recognized differences:
- Body language -- Men and women give off different nonverbal signals. For instance, men generally nod during a conversation to indicate, "I agree with you," while women nod to indicate, "I understand what you are saying."
- Sensitivity to nonverbal language of others is shown considerably more by women than men. Men also provide fewer facial expressions.
- Both like power -- Generally speaking, men seek it and women accept it. Women assume power when it is granted.
- Playing down one's own power is a female characteristic. Women are more likely to be empathetic when coworkers have problems. Men jump in and offer solutions.
- Accepting criticism -- Women personalize criticism more than men.
- The use of polite speech shows a high regard for others. However, there are times when extremely polite speech lacks necessary business assertiveness. Women are apt to use "tag" phrases such as, "If you are OK with that, ... "; whereas men simply state their opinion.
- Decisions are made quicker by men than by women. Females have a tendency to get input and build a consensus before rendering a decision. Men typically avoid consulting with others and make singular decisions.
- Bragging and playing up accomplishments is more routinely a male dominant behavior. Since men frequently take vocal credit for their accomplishments, they are commonly awarded with promotions or bonuses based upon such declaration. Women are now beginning to use similar strategies for immediate gratification.
- Interruptions during conversation are tolerated and accepted more readily by women than by men. And men are usually the ones interrupting.
- Asking for help is one of the oldies. Women are more likely to ask for and accept help than men. Some experts believe this trait can enhance their management skills.
- Asking questions takes more time for men than for women. Men give more pre-questions and details. Women tend to ask multiple questions at one time.
- Assertive behavior is viewed by both sexes as positive. Studies show that assertive behavior by females appraised equally with that of males.
- Personal issues are much more likely to be brought up for discussion by women than men. Men generally limit their dialogue to business and current events.
- "Telling it like it is" is probably expressed more frequently by men than women. Men give direct feedback, while women may soften it by first stating what the person did right.
The more aware you are to gender differences in communication styles, the more successful you will be in your own communication ... and in all aspects of your life!