Bridging the Workplace Gender Communication Gap

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Scenario 3: Command Conflicts

Her way: Growing up, girls tend to establish relationships.

His way: Boys usually vie for leadership.

The result: Men and women impose authority differently. "Women tend to be more collaborative in the workplace and put relationships first. But men routinely challenge and expect to be challenged. Each often finds the other's style ineffective or insulting. Women see men as ham-fisted or insecure when they come on so strong. Men think women lack confidence or conviction because they work hard to get buy-in. Neither, of course, is accurate.

Advice: To jump the divide, borrow a bit from the other's style. Men can try a more collaborative approach. Women need to take over more often.

Have you ever had a meeting where you've thought you were being crystal clear with a coworker of the opposite gender, only to find out that you and your coworker are on completely different pages, maybe even different planets? According to "Work with Me: The 8 Blind Spots Between Men and Women in Business," by Barbara Annis and John Challenger (May 2013), 9 percent of men say they understand women, while 68 percent of women say they understand men. That's a big difference and an even bigger gap in understanding.

According to Joanna L. Krotz, The Woman's Playbook, women and men who work closely together often get tied up in communication knots, especially over issues that involve power, advocacy and managing the troops. That's because the sexes have distinct ways of communicating. It's been scientifically shown that the brains of men and women are hardwired differently. Men's brains are typically 10 percent larger than women's and tend to have stronger left-brain skills. Women, on the other hand, typically have more nerve cells in certain areas of the brain and have a larger corpus callosum (connecting the left and right sides of the brain). As a result, men are generally stronger at analytics and abstract concepts, while women are more intuitive, swifter to pick up on nonverbal cues and process information faster.

Hormones and cultural factors also heavily influence how men and women communicate. Women tend to be more people oriented and better at multitasking, while men are better at single-minded focus and top-down motivation, exchanging rewards for results. Male vs. female conversation objectives often differ, as well — for example, status vs. support, report talk vs. rapport talk, independence vs. intimacy, advice vs. understanding, and information vs. feelings.

In this slideshow, Krotz has identified six scenarios where communication between men and women frequently jumps the rails and provides tips for getting back on track.

 

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