Bridging the Workplace Gender Communication Gap

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Scenario 4: Detailed Disputes

Her way: Women like to tell and hear stories, including the trials and errors, turnings and re-turnings. It's their way of connecting and building the relationship.

His way: Men cut to the chase. The route you travel is inconsequential. What matters is the destination.

The result: Each sex becomes too impatient to hear the other. Usually, women want details to demonstrate concern, to vicariously participate in an experience or to verify assumptions. By contrast, men want only enough details to draw the big-picture message. Everything else gets tossed as trivial.

Advice: Again, each sex can benefit from the other's behavior. Men ought to explain their thinking and not simply jump to conclusions. Women need to get to the bottom line more quickly.

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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