Company Doctor: Gender mender

This is the second in a series of articles on how women approach and execute a negotiation. While the differences between the genders are marginal at best when it came to negotiations, the research indicates there are significant differences in the communication patterns between men and women.

In his article, “This Just in: Women Communicate Better Than Men,” Gary Picariello states, “Women can process about 20,000 words a day compared to 7,000 a day for men.” He goes on to say, “The female brain has more connections between the two hemispheres, and women have 11 percent more brain cells in the area of the brain that has to do with perceiving and processing language.”

John Gray, author of “Mars and Venus in the Workplace,” has identified four reasons why women talk. Women talk first to make a point; second, to give and receive emotional support; third, to relieve tension; and finally, to discover a point. He also states that men only have one reason and that is to convey content to make a point. This places the burden on men to adjust to how women communicate. Gray suggests that men demonstrate whenever possible the message that you care, understand and respect what the woman is saying.

The data collected during corporate training sessions and in classes at DeVry University, Keller Graduate School supports the findings of the previous two articles. The tool used to collect this data was the “What’s My Communication Style” questionnaire, which was developed by Eileen M. Russo for HRDQ. This tool measured four aspects of communication, the verbal (what you say), the paraverbal (how you say it), body language (the way you use your body to communicate) and personal space (what your use of space communicates). Russo also has identified four specific communication styles: direct, spirited, considerate and systematic.

Overall, the women who completed this tool scored higher than their male counterparts on the spirited scale by 11 percent. This communication style is persuasive, uses motivational speech, is a good story teller, and focuses on the big picture. They use a lot of voice inflection, are animated and use loud tones when speaking.

Women who score high on the spirited scale use quick actions, have lots of body language and have an enthusiastic handshake. Their personal work space, is cluttered, they post personal slogans in their office and like close personal space.

There are some downsides to being overly spirited. These respondents tend to not hear details, can be overly dramatic and tend to exaggerate. In many cases they generalize.

When it came to direct scale, women score significantly lower than their male counterparts by 22.8 percent. This communication style gets to the bottom line, speaks forcefully by expressing their opinions readily, maintains eye contact and presents their position in a strong and persuasive manner. They use a lot of voice inflection, are animated and use loud tones when speaking.

There are also some downsides to being overly direct. These respondents tend to be poor listeners, can be impatient and might not heed advice. In many cases they enjoy a good argument.

Current research shows that women appreciate men who are good listeners and demonstrate that they are interested in what she thinks and feels. Understand that women communicate to build and maintain relationships and share creative ideas. 

Sandra Beckwith, in her article, “How can men and women communicate better with each other,” suggests five tips to help men better communicate with women. They are as follows:

  • Realize that women communicate to establish relationships, so they might be chattier and more personal in their conversion.
  • Understand that not every question from a woman is a problem begging for a solution. Be certain that she has asked for your help before you jump in with help. Sometimes she just wants to blow off steam.
  • Realize that it’s a fact of life that women use twice as many words as men do. Don’t be frustrated by it.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Move beyond two word answers and get chatty, especially on the phone. You’ll win her over for sure.

Now that you understand that there are distinct differences in communication patterns between men and women, you can better prepare for an upcoming negotiation or critical business conversation. Using the strategies laid out by the authors in this article will permit you to bridge the gender gap. The last article in this series will compare the approaches of men and women to the resolution of conflicts.

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