Men & Women Communicating in the Workplace Effective Strategies to Smooth out Gender Differences by Edward Leigh, ma

Strategies for Bridging the Gender Communication Gap

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Strategies for Bridging the Gender Communication Gap

  • Information issues. According to Sandra Beckwith, author of the book, Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman,? "Women gather information by asking questions, but men view question-asking as a sign of weakness." Now we know why men won't ask for directions! Men need to understand this information- gathering process and listen to the questions. Women must be sure men have adequate information, because if they don't understand, they may not ask for help.

  • Managing metaphors. Women frequently use stories or illustrations about home or relationships. Men tend to rely on metaphors about sports or war. This sets the stage for miscommunication. Women often do not follow the touchdown analogies, while men would have trouble following home decorating stories. We should avoid simply gender-reversing descriptions to communicate. Instead, consider using gender-neutral images (weather, nature, movies, etc.)

  • Power struggles. Women tend to be more cooperative focusing on relationships. However men tend to be more assertive and focus on rank and status in an organization. Women see men being too focused on power, while men see women as weak. In this case, each gender can learn from each other. Men can focus more on a collaborative approach. Women need to be more assertive.

  • Getting to the point. Women like to tell and hear stories, including methods of coping with distress and finding solutions. It's their way of connecting and building the relationships. Men don't want the stories, they just want to get to the point. They don't care about the route, just the destination. The problem is that each gender becomes impatient. Women push for details while men look for the big- picture message. Each gender can benefit from the other's communication style. Men need to explain their thinking and not simply jump to conclusions. Women need to get to the point in a speedier manner.

  • Facts & feelings. Women are generally more comfortable talking about their feelings. Men prefer to focus on the facts and skip the feelings. This can result in significant communication problems. Ever type of communication has both an intellectual and an emotional element. It is important for both genders too see there are two parts at play. A man can increase the feeling quotient by making this type of statement: "I know this project has been very stressful for you. Let's talk about ways to manage the difficulties we're facing." A woman can dim the emotional intensity by saying: "I think we need to discuss the major issues blocking the implementation of the new plan."

Creating Gender Communication Harmony

The goal of this article is not "Men, just put with up women" and "Women, just tolerate men." Rather, we find that men and women do indeed have different communication styles. However, neither are right or wrong, just different. We need to pay close attention to gender differences so we can untangle the gender communications knots. This will not only help get the job done more efficiently, this will also create a more positive workplace atmosphere.

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Reprinted from the newsletter of The Center for Healthcare Communication. The publication is a complimentary electronic newsletter featuring informative tips to dramatically enhance healthcare professional-patient communication and the healthcare environment. Subscribe at and receive the complimentary special report, "25 Ways to Create a Positive Workplace."
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