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Talking Nine to Five - Gender Communication

Interpreting Gender Communication

There are two kinds of people in the work world:  men and women.  And whether we like it or not, humans like to categorize each other. 

Putting a person into a context .... even one as broad as male or female .... gives us a comfort zone for dealing with her or him.  It gives us a specific package of assumptions we hold about an identifiable “type”;  assumptions that we can use to predict how he or she may think and act.

From the moment we first meet someone .... and our initial, indelible impressions are formed .... to daily encounters with long-term colleagues, one of the most influential factors in forming these assumptions is our communication style.

And men and women do communicate differently.  This difference in speaking styles often determines who gets hired; who gets heard; who gets credit;  and how effectively the team functions.

  • A woman may say something at a meeting:  it's ignored.  Then someone else says almost the same thing and everyone embraces it as a marvelous idea.

“Talking Nine to Five”

  • She may devote herself to a project, but won’t get credit for the results. 
  • She works around the clock to avoid a crises, but her efforts are not recognized because no one notices a crises that never occurs.
  • The more often she performs at an extraordinary level, the more it seems to be viewed as "ordinary" work.

On the other hand:

  • A man uses different body language and is frequently misinterpreted by the women he works with.
  • He often perceives his business interactions in a much less personal way than a woman would, and this can be viewed as insensitive.
  • And let’s face it, we’ve confused the heck out of the men we work with ....  they no longer know what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, humour, etiquette, and language.

Shouldn't high performance on the job be enough to guarantee career recognition and success?  The flat answer is “NO!”   Because we’re constantly being evaluated on how effective we are as communicators.  This specific and personal communication "style" determines:

  • how we get others to do what we want;
  • how we accept or avoid responsibility for mistakes;
  • how we display or challenge authority;
  • how we handle criticism
  • how we reveal or conceal what we don't know;
  • how comfortable we are blowing our own horn; 
  • how we deal with competition, conflict, and confrontation;
  • how we deal with crises;
  • how we run a meeting;  and
  • how we present our ideas within the team.

“Talking Nine to Five”

For example people have a much lower threshold of tolerance for an angry woman.   If a woman is a leader, a great deal of sensitive communication is expected of her than would be from a man ....  and if she fails to deliver it, she's judged much more harshly.

We also expect men to be more ambitious, driven and aggressive than  women.  When his values lie elsewhere, he’s often labeled a “wimp” or under-motivated.

Whether we are born with them or we learn them, how we acquire gender patterns of communication doesn't matter all that much when we're trying to get a job done, build a more professional team or support the growth of both men and women in an organization. 

What is important, for practical purposes is:

  • for men and women to recognize that these differences do exist;
  • that we understand what these differences are;
  • that we find the most effective ways to relate to the opposite sex;
  • and that we use gender-based strengths to get the most from our professional teams.

More and more, employers who aim to be around for a while are acknowledging that a diversified team .... with feminine and masculine brains working together.... is far more likely to be creative and effective within the new work paradigm.
“Talking Nine to Five”


I Communication Basics for Assertive Behavior

  • How do you know if you are a good communicator?
  • Listening:  A Basic Business Survival Skill
  • Building the Foundation:  Your assertive image
  • Defining our Terms
  • How Assertive Are You?
    Discussion of Advance Handout QUIZ
    Interpretation of Scores.

II Women and Men Are Different

  • Gender Differences:  Psychology, Physiology, Behavior,  and Vocabulary
  • Discussion Questions on Gender Differences
  • Workplace Gender Trap Survey
  • Attitudes Do Count
  • “Momisms” and “Dadisms”
  • The Great Divide
  • The Games Children Play

III Voice Male and Woman Speak at Work

  • What the Language of Success Will Do For You
  • Objectives of Powerful Communication
  • QUIZ:  Understanding Mantalk and Womanspeak
  • Words and Phrases that Weaken Your Message
    The Indecisive “I” Touchy-Feely Statements
    Trim Your Hedges Stop Tripping on Tags
    “Feel” Fails  The Ditz
    Hypercorrectness Modify, modify, modify

“Talking 9 to 5:  Gender Communication”

III Voice Male and Woman Speak at Work (Continued)

  • The Grammar of POWER
  • Why Women and Men Don’t Listen to Women
  • Giving Orders that Others Understand and Respect

IV Issues and Answers - Putting It All Together

  • To Complain Is To Volunteer
  • Issue #1:  Slurs, Slights, and Put-Downs
  • Issue #2:  Apologies
  • Issue #3:  The Language of Weakness
  • Issue #4:  Giving and Receiving Criticism
  • Issue #5:  Saying No, Keeping Rapport
  • Issue #6:  Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

V Closing the Gap:  Video Review and Summary

VI Suggested Reading List

Instruments Used:  

“Assertiveness Level Quiz”
Advance Handout

Videos Used:  

“Closing the Gap:  Gender Communication”