Based on the 17 years I’ve worked with executives, I can tell you there are three areas in which men and women differ in their communication styles—and that they can have a big affect on a person’s reputation. They are:
- Accepting compliments
- Receiving criticism
- Delivering bad news
Of course, personality matters and no two people are the same. But, overall, here’s what I see:
- Pay a man a compliment and he’ll say, “Thank you.” Pay a woman a compliment and she’ll say, “Don’t thank me. It was a team effort.”
- Tell a man he has to work on something and he’ll say, “No, I don’t.” Tell that to a woman and she’ll say, “When do you need it?”
- Ask a man to deliver bad news and he’ll default to the role of straight shooter, unafraid to be a little harsh. Ask a woman to do the same, and she’ll often dance around the issue, hoping to avoid hurt feelings.
So, what does this mean? Regardless of gender, you need to get good at the following:
- Know how to accept a compliment. Kudos to the men that say, “Thank you. I appreciate the compliment.” Ladies, that’s exactly what you need to do, too, if you want to be liked and respected.
- Be open to constructive criticism. Okay gentlemen, I get it. You are confident, and that’s good. Just be careful not to appear egocentric. The more willing you are to recognize your flaws—and embrace a little coaching—the better off you’ll be.
- Tell the truth . . . but in a nice way. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t be a door mat, but don’t bark orders, either. Learn how to communicate somewhere between these extremes. Be direct, but soften the edges. Foster relationships, but not at the expense of spilling the truth.
Before you act . . .
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