Based on the 15 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:
- 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 needs to work on something and he’ll say, “No, I don’t.” Tell a woman and she’ll say, “Where do I sign up.”
- When it comes to delivering bad news, men are typically straight shooters, potentially a little harsh. Whereas women often dance around a topic, hoping to avoid hurt feelings.
So, what does this mean? Regardless of your 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. Preserve relationships, but not at the expense of spilling the truth.
And here’s some advice on dealing with two gender–specific communication tendencies:
- Women: Don’t talk too fast. It’s frustrating because the listener doesn’t have a chance to digest what they’ve heard before you rush off to your next thought.
- Men: Lose the monotone. An unmodulated speaking voice can lull listeners to sleep.
Before you act . . .
Men and women alike could do themselves a huge favor by breaking the up-talk habit—i.e., ending every sentence with a rising intonation. Sure, it’s rampant in our culture. But it makes it sound as if you’re incapable of making a simple, declarative statement, which screams insecurity.
Need more help? Check out my self-paced online program, Communicate Without Chaos. It’s chocked full of gender-specific communication remedies.