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    Chapter 1 - Minimizing Cross-Talk Between Men and Women

    Men and women belong to different species and communications between them is still in its infancy. —Bill Cosby

    A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: “Duh.” —Conan O’Brien

    My first wife divorced me on grounds of incompatibility, and besides, I think she hated me. —Oscar Levant

    As soon as you cannot keep anything from a woman, you love her. —Paul Geraldy

    In the last 50 years, a great deal of research has been done on gender communication issues. The result? Men and women communicate differently. You knew that. Some researchers had previously theorized that all the observed differences could be explained by the differences in power and status in our culture. For example, they argued, when women have more power and status in the workplace, their language will change. To some extent, that has been true. Powerful people of either gender speak more confidently than lower-status people with no power. It stands to reason.

    Nevertheless, major differences in the communication styles of men and women remain. In addition to my own research, these differences have also been investigated and reported by Robin Lakoff, Lillian Glass, John Gray, Deborah Tannen, Patricia Arburdene and John Naisbitt, Patricia Heim, and Barbara Annis, to name the most noteworthy researchers.

    As you read the following tips, keep in mind that all differences in communication are a matter of degree and that particular differences may not exist in all men or all women. We are individuals first, of course, with our own idiosyncrasies and ways of conversing. This chapter presents tendencies and techniques—not universal truths for members of either gender.

    As females grow up in our culture, they are taught not to be confrontational—not to make a scene or be aggressive or pushy. Although in the 18 years since the first edition of this book was published, women have become more assertive in their language, they still struggle against the label and perception of aggressiveness. They still want to be considered “nice.”

    So how do they express opposition to an idea? Often they use questions to redirect someone’s thinking.

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    They also, of course, use questions in the traditional way—to solicit information, to build consensus around an idea, or to develop their staff members and help them rethink their positions, plans, or ideas.

    Men, on the other hand, do not always recognize indirect messages or pick up on nuances in words or body language. In short, they don’t always accurately “read between the lines” to understand the meaning of a woman’s question. The results: (1) Women ask questions that are meant in a variety of ways, and men may ignore their implied objections and feelings. (2) Women ask questions that are meant only to solicit information, to which men may react defensively.

    Tip 1. (for women) State Your Objections Directly.

    Not: “Do you really think we should leave early?” But: “I don’t think we should leave early.” Not: “How much higher did you say Vendor A’s bid is?” But: “I think Vendor A’s bid is too high.”

    Tip 2. (for men) Verify Whether Questions Are Solicitations of Information or Objections, Then Respond Appropriately.

    If you’re not sure how to take a question, probe before answering. Here’s an example:

    WOMAN: Have you already signed the contract for the new equipment?

    MAN: Not yet. I’ll get to it later in the week.

    WOMAN: Didn’t John have some concerns about the terms?

    MAN: He cleared those up in the last meeting.

    WOMAN: Do you think we should just forget about the staffing priorities, since this new equipment purchase will eat up all our cash this quarter?

    MAN: I’m sensing maybe you’re not sure that buying the equipment is a good decision. Do you still have some reservations there?

    WOMAN: Well, yes, . . . I do. I think that . . .

    Once objections are in the open, you can deal with them more effectively.

    Details or Big Picture?

    Women generally push for details for three reasons: to show concern about a person or situation, to vicariously participate in an experience or conversation, and to verify assumptions and check for accuracy. Men tend to gather details just long enough to get the big-picture message and then dump them as trivial, not worth remembering.

    The results: (1) When men don’t ask about or share the details of a situation, women sometimes think that they don’t care about the people involved. (2) Women sometimes think that men intend to be secretive and distant. (3) Women sometimes doubt men’s conclusions because they fear that men have missed some of the important details. (4) Men sometimes think that women “waste time” on the details rather than get to the main point. (5) Men think some details are irrelevant to their conclusions.

    Tip 3. (for women) Get to the Point in Meetings.

    If a discussion of the details is not germane to the point in a team meeting, be aware of men’s impatience with them. State your big-picture assessment and offer the details as an option. If no one solicits the details behind your conclusions, omit them and save yourself the trouble.

    Tip 4. (for women) Ask for Details to Verify Meaning.

    In “sticky” situations, continue to probe for details to verify meanings and reach accurate conclusions.

  • About the Author

    Dianna Booher’s extensive and ongoing research and published works in the field of business communication and productivity serve as the foundation for over 40 books on communication skills training . Dianna has received the highest awards in the professional speaking industry, including induction into the CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame®. She is a member of the prestigious Speakers Roundtable. As a result of Dianna's work among top corporations on communication issues, Executive Excellence magazine has recognized Dianna on its list of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in America. Additionally, Successful Meetings magazine named Dianna on its list of 21 Top Speakers for the 21st Century! Dianna has been interviewed by Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, the Washington Post, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal Radio, National Public Radio, Bloomberg, Investors Business Daily, Fox Family Network, Reader's Digest, Working Woman, Industry Week, McCall's, Cosmopolitan, Success, Entrepreneur, among other national radio, TV, and newspapers. She holds a master's degree in English from the University of Houston.

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Do You Know What You Just SAID?!!!

Have you ever had that moment of terror when you accidentally said or did something that deeply offended other people? Every skilled communicator has had these moments. But with this communications resource, you can learn to avoid the common pitfalls of communicating with the opposite sex and people from other cultures. Put your career on the fast track by learning to master the practical know-how of communicating with diverse groups of people with ease—those from other cultures and the opposite sex. Improve your dating relationships or your marriage. Learn to “get through” to your adult children of the opposite sex. Be the perfect host with visitors from other countries. Be the perfect guest or business traveler as you communicate with customers and follow foreign customs. This book is a powerful business communication resource to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. This series of quick tips will help you effortlessly navigate tricky communications. A credible guide to decisive communication, it will serve as a perfect resource for mobile, social media, and digital communications on the go.

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