The Myths and the Mystery of How Women Communicatet
I’m not an anthropologist, sociologist, or psychologist.
I don’t have statistics, charts, graphs, or empirical data. What I do have is observable, measurable evidence that women communicate in a style that often negatively impacts velocity toward their professional and personal goals.
Within each woman is the ability to use their verbal and non-verbal skills to be a 21st century leader: What is common to all leaders is to communicate in a way that creates buy-in and moves their agendas forward. All 21st century leaders have a myriad of communication challenges. Men and women leaders have different challenges.
Women leaders need to communicate with the clarity, conviction, and confidence to move their agendas forward in negotiations and other forms of communication.
So I refer to it as developing the diva within, identifying and then developing the skills that women possess. Often women don’t recognize these skills and don’t leverage them to empower their communication success.
I asked Keith Dambrot, The University of Akron Men’s Basketball Coach and LeBron James’ junior high and high school coach, a simple question: Why are so many NBA head coaches former NBA players? Without missing a beat, Keith answered, ”You have to know how gifted athletes think.” From a communication perspective, this example is another way of saying it is the speaker’s responsibility to know the audience and talk in a way to connect with them and move an idea or an action forward.
The key to successful communication is to understand that the audience drives the communication, not the speaker. The speaker needs to talk in a way that the audience will “get it”. It is not incumbent on the audience to think and understand the way the speaker communicates. In the business world, women are often talking to male audiences. Hence they need to speak in a way a male audience will “get it”.
This is less of a woman versus man-Mars versus Venus- issue than it is a speaker and audience issue. Of course, when we are the speaker we want to blame the audience when we fail to convince them. Often, we get in our own way. Women get in their way differently than men get in the way of their message.
3 Ways Women “Get in the Way” of their Inner Diva:
1. End Sentences with Their Voice Up
Listen to woman around you. Listen in small meeting groups and one to one conversations. Women have a tendency to end sentences with their voice up. From the time we were in elementary school we are taught to end sentences by lowering our voice. A lower voice means statement. Ending a sentence with a voice up means question.
Think about it: a woman thinks she says she is the best person for the job. What people hear is: I’m the best candidate? Women need to use their voice to communicate with the confidence and authority to command the buy-in needed to move forward.
2. Talk Through Defining Moments
A defining moment is the cross road in a conversation when the outcome can go either way. How you answer a question or lead a conversation at this moment will greatly impact the next step. Women often tend to talk through these defining moments therefore not even giving their Inner Diva an opportunity to come out and play.
Perhaps because women feel their voice has been shut out, they want it heard at any opportunity. Your Inner Diva needs to be diligent in editing her comments. Jerry Seinfield once said, I can spend an hour editing an eight-word sentence to five words, but it will be a much better sentence.
3. Tentative in Word and Action
Being tentative is a disadvantage in the business world. One’s Inner Diva is a take charge, confident leader. This Inner Diva is often buried under indecision and uncertainty. Being tentative in word and gesture sabotages women’s success.
Are your words tentative or empowered? Do you tell a client or board member, I think I can, maybe, or I’ll try? Do you say, I’m certain I can, we will make it happen? Take charge of your Inner Diva and your clients with a commanding communication style. If at first you don’t feel commanding, portray a commanding presence until it comes naturally.
In an interesting twist of history, women world leaders have fared better in monarchies than in democracies: Cleopatra of Egypt, Catherine the Great, Queen Elizabeth I to name a few. Perhaps it is because while they excel at consensus building and leadership skills, in monarchies they don’t have to use communication to garner buy-in.
In the Goldberg Paradigm, people all over the world were asked to evaluate the same speech given by a man and a woman. The very same words are rated higher coming from a man. I contend it’s not the words, it is how they are said: sentences ending in a lowered voice, said with command, confidence, and authority.
Women, Get Out of Your Own Way and show the world your Inner Diva.