The five mistakes women make when communicating
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
women for the past eight years, and as a former corporate vice president
myself, I’ve witnessed first-hand the communication
challenges that block women from being heard, appreciated, respected, valued
are not "men in skirts” ― women have different preferences, values, styles and
communication approaches that often contribute to their feeling less than fully
valued and accepted.
to the fascinating book The Female Brain by Dr. Louann Brizendine, the
differences between male and female brains contribute to significant
differences in behavior and perception. "In
the brain centers for language and hearing, for example, women have 11 percent
more neurons than men,” Brizendine writes. "The principal hub of both emotion
and memory formation ― the hippocampus ― is also larger in the female brain as
is the brain circuitry for language and observing emotions in others …The
female brain has tremendous unique aptitudes ― outstanding verbal agility, the
ability to connect deeply in friendship, a nearly psychic capacity to read
faces and tone of voice for emotions and states of mind, and the ability to
defuse conflict. All of this is hardwired into the brains of women. These are
the talents women are born with that many men, frankly, are not.”
I’ve observed that professional
women often experience significant challenges in communicating powerfully,
effectively and with command and authority, particularly when other desired
outcomes (such as preserving relationships, ensuring equality and connection,
defusing conflict, etc.) might be at risk.
Women face these five challenges to
communicating powerfully to bring about positive results for their careers and
1. Not taking credit.
Women are typically reluctant to
stand up and take credit for what they’ve accomplished, achieved and initiated.
They often say "we” did this or credit the team and other players rather than
claiming "I” made this happen.Men are not as reluctant to state what
they’ve accomplished in terms that make it clear who achieved the desired
results and to put themselves in a "one-up” position. If you can’t speak
powerfully and compellingly about your accomplishments, I guarantee no one else
will. Check out Peggy Klaus’ great book Brag: The Art of
Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.
Taking things personally. I’ve
seen women (and have been guilty of this myself) ruminate on particular
goings-on at work, taking things personally and experiencing them with deep
emotionality rather than processing through the challenges analytically and
neutralizing their emotions. I’m not suggesting women become less emotional
over all. I’m recommending, in the workplace,women strive to critically
examine what’s occurring around them from a moreneutral, expansive and
balanced perspective so that their responses can be as effective and empowered
as possible, taking into account all key factors and influences.
3. Not negotiating effectively for what you
deserve. Studies have shown
men negotiate for salary, benefits, position and responsibility significantly
more than women. One study
revealed that 57 percent of men
negotiate for their first salaries, while only 7 percent of women do. Much of
women’s reluctance to negotiate and ask for what they want and deserve is
influenced by their neurobiology and the inherent goals they have for
communication, and by the punitive repercussions they’ve faced by asking.
It’s vitally important to make a powerful case for being well-compensated,
rewarded and valued for your contributions.What you want and deserve will
not just fall in your lap.
4. Not challenging power. Challenging
the ideas, initiatives or goals of people at higher levels of power and
authority can be hard for anyone, but women especially struggle with
speaking up. According to linguistics
expert Deborah Tannen, "Men tend
to be sensitive to the power dynamics of interaction, speaking in ways that
position themselves as one up and resisting being put in a one-down position by
others. Women tend to react more strongly to the rapport dynamic, speaking in
ways that save face for others and buffering statements that could be seen as
putting others in a one-down position. These linguistic patterns are pervasive ―
you can hear them in hundreds of exchanges in the workplace every day.”
I believe this is due in part to the way
women and men have been culturally trained, their neurobiology and because of
the real backlash that many women have experienced in the
workplace when they speak their minds and unabashedly go against those in the
majority. (Check out the Heidi vs. Howard Roizen case study). Women cannot
ascend to leadership roles if they don’t challenge others and the status quo.
The question isn’t "Should I challenge?” but "How best can I
challenge authority so that I am heard, understood and valued for my input?”
Projecting self-confidence and a powerful presence. Your body language, confidence and
poise under fire can make or break your ability to advance and succeed in the
workplace.We all have what I call "power gaps” ― areas in which we feel
"less than” ― less capable, confident, courageous and contributive than we want
to be. Women feel more shame and vulnerability about their gaps than men do.The
key to greater professional and personal success is to uncover your power gaps
and work with commitment to close them. Whatever you feel you are missing,
endeavor to gain it, achieve it and claim it. If you need more knowledge or
training, go out and get it. If you feel ashamed at a large error you made at
work, don’t bury it; rectify it.
The quickest path to success is to
own where you feel "less than” and strive to accept and appreciate yourself
fully while taking positive steps to rebuild your confidence and legitimately
bolster your sense of self worth. (To take control of your professional
situation, take my free Career Path
Which of these communication
challenges resonates with you? What one step can you take today to close your
Kathy Caprino is a nationally recognized women’s career and
leadership coach and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business.
Author of Breakdown,
Breakthrough and founder and president of Ellia
Communications Inc., Caprino is a contributor to Forbes, Huffington Post and AARP. Follow her on Twitter at @kathycaprino.
Kathy's original post on this topic, visit her Forbes Leadership blog "Career
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