Ending the War Between the Sexes
In the Beginning…
Probably when Adam first spoke to Eve, that was the beginning of miscommunication between the sexes! Comedians have joked about this subject for decades, but it’s no joke when males and females fail to communicate effectively in the workplace. It can quickly turn into a war between the sexes.
Basic Differences = Confusing Encounters
In Sandy Feit’s article, Revelations from the Workplace, she discussed with author Shaunti Feldhahn her new book which investigates how females and males misread each others messages in the workplace.
In Feldhahns, The Male Factor: The Unwritten Rules, Misperceptions, and Secret Beliefs of Men in the Workplace, the author delves into how women can find themselves victims of mixed messages–and dealing with bruised male egos–if they dont know how to play the “game” at the office. By knowing the language of males at work, women can better deal with issues that arise. And by the same token, males must do their own translating of women coworkers communicationsits not a one way street by any means.
Unspoken Assumptions are Damaging
What a female worker might assume is not the same as what a male assumes. Displays of emotion and separation of work from personal life are two examples where the sexes start to go into murky workplace waters. Feldhahns revelations are divided into three parts: emotions, personal feelings and insecurities in the workplace:Revelation 1
Women and men perceive emotions differently. As Feldhahn puts it, For instance, if a woman is excitable or upset at work, men automatically believe shes no longer thinking clearly. However, science comes to the rescue to dispel that notion, The female brain, Feldhahn learned, is actually wired to be able to handle a high degree of emotion and still think clearly. Male brains are not wired the same way. In fact, in order to think clearly, men have to shut down an emotion.
Feit points out that 60 percent of males surveyed doubted that they could trust a womans judgment in such situations. Feldhahn found women were surprised at the vast array of things men saw as getting emotionalincluding the ability to make quick decisions. Men seem to regard speedy decisions as jumping to a conclusion, yet women have no problem thinking fastand accuratelyon their feet. Female brains are wired to scan several options available, distinguishing which one is the best choice quickly.
Men might think because women have a strong opinion on a decision, that Shes way beyond logic, and now shes emotionally attached to this. At the same time, women are not understanding the mental block their male coworkers are having towards their ideas.
What to do? Women can project a facade of calm, not appearing emotional about the subject. Men need to understand women have the ability to make competent decisions quickly, and with clarity.Revelation 2
The example given for this revelation is from the movie, Youve Got Mail. An exchange between Joe (played by Tom Hanks) who has just forced a competitor, Kathleen (played by Meg Ryan), out of business then stating to her, It wasnt personal. Kathleen, frustrated and hurt, responds the way most women would, What is that supposed to mean? All that means is that it wasnt personal to you! But it was personal to me! What is so wrong with being personal anyway?
I can just see the women reading this now nodding their heads in agreement with Kathleens statement! But, the example is a great one in helping females and males understand how they are wired differently when it comes to personal feelings.
Many men believe the feelings they have at work are not the same as the ones at home. This is known as compartmentalizing. While women draw no real distinct lines in the sand as men often do, they are better able to think about and handle many things simultaneously–that’s a good description of multitasking. Men could find, as Feit points out, the female ability to be puzzling or even uncomfortable when they encounter it at work. Again, with both parties understanding their different wiring, negative assumptions wont immediately take place.Revelation 3
In her research, Feit found 75 percent of the men admitted to feeling they were concerned somebody would find out they didnt know what they were doing. The label of being inadequate is a painful one for men to deal with at work. Though they often present a confident exterior, Feldhahn explains, underneath, there is frequently self-doubt.
Women coworkers may innocently ask why questions, simply to understand how their male counterparts came to a conclusion on a matter. But the men might take it as questioning their competence, or challenging them. Personally, Ive seen the startled looks from men when I’ve asked “why”, they seem to have written on their faces did she really ask me that? What I wanted to know was how they came to their final conclusionstheir processwhat lead them to make their decision. Knowing that, Im able to fully understand where they are coming from. Simple, right? Well, only if you are a female who speaks the same “language”.
Women might rephrase the why in this way, as Feldhahn points out, Help me understand your reason for that or Walk me through your process here. According to her, this shows you, as a woman, trusts theres a valid reason. Hell hear the difference. And men can understand what a womans why actually means and not take offense and feel challenged.
Wave the White Flag
Perhaps before anyone jumps to conclusions regarding what a female or male coworker said or meant, they should first consider the differences in communication between the sexes. Wave the white flag and end the war!
If you found this blog helpful or interesting, re-tweeting and sharing is always appreciated!