Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Great Divide?

As I told you before, I’ve been trying to get out in the blogging world more. I happened upon a great blog about blogging by Barbara Swafford that showcases a blog each week (fantastic idea). She recently featured two blogs that I happen to really enjoy…the Urban Panther and the Urban Lion. The witty banter and dialogue between this couple started me thinking about a topic communication experts commonly focus on…the differences in communication between genders.

ZMF consultants commonly speak about disparities between the genders in our speeches and presentations. As the founder in a woman owned business who works in a male dominated industry, I am intimately familiar with those differences. People commonly ask me if I change my language or communication style when working with my clients. The answer – most definitely. I certainly don’t communicate the same way to every individual or audience. As I’ve written before, it is vital to charm your audience if you want them to listen to you. Engaging your audience means speaking to them in relatable terms. For example, if your audience is a male group of CEOs, don’t use an example about your experiences with the local PTA. Or if you are speaking at a local mom’s workshop, don’t pepper your lecture with cursing when research shows almost three-quarters of women would be offended.

Traditional gender roles suggest women are more submissive, dependent and subjective while men tend toward more aggressive, independent and objective. However, specific communication nuances exist about how each gender communicates, what they talk about and what their goals for communication are. A few examples:

  1. Men tend to communicate to give information while women tend to communicate to get information.

  2. Women tend to use more emotional language while men rely on factual oriented language in conversation.

  3. Men are more apt to talk about things, sports, business or money to share facts, not necessarily details. Women are more apt to talk about people while sharing feelings and details. Ladies – ask your husband how his day was and you will likely get a recitation of the facts…meetings, lunch, an important conference call – it’s a 5-minute conversation. Then, give your girlfriend a call and ask the same thing. Your girlfriend will give you a more detailed description with details about who, what, when, where and probably even what she wore.

Just look at the differences between one Panther post and the Lion’s response. The Panther’s post is longer, more detailed and she requests other women’s input on the topic to further the dialogue. Conversely, the Lion’s response is more factual – here is an explanation for why we work that way – there you go. Every post doesn’t always follow this pattern and obviously, there is no right or wrong way to do things, but the differences are there.

You all know there are countless differences between the genders in hormones, thought processing and emotions. A recent blog by Guy Kawaski pointed out a fantastic article that discusses “How Women Work”. There are a ton of interesting facts in the article and interesting fodder for future presentations; however, it doesn’t discuss the differences in communication styles…guess they are leaving it up to me for that discussion.

So, let’s hear from you readers – what differences do you notice in your conversations with men and women? Do you believe the gender stereotypes are still prevalent or are they outdated? Do you cater to your audience’s preferences – for communication is important – or do you use a one size fits all approach?


Barbara Swafford said...

Hi Theresa,

First off, thank you for linking to my blog. I truly appreciate it.

I find it interesting how communication between males and females differs. Using the Urban Lions and Panther's blogs is a perfect example, isn't it?

Although I don't cater to males or females in my writing, I always keep those thoughts in the back of my mind when I publish my articles.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

@ Barbara -
Great to hear from you! You are certainly welcome for the link to your site - I love the NBOTW series and found my examples of the Panther and Lion through your site!

When we want to reach both genders we have to speak to both genders. Sometimes that means saying it twice. It takes a little extra work - but most good communication does.


Urban Panther said...

I love the way you described our styles. I explain and involve people and the Lion says here ya go, that's all folks. Too funny.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

Panther - Thanks for being my guinea pigs. I enjoy reading every juicy tidbit.

Dr. Delaney Kirk said...

I talk about communication differences in teaching my management students so I'm finding your blogpost very helpful. One thing I have found that women tend to do: if someone compliments us, say on our shoes, we tend to go into some detail...where we bought them, if they were on sale, etc. Men just say "thanks." Interesting huh?

Theresa Zagnoli said...

I frequently notice the same thing. Worst of all, I notice it coming out of my own mouth. I am not familiar with research discussing this particular behavior. However, if I had to guess it would be somewhere in the literature that addresses insecurity. When someone tenders a compliment, the more secure a person is, the less (s)he has to say and the louder it gets said. A solid "thank you" or a comment directed at the giver of the compliment such as, "how nice of you to notice" is a far better response than incoherent mumbling or ramblings about the store, the color choices and the sales clerk.

Happy to hear you are using my information. If there is anything specific you would like me to write about, tell me.