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Do Men and Women Speak Different Languages at Work?

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

promoted in premiere issue of Your Office Coach e-letter -- may 28, 2008

Life would be simpler if we all spoke the same language. Not only do many of us speak completely different languages based on culture, but we also speak different languages based on gender. Neither style is better than the other; they’re just different, says Colette Carlson, columnist for Personal Report for the Administrative Professional.

Women have 11% more neurons in their brains for emotion, feelings and communication. When it comes to emotion and communication, women have an eight-lane superhighway, whereas men have a country road.

Remember, not better, just different.

Men use language to report, and women use language to build rapport. So men prefer the headline, and women prefer the story. That’s why men usually favor short, succinct phrases and talk about things such as sports, politics and business.

Women use language to connect and enjoy talking about people and feelings. They enjoy sharing all the details, and often save the best for last. Herein lies the challenge.

For example, your male supervisor asks you to report on an upcoming event. If you’re female, you start at the top sharing every detail accomplished to date. A third of the way through, your boss cuts you off and says, “OK, well let me know if you need any support.”

Here’s what Carlson suggests to avoid future misunderstandings and frustrations:

Deliver the important information up front: Example: “The event is on budget, on time and I’m meeting with the caterers today. Would you like to hear more about any particular item?” By summarizing up front, your boss gets the information he needs and you leave the door open for sharing more information.

Let’s say you just returned from a staff meeting the boss was unable to attend. “How did the meeting go?” he asks. Choose the most important issue and say, “The team decided to move forward on the IT project for marketing by the end of the week. We discussed a few minor details I’d be happy to share with you when you have the time.”

By being flexible with our own communication style, we’re more likely to be heard by others. It won’t matter whether they’re traveling on a freeway or a country road.

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