A few years ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Matt and Peggy Bud. Matt is the chairman of The Financial Executives Networking Group (The FENG). He had invited me to be a guest speaker at his monthly meeting. Following the speaking engagement, we went out to dinner and I got to know more about Matt and his wife, Peggy.
Ever since that first meeting, Peggy regularly reads and comments on my blog posts. Last week, when I featured the Networking Roadmap for Your Career, Peggy pointed out that your career trajectory is influenced not only by the excellence of your work and the relationships that you forge (as I had asserted), but also by your ability to communicate. I agreed with Peggy and have since added that important point to my template which will be stored in The Vault under the search term, networking.
Peggy was also kind enough to offer to share a blog that she wrote on the topic of communication barriers and how they affect women in the workplace.
I agree with most everything Peggy has to say in this article, except for the viewpoint that wearing high heels gives women more confidence and better posture. I think that they just give us back pain. Please read and learn from Peggy Bud. Feel free to comment, challenge, counter, or just enjoy her information.
Communication Barriers and Women
by Peggy S. Bud
No matter what you do, you are always communicating, whether it is with your children, family, co-workers, customers or clients. In all situations, your success is directly linked to how effectively you communicate. Yet, effective communication takes practice as it isn’t an innate skill. Different people communicate differently; men and women communicate differently. In addition to gender differences, communication differences can be related to culture, region, nationality, age, and education.
It is said that when top management is diverse, that diversity may have a positive impact on a company’s success. Even though about 70% of the women in the United States are in the work force, most of them are not in top management. Therefore, a company’s diversity is not usually linked to gender.
Gender significantly impacts how women communicate both at work and at home. Research has found that there are communication skills that are gender specific and hard-wired. Neurobiologists have identified that the language and emotion centers of the brain are larger in women, which is one reason why women and men communicate differently. Women are usually more verbal than men; they are usually better listeners than men. Women find it easier to communicate with other women rather than with men. Why? Historically, women were left home to take care of the children and the house, while the men went off to work. Women spent a great deal of time with other women. They talked while they car pooled, shopped, dropped off the kids and ran errands. Now that they are a significant part of the work force, they have to learn how to effectively communicate with men.
Statistical data shows that women tend to talk about 3 times as much as men on a given day. Neurobiologists have found that the female brain is more verbally agile. According to Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, women are hardwired differently than men; their strength is in the area of language and emotions. Women worry about relationships and try to avoid conflict, which makes it more difficult for them to be authoritative. Being prepared is the best way to counter challenges by men. When a woman wants to challenge an idea or the status quo, she needs to be prepared to not only clearly communicate what she thinks or believes, but why.
Words are only about 10% of any message. Tone, pitch, volume, and rate, which are the other components of an oral message, are 30% of the message. All of these characteristics have a gender component. The male vocal range is naturally lower than the female vocal range. When words are spoken at a lower pitch, they sound more caring. Men also tend to speak at a slower rate than women; women need to concentrate on making their message clear and easily understood by speaking slower. Women should focus on pitch, tone, volume and rate, recognizing how these components impact their overall message. A higher pitch may send a message that the speaker is angry, excited, or frightened. Women, who naturally speak softer and faster than men, may compromise their messages based on volume or rate. Effective communication comes with practice!
Learning to slow down one’s speech is an art. When developing this skill, think about how your speech feels as well as how it sounds. Are you leaving off the ends of words? Do you speak in phrases to help people comprehend what you are saying? Be your own judge. Record yourself. Listen to how you sound. Can you be understood? Does your message sound rushed? Do you sound like you care? Do you sound angry? Annoyed? Confident? Is your message filled with so many clauses that it is difficult to understand?
About 60% of any message is sent non-verbally; through gestures, posture, and eye contact. Because most women are shorter than men, having eye contact when standing and speaking to a man can be a challenge. Wearing high heels can reduce that problem by adding 2-4 inches to a woman’s height. This simple trick will make you closer to the height of your male colleague. You can also invite the person to sit down and chat, again helping to ensure that you can have eye contact when talking.
Wearing high heels may also build a woman’s confidence because it helps her posture. Women tend to stand straighter and taller when wearing heels. Good posture, shoulder’s relaxed, head held high, and of course a smile, sends a message that you are confident about what you are saying.
For women, being an effective communicator in the male dominated world of business presents challenges. Women who are leaders must sound confident and authoritative. They may have to make choices that affect their relationships with colleagues and co-workers. These decisions can be difficult because women tend to want to preserve relationships and diffuse conflict. Conversely, men don’t mind a good fight and they tend to use the conflict to gain status.
In this article, I have highlighted a few of the communication issues that can affect women in the workplace. Please write to me at Peggy@PeggyBud.com and share your stories. Tell me about your communication challenges that may have made you feel less confident or less able to contribute at work as a leader or team member. I also welcome any questions you might have regarding effective communication.
With warm regards, Peggy
About the writer: Peggy Bud is an Education and Communication Consultant with a background in speech pathology and school administration. She uses her knowledge of how people learn and process information to teach her clients effective communication skills. It’s more than what you say; it’s how you say it. Based in Weston, Connecticut, Peggy can be reached at Peggy@PeggyBud.com or via telephone 203.227-8723. . Learn more at her web site: www.PeggyBud.com