Is Their Communication Holding Women Back in Business?
As you know everything I do is about improving communication and when I was reading the newspaper a few days ago I came across an interesting article about the role of language in female leadership.
Much research suggests that a relatively small proportion of the meaning of any communication is conveyed through the words that we say.
But just how critical is the choice of words to use? and is it different for men and women?
In her the book ” The Language of Female Leadership” Dr. Judith Baxter, a linguistics expert from Aston University, asks whether language is a reason why business women are under-represented at senior levels.
The 18 month study involved research into the speaking patterns of men and women at meetings in seven major companies and the findings make for interesting reading.
The main difference appears to be in the way that women use language when facing criticism and handling conflict in what Dr. Baxter calls “double-voice discourse”. She found that women are more self-deprecating and try to avoid conflict. She goes on to say that ” It may be seen as a bit of weakness on the part of women, because you are not playing the game in the same way” and this can have a detrimental effect on how women are perceived as successful leaders.
Now I suspect that most people will not find this a total surprise because it is recognised that different people communicate differently.
It seems to me that it’s another example of what I call the “transmitter-receiver” effect.
We tend to convey information in the way that we prefer to receive it – but that’s like expecting everyone to have their radio tuned to radio 4 because we like it that way.
If you think of the speaker as being the transmitter and your “audience” as the receiver, then you have to adjust your transmissions to fit the receiver channels that are open to you. And this is what most people don’t do because they don’t realise they need to.
Successful communication is all about matching your message and its delivery to the receiver and the key to doing that successfully is developing flexibility in your communication.
When I work with clients on how to use their language more effectively to become more persuasive they are often astonished by the difference in the results they achieve when they develop a understanding of how others prefer to communicate, learn to be more flexible and then put it into practice.
I would suggest that both women and men need to have a greater awareness of how they use language and a deeper understanding of how other people prefer to communicate. When we all learn to be flexible and adaptable then our communication will improve because when do that effectively the need for confrontation disappears.
And maybe then communication will be easier for everyone and “double-voice discourse” will cease to be a problem.
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