Men and Women …Now Listen Up!

Men and Women …Now Listen Up! 

“Often it is not what you say, but how you say it that counts. The success or failure of any relationship depends on the conversational signals like voice level, pitch or timing”

UYV I Girls

These women know a lot about this industry

This is a quote from Dr. Deborah Tannen who writes books about communication, but especially male and female communication.  At work communication sets the tone for your relationships.  Without reminders and some training, communications can go south pretty quickly.  So why is it challenging for men and women to communicate clearly and easily with each other?  And what are some guidelines that can keep communication on a more positive and productive path?

As management trainers in the automotive field for over 18 years, we have found that the differences between men and women are consistently identified in our many seminars on this topic.  As a context for reading this article, remember we are using broad concepts and some generalizations based on our experiences in conducting seminars.  And we are using the premise that men and women think differently, process information differently and react in ways based on how their brains are organized.

Your Brain

WHAT? Our brains are organized differently?  Well, yes, based on scientific evidence, male and female brains are wired differently from the time we are infants.  We all have the same computing power and we are all born with the same amount of connections between the left and the right brain.  Those different parts of the brain perform different functions.  When testosterone enters the male body in infancy, it erodes many of the connections from the right brain.  So, what does that do?  One of the results of that process is that it stops the male brain from being able to quickly transfer stimulus from one side of the brain to the other side. It means the wiring diagram gets changed.  In other words, it makes male communication much more linear and therefore much less complicated.  Female infants do not have this going on, allowing the web of networks from the left to right brain to continue development.  This allows female brains to quickly shift from one brain core to the other.  In grown ups we call it multi-tasking.  So if we know we compute information differently, it helps us to have a much more accepting attitude when communicating.  And with training on your part, you can ask for communication that works best for each of us, male and female

Getting Started

How do we start to use this kind of information to make better communication occur in the workplace?  We all spend plenty of time at work and deserve to have it be a place where we thrive.  Learning a new way could save you a lot of frustration when working with the opposite sex.

This can be tricky because there are emotional factors that also enter into communication.  In our workshops, what can get dicey is when we ask both the men and women to identify the things that drive each other crazy!  All of us hear complaints about the opposite sex daily.  We see jokes on the internet and hear them on the TV and the radio.

But when a communication breakdown at work with the opposite sex occurs, none of that seems too funny.  Here are some of the characteristics of both sexes that get in the way when we want to be successful co-workers and good communicators.

This is what the women say about men in our ACDC “Working with men and women in the automotive workplace”  

  1. Men are blunt and abrupt
  2. Men are impatient
  3. Men don’t listen or tune out
  4. Men don’t follow directions
  5. Men don’t pay attention to the details
  6. Men feel they are always right!
    For women the list isn’t any nicer…just different.

Here are the most common complaints we hear from the men:

  1. Women talk too much
  2. Women beat around the bush
  3. Women are too picky…too many details
  4. Women offer advise we didn’t ask for
  5. Women take everything personally
  6. Women tell you the same thing over and over

The Learning

When we created these lists in the recent workshop at the FADRA convention, immediately one woman said”OH!!! I see three of these I have been doing all along.  No wonder I get push back”  And one of the men recognized that his female parts manager “wanted acknowledgement not attention”.  By seeing sometimes for the first time, the behaviors that men and women show each other and by talking about them, both sexes feel less confused and are more compassionate and understanding. In John Gray’s book “Venus visits Mars”, he talks about women wanting CARING and men wanting ACCEPTANCE.  If we read the lists with that in mind, the lists make a lot more sense.  The filters of CARING and ACCEPTANCE explain why most of the statements on the list rub each other the wrong way.

However, the bad news is that in the heat of the moment, or the silence that follows a communication mishap, it takes discipline to employ this reasoning and not to react the way our instincts tempt us to react!  But if we use this information to make better relationships at work, the benefits pay off pretty quickly.


Let's talk about this over a cup of coffee

Let’s talk about this over a cup of coffee

An additional critical aspect of mis-communication is how quickly the ego gets engaged.

In his book on relationships, A. Justin Sterling defines the ego as that part of your personality that wants to the best, unique, #1.  He also warns that the EGO is the predator of good relationships.  When our egos are engaged, an interaction quickly occurs and it is a combative interaction.  It can be verbal or silent (cold shoulder).  It can be a fight to the end or a flee response.  Many a regretful incident at work has occurred because egos were allowed to get out of control.

Men and women display their egos differently, but regardless of how it shows up, there is sure to be an interaction that will have negative consequences for both parties.  How will you know your ego is engaged?  Before we get angry there are signs our bodies give us that let us know it is preparing to do battle.  Some of us get red in the face; some take a posture, or clench their teeth or fists.  Some of us hold our breath.  This is a warning that you need to take a personal time out and try communicating when you are more prepared or more clear.  In a workshop on taking a stand for good communication the phrase that is taught is so simple…”I am upset (or unhappy) and I will talk to you about this later.”  THEN leave the conversation.  This is not about being right, it about be caring or gracious enough to just cut the communication short-right then and there.  It is a smart and easy tool for both sexes to use.

Making Changes

As human beings one of the things that prompts us to change is the pain of being where we know we are somewhat responsible for it.  When the pain of staying the same is too great or too costly we begin the change process to relieve the pain we are feeling emotionally.  Change takes at least 30 days to become effective.  Repeated Military studies have determined that 30 days without a relapse in what it takes to make a “change” stick.  Thirty days includes your days not at work, so those around you and at home get the extra benefit of your behavioral work as a bonus.

It will be hard to get good at this if you aren’t drawn to the changes required and a close look at yourself. It will take time, the changes that we mentioned take 30 days, and that is 30 days for each step. There may be many steps.

So here is a short review:   

  • Practice and then practice some more
  • You will make mistakes
  • You will learn more about yourself and then try again
  • If this was easy there wouldn’t be so many books and workshops about this subject
    Now go out there and communicate with caring and acceptance!  Good luck.

Written by Deb Van Batenburg, AAM










Last edit  12/29/16