I play USA Volleyball, and while we’re no Olympians most of us played in college—a few years back. We have a middle hitter who apologizes for everything. The ball could land 20 feet from her clearly in someone else’s area and immediately you hear, ‘I’m sorry,’ come out of her mouth. (Sometimes I yell at her for it, to which she yells back, ‘I’m sorry!’ We can do that with each other.)
The way women communicate in business, such as apologizing for everything, really hurts others’ perceptions of them. Apologize if something is truly your fault; that’s a sign of strength. Also have a plan for correcting the problem. When you apologize for everything, it demonstrates a general lack of confidence.
Also be sure to look people in the eyes (do blink, otherwise it’s creepy) and assert yourself when making requests. When you ask, ‘Would you maybe do this project, if you have the time?’ it not only shows a lack of confidence but it’s so mushy no one’s really sure what if anything is actually required of the employee. Being assertive doesn’t mean being impolite; it’s leadership.
The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn is not a new book now but it provides interesting insights into the differences between male and female thinking and communication. What she found was not so much sexism as misunderstanding of each other.
At work, Feldhahn contends, men expect no excuses for not accomplishing a goal and you don’t ask why you’re working on something. But women like to know why they’re working on something, not because they’re questioning its value but rather so they understand its value to the business. We also might come up with a better or different way of getting at that point.
However, that’s not always how it’s perceived. Try something along the lines of, “Help me to understand…” I’ve used this tip to success.
Credit union consultant Holly Herman, who holds what she calls Woman Up! sessions, instructs that ‘no’ doesn’t always mean no when it comes to new ideas. Sometimes it’s not right now until we get more resources, so be sure to assert your ideas when you can support that they’re good ones.
Understanding the rules of communication in business is important to playing the game. One day in the not too distant future the women will be setting the rules.
Sarah Snell Cooke
Credit Union Times