Breaking news! Women and men tend to have different communication styles!
Yeah, I know, it’s not new news at all. But it’s funny, because we so often persist in talking to each other like we all have the same style. In fact, each of us goes around thinking that everyone has the same style, and wants the same things from a conversation, that we do. The gender difference is one of the more obvious, but it can vary based on a host of other factors, including where someone is from, their age, their cultural background, and, duh, or their personality.
I know I tend to be pretty analytical and solution oriented in my conversations – so I have a habit when I’m in a relationship or when talking to a female friend of asking (when I think it’s appropriate), “Should I try to solve this or should I simply listen”. Sometimes it seems a little odd, and a little meta, but it’s my way of acknowledging that the way I communicate isn’t the only way to do it. There isn’t a “best” way. In the end, I want to have a powerful conversation and ensure that the other person gets what they need out of it as well.
I find that most challenges that people have in their relationships – both personal and professional – come from a breakdown in communication. And a lot of that happens when the two participants have a different idea of how to have an effective conversation. They might be talking, but they aren’t actually sharing information.
When you understand that the other person might have a different style, you can bring more awareness into your exchanges. What is the other person looking for? How might they better provide you what you need? By keeping this information in mind, you can minimize the stress from bad conversations (“I just had a 20 minute conversation with my boss and I have no idea why she was ticked off”) and maximize the number of great conversations you have (“I just had lunch with a possible business partner and I totally understand what his goals are in this new venture.”).
What is your style? How can you bridge the gap between your style and others to more effectively communicate at work and in your personal life?
By the way, if this is a big area of opportunity, I suggest checking out Deborah Tannen’s work. Really good stuff and incredibly useful in my own examination of communication styles!