She Said / She Said: The True Way Women Communicate With Each Other
We all know that there is a clear difference between the way men and women communicate in business. But what about woman-to-woman communication? Who talks about the way women treat each other in their communications? It is not as pretty and appropriate as some would have you believe.
It always amazes me when I read an article that makes me feel good about women dealing with other women. You know all about the mysterious women who have never had a problem, exchanged crosswords, or damaged a relationship. Where do these women live? In La La Land.
I have worked almost exclusively with women for 10 years and have encountered almost every behavior imaginable, both good and bad. I am bombarded with calls and emails every day that run the gamut. The repeated bonds that stand out are the lack of professionalism, support and empathy that is evoked in women.
The simple truth is that women’s dealings with other women is a very complex connection. There are many factors that influence our communication style, some of which have been inbred since we were young children. We cannot change those influences now, but we can model ourselves to think before we speak and work within the confines of shared experiences.
Think of your communication in terms of the roles you play in your relationships: businesswoman, confidant, wife, mother, friend, sister, boss, associate, colleague, etc. Each character requires a different personality and a different communication style. Be prepared to support that part in your communication style. Talking gives you more ways to legitimize your communication context. If you are verbally communicating face-to-face, body language, inflection, eye contact, and (most importantly) overall appearance can all influence the recipient before they even open their mouth.
Let’s start by talking about how women communicate. In our exhausted, stressed, and engaged lives, we rarely communicate proactively. When we approach other women, it is usually because we need something (not because we are in touch). Establishing a bond before you really need something will greatly increase your chances for positive communication. One method that I find very successful is to keep in touch through a weekly ezine that I write and distribute. The ezine includes helpful tips and information. When I send it, I don’t ask for anything. I am working to create a report and establish familiarity. The truth is that this will benefit me when I need help. Whether the recipient reads my column or not, they receive a weekly release that creates brand awareness of who I am and what I stand for. One sure way to build an affiliation that is not based on need is to send someone a note commenting on a job well done, an award, a promotion, or other newsworthy event in their life. People love to be flattered, and even the most inveterate profession likes to be told that they are making a difference.
Along the same lines, selfish communication comes from women who want to do business with you. In my case, women who want to do business with me expect me to do all the work. They go to my website and find out everything about me and become a star catcher. Well, this bothers me. The fact is, when you do business you have to be prepared to do your job. Get to the point immediately. Tell the recipient who you are and what you can do for him, not what you expect him to do for you. Keep your communication profits boosting. Don’t go in blindly. Every time you communicate with someone in the business, they are thinking about WIIFM (what’s in it for me?).
On this front, a common reactive communication question is our response when we hear out of the blue from someone who wants a favor. We know they came out of nowhere and want something, but they will never return the favor. Forget all that deception about the return of good deeds. The plain and simple truth is that it doesn’t work and that serves to generate hidden resentment. If someone asks you for a favor and you expect it to be returned, let them know in advance. Call it reciprocity or whatever you want. Just make sure the person understands the handshake that goes into the deal.
Email communication is doubly difficult because we all carry the baggage of preconceived notions about a person’s message. This is the case even when we have never met them! We are judged by the written language that is used to communicate. Take the time to carefully compose your written communications. Would you be offended if someone wrote the same thing to you? Is there something you would read in the message? We have become notoriously lax on business etiquette in our email correspondence because it is so easy to use. Before hitting the send button, think about what you are typing and how you are communicating it.
One of the most common written communication mistakes is misspelling or misspelling someone’s name. For example, we can use Katherine instead of Catherine or Kathleen instead of Caitlyn. For some unknown reason, women get scared by this misstep. Some of the nastier messages I received were the result of making this kind of simple mistake. If this happens to you, apologize and move on. If this mistake has soured the relationship, accept that nothing will save it.
What about our covert communication techniques? During my sales days calling women into a decision-making role, I constantly ran into a brick wall with the doorman. Have you met this goalkeeper? It is like Cerberus guarding the inner sanctuary. How frustrating is that when you know you have something of value to offer? Seriously, we’ve all had the experience of trying to calm or breed that bull dog that guards its master. And worst of all are the abrupt, rough and antagonistic women who let our male counterpart waltz out the door.
How do you overcome the sentinel placed between you and your brand? Simply put, you must cultivate the guardian before you can engage in meaningful dialogue. Why is this person so suspicious and suspicious of your intentions anyway? It is important to remember that she is protecting her territory. Its role is to prevent unwanted people from moving to the next level. Why does he consider you unworthy? She considers you insignificant; after all, you are just another woman. How could you be someone important?
Let’s explore this mindset. Have you ever found yourself in a predominantly male crowd with a few women scattered all over the place? Did you find yourself gravitating towards men and ignoring women? I’ve already done it. Why with my vast experience am I participating in this behavior? They have conditioned me. We all have! With so few businesswomen in the male-dominated business environment, I am forced to make quick decisions about the women in the room. Why are they there? Are they of any help? What’s its purpose? Since they are also a woman; Can they have any meaning? Did I scrutinize his appearance? You gamble. I checked it down to the last detail. Interesting analysis, huh? That’s what the goalkeeper is thinking of you!
One unfortunate communication characteristic that most of us have found in another woman is one that delivers like the ugly green-eyed monster: jealousy. Consciously or unconsciously, we evaluate and compare our successes or failures with others in our circle of acquaintances or even with achievements of high-profile women that we can never hope to replicate. Making these evaluations tilts our communication style. If someone is more successful and has a higher profile, we automatically assume the worst. Our suspicious minds want to know how it got there. We believe that she must be sleeping with the boss, have someone’s assets in the company or is the “symbolic” woman (don’t worry, you are not alone, men also have these same thoughts). Superate yourself! She won !! You may not be able to control the emotion, but you can avoid bringing the thoughts into the tenor of your conversation. Think before you talk. Dispel any preconceived notions about the person you are speaking to that may distort the message you are conveying. Join in some benign little talk while you collect your thoughts. Put yourselves on an equal footing. It’s an old saying, but it resonates with the truth: she puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like you.
Moving on, what about the convenient non-communicator? Have you ever had an associate who worked his way to the top of the company only to disengage from those at a lower level? I know such a person. He even told me: “I don’t have time to interact with anyone who is not at my level in the food chain.” I have known this person for a long time and until now she was a normal “girl”. This phenomenon is much more common than you think. Psychologists called it “drawbridge syndrome.” Bring the bridge behind you as you cross it and make your way up the corporate ladder. Don’t let this happen to you. Remember where you come from. Be true to yourself and those who support you. Treat all women with the same respect no matter how high you climb the ladder to success.
An obvious problem with women’s communication is that, on the receiving end, we take everything personally. Whether it’s an unfavorable response, a statement about a situation or a problem to be solved, many women take it as a personal affront. Wrong! What is happening are business. It may be good business practice and has nothing to do with you personally.
Here are some successful methods to open a door to a lasting relationship.
o Get a referral from someone who already knows you or is working with the person you are trying to host. Word of mouth communication is a highly influential factor among women. A recommendation gives you instant credibility.
o Request assistance or help with a project. Depending on the type of appeal you make, it will influence your success rate. Make your request short and sweet with clear benefits for them with solid results. “You will get X for your help.”
o Use humor. Lighten the moment and soften the situation. This works well when you’ve made a misstep.
o Make a smart, interesting, or powerful statement. Remember that women are busy and multitask. Grab their attention with an important message.
o When you receive or experience an unpleasant communication, let it rest before responding. Women are known to come back with ingenious replicas.
Sometimes even the great communicator doesn’t get it with another woman. I recently sent a message to my readers that was quite funny. 95% of people thought so and responded with that thought in mind. The other 5% let me know that they thought the message was abrasive, arrogant, and condescending. The fact is, you will never please any woman you interact with. There are some women he will never “hook up” with despite his best efforts. My advice? Move on to the next relationship and leave the unsuccessful one in the background. Don’t destroy it with a nasty and condescending (receptive) rebuttal.
Above all, think before communicating with another woman. Play the sound byte through your head before opening your mouth. How does it sound to you? Would you be offended or angry if someone said the same to you? Is your connection on a deeper level? Do you clearly state a benefit? Remember that it is not always about what you communicate, but about the method and the way you communicate it.