One of the best uses of shorthand is the title of John Gray’s book Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus (19 93). Say the phrase and people immediately know you are talking about the communication differences between men and women. Whether you are a fan of the book or not (Confession: I’m not) you get the gist of the premise.
Deborah Tannen’s Talking from 9 to 5: Men and Women at Work (1995), and You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation (2001) added her take based on scholarly research and real-life examples rather than on a myth-like premise. She too aims to help people understand why men and boys act one way and girls and women act another.
Both seek to get across the same message I work to hammer home AND remember myself: there is no right or wrong here. People are wired differently and effective communication is enhanced when you think about how the other person gives, receives and processes information. Take those things into account when crafting your message.
It might seem like common sense (men’s communication style is reporting – to the point; women’s communication style is rapport and disclosing information.) but common sense isn’t really all that common. Men can’t figure out why women are so frustrated when they want to get right to the meat of the matter. Women can’t figure out why men aren’t more ready to listen, ask questions, and share information.
Generally speaking, women have a tendency to ask a lot of questions before they jump in to a new task. Men simply roll up their sleeves and get to it. These style differences create an impression that can get in the way: the woman is seen by men as being too tentative and the man is seen by women as being overly confident. Neither is completely accurate, and neither is right or wrong. It is just the different style in which they approach the task.
Let’s all be realistic about what’s possible. The kind of intimate conversations that women have with their girlfriends will probably remain with their girlfriends. Men can’t become girlfriends – they don’t usually develop relationships in that way. Men can develop an understanding that women talk to create a relationship, not just to chatter the day away. And sometimes, for a specific period of time and a clear purposes and goal, men and women can use skills that come naturally to the other.
But – then they’ll go back to their default style – which allows them to operate with the most efficiency and comfort.
Not back to their home planet – here on Earth!