Simply say what you want!

‘Men are from Mars and women are from Venus,’ John Gray said in his 1992 book examining difference in gender and relationships. Having been a great success back then, the book today is totally “retro” and outdated.  But it just came back to my mind the other day, when a customer asked me if I could offer “special trainings for women”. “Actually not” I replied. And here is why: While there may be differences, men and women are more alike than people think. Mars and Venus?  They are both planets. As simple as that.

Gone are the days of the man being the breadwinner, the woman the homemaker. In 2021, business is more reflective of society and women play leading roles in many companies. There is still some way to go to ensure better representation, but any company that fails to recognize their talented female employees as well as the men, will soon fall by the wayside. Equality is the stated aim and should continue be. But how do things differ in the business environment?

From my own training experience, I have seen that the most accomplished, successful, talented and confident women are those who do exactly what their male counterparts do; they say what they want. They employ a direct, but respectful approach, communicating what they want and expect from employees, partners, customers, investors and voters. People who communicate what they want, clearly and directly come across as self-confident, competent and fearless.

We all know the concept of the Alpha male. Place yourself in any group setting and the Alpha male is like a light attracting moths. People are naturally drawn towards confident, dominant, leaders. Is this the same for women or do they suffer from a perceived lack of an Alpha status – due to gender? Not necessarily. A strong and confident personality will have a similar effect on group dynamics and individuals whether from a confident, female or male leader. It is their communication style, directness and intent that will draw people to them.

In consulting and training sessions, I have found that women and men alike have trouble saying what they want. Irrespective of whether it is a negotiation, presentation, pitch, or performance review. But, in my experience, there is one important difference: men are quicker to recognize the benefits of this approach and apply it more quickly and without hesitation.

Without over-generalising, it seems that women tend to be a little more hesitant. Why is this? Is this due to the perception of interlocutor, more acceptant of strong, direct male leaders? Some women I have trained have expressed concern that their directness may scare off, even harass, the counterpart and that the result will then be damaging. It may be the case that dominant men are happier at ‘upsetting the apple cart’ than women leaders. The Mars aggressors versus the Venus appeasers placing the demand for harmony and balance above their own personal goals and needs.

I have a three-tier strategy that has been successful in assisting even the most reserved businesswomen (and men too) become better communicators (and leaders);

  1. Attentions spans in our busy society have shortened considerably. Concentration levels quickly fall away. The sooner you say what you want, the better you can guide and orient your counterpart and the sooner you create attention. This is the most important asset in today’s world when it comes to communication.
  2. Directness without respect achieves nothing. You can be direct, say what you want, but achieve this by using respectful language. For example, use inclusive expressions; ‘I want to encourage you, I would recommend, I suggest we do this, with respect that is something I don’t agree with.’
  3. People will rarely tell you so, but they are grateful for your clear, direct words. Because if you say what you want from your counterpart, your audience, your colleagues – you get to the point.

And that is the key. People want to know what the point is, what you expect, so they can get on and do it. In business, the clearest voices are the ones that rise above the noise.

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