That’s the average number of words females use daily, according to Sally Helgesen, co-author of the bestselling book How Women Rise.
That’s the average number of words males use daily.
Nope, don’t see any chance for conflict there!
Holy communication gap, Batman (and Batwoman)—we have a problem.
According to Sally, this discrepancy tells us a lot about how men can perceive women’s communication styles (especially in male-dominated industries and organizations).
Granted it’s a generalization, but this nearly three times difference in men and women’s communication styles leads to common disconnects and likely diminishment of women by men.
As Sally shared in our On Leadership podcast interview, some men then perceive women as “too chatty” in the workplace, then form opinions that can be career limiting. Men still very much hold a disproportionate level of executive and board roles in most organizations. And this perception about communication is just one example of how our mindsets impact, too often negatively, our positional and formal influence over others. Especially for men who can help women rise – or prevent them from doing so.
Candidly I’ve seen this scenario play out and now better understand that people may use more words to prove their points or burnish their positions if they expect to be dismissed if they don’t.
But let’s set this gender-based statistic aside (for the record, I probably use about 100,000 words a day, and I most definitely identify as a man.). Instead, let’s discuss more broadly a leader’s responsibilities to examine their own communication preferences and whether they have an unconscious bias against different yet still effective communication styles.
Think for a moment about your natural communication style. Did you learn it, stumble on it by default, or consciously cultivate it as you progressed in your career? Are there cultural underpinnings that reinforce your behavior? Are there styles that differ from yours, but may be just as effective?
Think about the labels you’ve placed on your direct reports, peers, and senior leaders—who communicates effectively or not? How did you determine that? Do any of those labels need to be reconsidered? You might be surprised at how you can make room for more diverse styles—and achieve better collaboration, results, and engagement in the process.
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