Newsflash: Men and Women Communicate Differently – Recognize & Respect Then Respond

man woman figuresFor anyone that has ever been married, dated, been in a relationship or even had any interaction with the opposite sex in a social setting is probably shaking their head at me right now thinking that I’m being pretty lazy for a Monday blog by posting the obvious.


Not so fast.


In a social setting we all have stories of miscommunication with the opposite sex.  Just this weekend my best friend and I had a discussion about three little words: “really nice restaurant”.  For a woman that means date, for a man it means a meal with non-disposable napkins.


But what about a business setting?  A really nice restaurant doesn’t mean date – it means entertaining clients, visiting VIPs or possibly talk of a promotion.


In the business world it is a whole different setting; yet underneath it all we are still men and women, we still think differently, we respond differently and our body language translates differently.  And we still end up confused.  That is why we need to ask clarifying questions.


“Soon”, “Fine” and “When you have a minute” all mean different things to men and women in the work place.  They are steeped in ambiguity and this leads to confusion or misrepresentation.  In a social world you may be in big trouble if the apple of your eye replies “fine”; but in the business world it could mean that your customers are very happy, just not ones to spew compliments.


If a hiring manager tells you they are looking to hire “soon” – what does that mean?  If your customers tell you give them a call “when you have a minute” what does that mean? Ambiguity in business is a bad thing.  It misguides people and often leaves so much doubt that we tend to go down the negative path.  Our actions are then led by these negative thoughts.


Walking out of an interview with a timeframe of “soon” tells you nothing.  You can end up torturing yourself for days waiting for a call thinking that “soon” could be this week when in reality they mean this quarter.


You have to ask.


And here is where it can get tricky because men and women think differently.  I am going to go with some generalizations with men and women so if you are someone who does not fit the category do not be offended – just celebrate that you are different.  But cut the rest of the world a break, we all don’t think like you do.


Generally speaking, when asking a man a question you need to be direct and to the point while maintaining professionalism without questioning him or his authority without pointing that out.  There is a little bit of an alpha thing going on there so you need to respect the unwritten “ranking” that is in place.  Use shorter sentences.  Men tend to tune out more quickly than women.


Generally speaking, when asking a woman a question you need to clarify a bit more and can be more explanatory.  It helps zero down the targeted question, the reference as to why you are asking and how they can best answer it to serve your needs.


Once you get an answer, your clarifying questions can be different too.  For a man, if it is still a bit ambiguous then a more direct clarifying question would be in order.  For a woman a pleasant agreeing statement would be in order.


So how do you know how to ask?  Take your cue from the interviewer or customer.  How have they been responding to prior questions?  Do they respond well to direct questions or do you need to lead them a bit?  Pay attention to what gives you the most information.


Also pay attention to body language.  If they have closed up the portfolio, pushed back the chair and cleared their throat – they are pretty much done at that moment.  Engaging in further conversation could irritate them.  A short, direct clarifying question could wrap it up quickly and succinctly.


Remember this is business and you are on their turf.  Respect that.  Establishing a tone even in the opening of shaking hands is important.  For men, we know you are all he-man but do not try to prove that to the interviewer.  Do not try to over-power your male interviewer’s handshake.  Meet it, don’t exceed it.  If you try to give a bit more it is an unconscious signal to them that you are trying to take dominance.  This is their turf.


Women when shaking hands don’t wimp out.  The days of offering the back of your hand for a light kiss in a social setting are long, long gone.  Firm it up, meet the grip and release at once, don’t let it linger.  Eww.  Don’t be afraid to show strength in your grip.


I learned to shake hands from my dad.  I have tiny little hands but a firm grip.  Most men are surprised by this but also relieved, they do not feel like they are about to break glass when shaking my hand.  It is business, I am a professional, I am there to make a statement and it isn’t that my nails are wet.


Men don’t be afraid to shake a woman’s hand.  Don’t do the death grip, but yet don’t coddle it gently.  First – it could come across as creepy.  Second, it could also undermine you.  If you are interviewing with a woman and she has a firm grip and she meets a wimpy shake it sends an unconscious signal of weakness.


If their handshake is a quick pump and release odds are that they are going to respond better to short, direct questions and answers.  If they have a longer and more inviting handshake then they will probably respond better to more conversational or longer responses.


But no matter what their style be sure to ask the questions.  You will never know unless you ask.  You need to know in order to gauge your next action steps and ensure they are appropriate.


It may take an extra minute or two but those clarifying questions are lifesavers.  Evaluate the entire conversation and ask appropriately based upon the cues they have given you, whether they know it or not.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Who Is Your Hero And Why?

He was maybe 5’8; salt and pepper hair; slow, sly smile; sparkling blue eyes; bull-legged and color blind.  He was never the life of the party or someone that intentionally drew attention to himself; rather he was the one that drew attention by his presence.  He only boasted about his wife and children, never about himself.  He downplayed the many fascinating aspects about him and his life and in one look you knew if he was for or against you.  He was a tower of strength, scary as hell to a teenager and a gentle protector of his youngest daughter.  He was my dad and my hero.


Today is his birthday, which over the past 17 years since he has been gone has always taken precedence over Valentines Day.  Today my thoughts are about him more than usual.   I heard someone talking about a hero the other and I immediately thought of my father.  What was interesting to me is why this person chose their hero.  Peruse the media and you will be bombarded with all sorts of images and stories about so called “heroes”  – but so many – at least in my opinion – have done very little to earn such status.


My dad was just one of my heroes.  You never read about him or any amazing sports feats that he did or media-worthy exploits; yet he was a hero because above all else he taught me two valuable lessons in his short life: what a man should be and to be myself.


As a young girl I was fortunate to see how a real man loved his children and his wife, took care of his family, worked hard, appreciated and enjoyed life.  He suffered through injustices and struggles and instead of using them as excuses he quietly and doggedly faced them and successfully came out better in the end.


He provided for his family unconcerned with appearances but rather on quality.  His hands were rough, tattered and stained from being a mechanic; his body ravished by years of back breaking work, service to his country and being a rugged do-it-yourselfer.  He never considered himself handsome, although that was the overwhelming consensus of all the girls in my dorm in college.


He was absolutely faithful to my mother, respected her greatly and was her best friend.  He was honest with his children; we knew the rules, expectations and the consequences – there were no surprises.  To look at him he did not seem scary, but if you crossed his family or were a threat in any way to his children you would see a force like none other – a true force to be reckoned with.


He was the strong silent type but if you were fortunate enough to engage him in conversation you were often treated to snippets of wry humor, wit and wisdom.  His word was his honor.  He would never give his opinion without request; however if you asked you had better be prepared to hear the truth, the absolute truth served in a respectful yet amazingly simple manner.  He treated others in the exact manner he wished to be treated; he did not tolerate lies, malice or unkind acts.


He never allowed being a girl to be an excuse for me; he told me often and provided opportunities for me to see that I could do anything a boy could do.  He instilled in me early on that a woman does not choose a man because she needs him; rather she chooses him because she wants him – that a real man is a partner, a defender, a cohort, an alley and a best friend.  A man doesn’t belittle his partner, he respects her and treats her with dignity always mindful that it is a choice to be where you are and it is a cooperative effort to remain in a partnership.  Hard work isn’t just something that you perform in a physical aspect, but also in an emotional and mental way.


He told me once that he and my mom were very young when they got married and he made a lot of mistakes, but he was grateful that my mom loved him through them.  He also gave me the best piece of advice: if I was ever unsure what to do just imagine him standing next to me then what would I do.


The most romantic thing I have ever heard is when he told me when after I had a family of my own that his job was done as a father; that he and my mom had raised their children and now it was his time to spend with my mom alone and he had waited 20+ years for that time.


During his final days when the cancer had ravaged his body he tried to protect me from seeing him in such a frail state; but I learned his lessons too well and told him that is where I was to be – I was his daughter and I would be by his side no matter what.  I learned from my father how to be a force to be reckoned with.


The day he died we were alone in the hospital and at one point he looked at me, unable to speak.  I knew it was my final goodbye and I made two promises to him that day:  that my son (who was not quite 3) would never forget him and that I would be ok.  With that he looked to the corner (where I presume his guardian angle had been waiting), looked back at me and left this world.


My father is my hero because the way he lived his life, the way he taught me so many lessons from how to bait a hook and cast to how to never apologize for being who I am.  In this world of overnight heroes who seem to come and go as the weather changes, think about who the real heroes are – and why they are your hero.  I admire athletic ability but would never relegate it to hero status.  This hero of mine left everyone’s world a little better for just being a part of it.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

Talk To Me In A Way I Can Listen To You

I had dinner with a friend of mine this weekend and had the most wonderful conversation. At one point we were going over a finer point of the discussion and it came down to one word; which he called semantics. To me that one word made a huge difference. Being a writer I think I am more sensitive to semantics and specific words than most people – or I just could be weird that way. Either way it got me to thinking – go figure.

The following night another friend mentioned something to me and when I responded he rolled his eyes. Not very nice if you ask me, and I told him so. He said it wasn’t what he meant. So I told him to just say what he meant. It seemed pretty easy to me. More eye rolling. Got me thinking so more – go figure.

When I first talk to a client I will frequently ask questions like, “does that make sense to you” just to make sure we are still on the same page. I know how easy it is to start down the path on in the same conversation and end up at two completely different destinations. This fact is complicated even more when both genders are participating in the conversation.

Men and women think, speak and perceive differently. I’m not saying either one is better or more correct than the other – just that we use different processes. I know the following are generalities, but in my experience they ring true: men tend to be more frank; women tend to see interpretations. Think of it like a Sunday drive.

Men know the end destination, they know the route they want to take, know when they need to stop for gas, don’t make additional stops or concessions – here is where they are going and here is how we are going to get there, period.

Women pack a lunch. We look at the scenery as we go, we look for additional stops that might be “fun” along the way, don’t mind taking a veer or two along the way – here is where we are going but it is the drive that is the focus and all the things along the way.

Sometimes these can be very complimentary – the attention to scenery may be necessary for someone who is very destination driven in order to not miss any of the finer points. The focus on the end result may be vital to the lollygagger in able to reach the destination on time.

The next time you are in a conversation with the opposite sex keep in mind that their mind is processing your words and message in a manner which is very different than how you are presenting them.

When listening women have to remember to try not to over-analyze what is said and concentrate on just the message before us. We can always ask a few clarifying questions but it is vital that we start with just the message as is. For men you need to hang in there through the whole message to get the meaning. Boil it down and then ask if you understood it correctly. We may sigh or roll our eyes but at least you will know if you got it right or not.

When speaking women must remember to boil down the message to the essence of importance; men must remember to make the drive a little more interesting and not just point A to point B.

Adapting your listening and speaking style to your audience will save a lot of frustration and help ensure much clearer communication. Sometimes we get frustrated because we think our message is pretty simple; however what is simple to one is complex to another. If it is truly important for your message to be understood than you must respect the other party’s comprehension process in order that you both arrive at the same destination.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.