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.


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.