Miscommunication between the sexes can make for a great romantic comedy. It’s also proven to sell an impressive number of books – think “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” and “The Five Love Languages”. But at work and in the world, gender language differences can create misunderstandings, tensions, and frustrations. Avoid uncomfortable, potentially damaging situations with the tips below.

Know Your Audience

Of course every individual is different. You likely know men and women who use a more traditionally masculine or feminine communication style regardless of their sex. The point isn’t to label people, it’s to understand them and better communicate with them.

Generally speaking, men utilize more declarative sentences, immediately seek solutions, and offer opinions. Women, on the other hand, tend to use more circuitous language, work to be inclusive, and avoid behavior that can be misconstrued as bragging or showing off.

By watching and listening, you can begin to determine what kind of communicator you’re working with. Observation can tell you whether they are more comfortable with the direct, “Get the report to me by Tuesday,” or the more circuitous, “Would you be able to get the report to me by Tuesday?”

Tailor Your Message

Speaking to others in their own language can decrease friction and improve productivity. Though it may feel foreign to you to be more (or less) direct, customizing your message to your audience can provide a better experience for both of you.

Think of this process as an experiment. See what happens when you assign a task to a more feminine communicator in a softer fashion or request help from a more masculine speaker with a direct ask. As you get better and better at tailoring your messages, you’ll find it easier to toggle between techniques and connect more efficiently with your team.

Know Your Own Style

In addition to learning about others, take a little time to notice your own style. I tend to be more direct and masculine in my communication style. That means I find myself getting impatient with more feminine styles that take longer to get to the point or lack direct asks. Knowing this, I can moderate my emotional responses and be more patient as I work to understand those using more feminine language. You can do the same.

How? If you lean toward the feminine, work to be more direct with others and learn to avoid taking critiques personally. Those in the masculine camp can focus on patience, listening, and empathy.

When we each put in the effort to sincerely understand one another, we build better, more productive environments.

Talk to you next week,

Amber D. Nelson




Cover of Amber Nelson's book, "Talk to Me"

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