Have you read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus? Did you know since 1992, Dr. John Gray has written more than 16 books about the relationship dynamics between men (Martians) and women (Venusians)? His first book has sold over 20 million copies, has been translated into over 54 languages, and in the 90s outsold all other books except the Bible? People often think of relationship dynamics being just for people in an intimate relationship. However, the information about the different communication styles men and women typically use is germane to professional relationships as well. If not more so, because often conflict arises between the genders when they do not understand the dynamics that naturally exist, and how to work with these dynamics. At work there can even be more conflict due to the fact men expect women to be, do and say exactly like they act, because it’s what’s worked in the past, and what should still work now. But is it? Is there a better way of interacting to utilize everyone’s best skill sets?
Learning the different but equal ways men and women communicate goes a long way in reducing gender conflict in the workplace. Reducing gender conflict has a variety of benefits. It leads to: happier team members, greater cooperation, decreased loss of personnel, which in turn leads to decreased cost & time spent on recruitment and training. Reducing gender conflict also leads to: a better ability to understand the needs and concerns of your customers (regardless of whether they are internal or external customers). Besides that, your company also gains a greater competitive advantage for the company as a whole when they utilize the masculine & feminine skills.
Most people, for example, are uneasy with promoting themselves, their status or their image at work. Women may have a particularly hard time with this, because they are socialized to present their ideas as suggestions. This is actually a great skill for achieving cooperation and is excellent for situations where maintaining harmony and equality within a group is necessary. Men who are confused and frustrated working with female colleagues often say they see women at best, uncertain or, at worst, manipulative, based on their observations of women not speaking directly. This often makes women extremely uncomfortable to express their ideas while working in what they perceive as a hostile masculine environment.
On the other hand, many women see men as arrogant or self-important. This is based largely on their observations of men expressing their opinions forcefully or seeking attention for their achievements.
Once again, a more positive interpretation is to remember that men are socialized from an early age to suppress doubts and maintain, either a façade or, a reality of self-confidence. Again this is a great skill and essential in a situation where it is necessary to maintain status within a group. If you’re working in a team, however, promoting yourself rather than the team effort may backfire. As mixed gender work teams become the norm, to succeed at work and in business we must all learn to speak a second language. That language is the language of the opposite sex. Learning a second language does not mean you become that language. It just enables you to communicate more effectively and efficiently with the opposite sex.
In the Mars Venus workshops we talk about ways to accomplish just how to promote your work or yourself…without fear of being overbearing. We also explore building rapport and the value of rapport in leading to workplace success.
Another area of potential conflict is in the way we talk to our peers and customers. Learning how to avoid monopolizing the conversation as well as being direct and concise are skills not genetic characteristics. In a Mars Venus workshop we examine the art and science of respecting abilities and how to respond to comments from co-workers. If you’re not sure how to acknowledge the work of others and charge them up this is the workshop for you. Praise is discussed and how (and when) praise can be used to fuel the response you want.
Do not think we are implying that all men have to be a certain way or that all women should be the same, because…the reality is that we are all individuals. Everyone can think of examples of reverse gender styles. The whole premise of the Mars Venus work is that we are different and equal – not that one is better than the other –just different and equal.
Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd
Mars Venus Coaching
Corporate Media Relations