Coach's Corner

Michelle Gladieux, president of Gladieux Consulting (team training and executive coaching), answers your questions about communicating strategically.
Aug 8, 2018
Michelle Gladieux
Provided
Coach's Corner

Hi Michelle,
I am the lone male in my work area and I have a communication question for you: Why do women talk so much?

In some industries, governments and pockets of academia, it’s still unusual for a male to be in the minority. I’m happy for you that you’re getting to experience being the “odd person out,” the one who’s visibly different. Women and people of color are more often outnumbered in work settings, especially at top management levels.

There’s a lot of excellent research about human communication. It’s clear that skillful (self- and other-aware) communication is required for success. We can try to remember that a more important variable in human interaction aside from gender is personality diversity, referring to human traits and skills as a result of DNA and life experiences. In addition to skills, abilities and life experiences, gender is a factor worth examining as you navigate life on a work team. As for why women are usually more verbal than men, women possess higher levels of language protein in their brains. Research shows that most women speak on average 20,000 words per day, approximately 13,000 more than the average male. 

Women generally speak more quickly and devote more brainpower to verbal communication. Beware, though, when you see the word “generally,” as it refers to just 51 percent or more of any population. Until recently, we couldn’t biologically explain why women’s brains were more active with speech and communication. New Journal of Neuroscience findings show that a protein called FOXP2 produces speech. Researchers find 30 percent more FOXP2 in the brains of females. This protein is a key molecule for communication in mammals. With this link, scientists may soon trace the evolutionary origin of human speech. Proving their sense of humor, the lead authors (a man and woman) on the study concluded that perhaps they’ve also found the reason women tend to be so much better at small talk.

Ultimately, I think your question is about wanting to be heard and included. 

Here are a few tips:

  • Let others speak first when possible, then relay that you value their words via a brief summary. Others become more willing to listen and less anxious to get their point across when they see that you’ve prioritized what they’re saying.
  • Try “please tell me how you see it?” and receive information fully before preparing your response.
  • When you have to interrupt, speak the other person’s name calmly until they pause to listen. (Three times is the charm. This even works on me, and I’m a determined talker.)
  • If talk around you is limiting your productivity, schedule private time in a conference room or off-site to complete tasks that require a silent background, or wear earplugs to block sound. 
  • Diplomatically ask co-workers for quiet time and ask what you could do differently to be a more helpful co-worker. Turnabout when giving feedback is fair play, and surely there’s something.  

Are you (or is “a friend”) dealing with a career or communication challenge?

If you’ve got a question, write to Michelle@GladieuxConsulting.com for publication consideration.

(Questions remain confidential and anonymous.)


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