Men And Women At Work: Gender And Communication Styles – Michael Grinder & Associates

Men and Women at Work: Gender and Communication Styles

Why does Michael discuss workplace nonverbal communication gender differences? It’s because of an “a-ha” moment he had during a client training, where he saw firsthand how men and women were perceived very differently. Here’s Michael talking about his experience.


So there I was, big bureaucracy invited me to come in and help them do better communication. I kept going, at what point should I enter? What should we focus on?

And then I remembered, probably gender communication. What is the difference between our expectations when we’re speaking to someone and they listen as a female versus when we’re speaking to someone and they’re listening as a male?

So, what we did was, there were 100 people in the audience, and we said “Can we get some volunteers?” We had a male and a female come up and they were going to be the subordinates. Then we had a male and female come up and they were going to be the bosses. We said, let’s do this. Let’s have the subordinate do a pitch over to the boss. And let’s have, as a female talks to a female, have the female do what the audience, they voted. The audience was typically of a female listening style.

So, she would lean forward. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Head a little bit of a tilt. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Kept eye contact. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Made encouraging sounds. Mm-hmm (affirmative). And she did that.

Then we said, well, what do we want when the male listens to a male doing a pitch? We said, let’s leave him this way. So we had two different styles. One was the approachable female. And we had the other one, which was the stoic male.

Now, we knew that they were very exaggerated, but we thought let’s run it anyhow. When we had a female talking to a female boss and the female did the expectation, everything was cool. We expected that. We had a male talking to a male boss and the male was doing what he was expected to do. Everything was fine.

And then I realized lots of conversations that I’ve had with my six sisters and my two brothers in terms of style communication.

What would happen if the female listened with credible style and the male listened with an approachable style? We were absolutely flabbergasted, both the participants and the 100-person audience, because when the male went like this, mm-hmm (affirmative), he was voted as new age sensitive guy. But when the female went like this, she decreased her effectiveness. So unfair.

Want to learn more about nonverbal communication and gender roles in the workplace? Check out Michael’s video Miss Communication.

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