Over the years, countless studies have been done comparing and contrasting gender differences in all facets of life, and one conclusion typically becomes apparent:
Women certainly don’t lack the ability to bargain, but they often hedge their assertiveness when negotiating by simultaneously seeking social approval, something often expected of “the fairer sex.” Ironically, women as a rule don’t have an issue negotiating for another person; it’s when they need to promote themselves that they often stumble.
It’s been widely disproven that women aren’t ambitious, but found their communication style can get in the way of their success. Women often hold back in situations that warrant stepping up, assuming they will be picked, noticed or rewarded solely due to their accomplishments; they often have trouble being direct.
Men, on the other hand, tend to ask for what they want—so they get their needs met more often. Women can learn from this and many have; those who excel have learned to think more like men do, communicating in a direct and confident fashion (even if they retain internal doubts).
Focusing on communication style can also help women in the boardroom or in other meetings, when they feel their voices aren’t heard. Those who often find themselves in that situation must determine what about their style makes this happen, and if necessary, adjust their body and verbal language to evoke more confidence.
What specific steps can women take to communicate more effectively, to both be heard and get what they want? Here are a few suggestions:
- Make it a goal to be more assertive
- Increase your self-respect; learn to self-nurture so you’re less reliant on social approval
- Be aware of your verbal language; use powerful words and drop qualifiers like perhaps or maybe
- Take note of your tone, inflection and body language—focusing on exuding confidence
- Directly communicate your needs; if you want something, ask for it
In general, it’s important for women to shift the way they think—even if it means getting out of their comfort zone—and anticipate that the outcome will be well worth the short-term discomfort.