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  To complete the subject of differences in How Max and Fran Talk, I want to (1) tie this area back to foundational differences, (2) discuss how the “double bind” shows up and (3) address nonverbal communication.

I suggested that Max and Fran actually speak different “languages” at work. On Max’s side of the masculine-feminine continuum is “Declare”; on Fran’s side is “Disclaim.”   Remember that Max and Fran identify themselves in the world differently. Max sees himself as competing for status in a hierarchy. Fran sees herself as part of a network of relationships. Therefore, Max speaks confidently and assertively; Fran speaks in ways to maintain relationships—which means she may speak in ways to diminish her own status to make others comfortable and to avoid appearing like she thinks herself superior to her listener.

The area of “how we talk” has the “double bind” trap for women. If women speak “Fran” as I’ve described it, they may be seen as lacking confidence, being unassertive, and not being “leadership material.” (Or she may not be heard at all.) That’s because the definition of leadership is associated with being confident and assertive. But if a woman speaks “Max” (sounds sure of herself and asserts her position), others may say or think, “Who does she think she is?” Speech that may pass for assertiveness in a man can be seen as aggressiveness in a woman.

I recommend that men become more sensitive to the double bind and monitor whether they are putting a woman in this no-win situation. I recommend that women assess the situation and push into the masculine side of the continuum as far as necessary to be effective but be aware that they may be judged for pushing “too far.”

There are also differences in these two “languages” in non-verbal and well as verbal kinds of expression. The female brain is more adept at picking up on body language, tone of voice and facial expression. Fran may assume that Max sees the same cues that she does; or she may use nonverbal cues to communicate and be frustrated if Max doesn’t pick up on her signals. This may lead to miscommunication!

Max and Fran use nods differently—another potential source of miscommunication. Max nods to show agreement; Fran nods to show that she is listening. Fran uses smiling more than Max. Fran is more comfortable talking face to face and with more eye contact than Max.

Have you seen differences in structures of speech, meeting talk, and nonverbal communication? Have you observed the double bind? Share examples and stories!