As with many things, women communicate differently than their male counterparts. They simply approach a situation differently. Then again, so many women are afraid or don’t know how to effectively get their concerns or point across in the workplace. For women to be respected, valued, influential, heard and promoted, they need to bridge their communication barriers, face the challenges head on and learn to communicate effectively in the workplace.
5 Communication Strategies for Women in Business
1. Work on Self-Confidence and Assertiveness.
“If women continue to keep their heads down working away, instead of speaking up, they won’t get noticed.” Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State (1997-2001)
Communicating with confidence is the key to come across as a strong powerful woman in business. Being afraid to speak up, doubting yourself and your input, and coming across as ‘small’ and ‘unworthy’, will hamper, not only your communication efforts, but also your competitive advantage and professional growth tremendously. Self-confidence and assertiveness lie not only in what you say, but also in your body language and how you behave. Try to focus on practicing confident body language like, pushing your shoulders back, standing up or sitting up straight and lifting your chin. Make eye contact confidently and speak as if you are an expert. Don’t show doubt in any part of the communication process. If you prepare well for a meeting your confidence will be naturally boosted because you will experience less doubt. Through developing and practicing your self-confidence and assertiveness skills daily, you will be able to become keener in finding your own voice.
2. Avoid being too Apologetic
Speak with authority. Ever notice how a woman in business is much more apologetic than a man. “I’m sorry…”, “so sorry…”, etc., apologising throughout conversations. It might feel as if you are being polite, but if done too often, at an inappropriate time or even if you have nothing to say sorry for, always apologising will give away your power. You immediately look inferior or even guilty. Try adjusting the way you speak and the words you use to be more of an instruction or a suggestion than an apology that might look like a plea. And never downplay or apologise for your own success and achievements.
3. Get to the point.
When women elaborate on a subject it is because they want to give background. They think if they sketch a more detailed scenario, a better understanding can be created. However, men like ‘to the point’ communication. Like an executive summary. They don’t like unnecessary info. Also avoid using weak language like, “I guess” or “kind of”, “maybe” etc. Important to realise is that if you as a woman communicate with men, for example, around a boardroom table and you want to get your concerns across…don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point and then build on their points, still being firm and concise.
4. Develop professional communication
Distinguish between personal and professional communication methods. Women are viewed as team players. They have high emotional intelligence. But sometimes you need to leave emotion out of certain scenarios. Women are by nature more emotionally intelligent, which means they are more self-aware and more aware of the emotions of others. But in many cases, emotions might get the better of women, especially if they are reprimanded or offended. In business, there is no place for ‘easily offended’ people. A sudden tear bursting, nervous giggles or even causing a public upset will not bring you far in earning your co-workers’ respect. We are not saying to only listen to your head and leave your heart out of the conversation. We are merely suggesting to get a grip and be in control of your own emotional rollercoaster.
5. Use your female attributes to your advantage
Don’t underestimate the power of what femininity brings to the workplace. Realise that you are awesome at your job because of who you are as a woman. The truth in Hillary Clinton’s words, “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world”, should resonate with you. Own it, achieve new heights, make sure you get the credit for the work you’ve done, and celebrate your victories. Use your female attributes like, leading with empathy, warmth, and the ability to connect with people, to your advantage.
Marilyn Monroe said: “One of the best things that ever happened to me is that I’m a woman. That is the way all females should feel.” Be proud to be a female in business. Continuously develop your strengths and skills using them in you communication efforts to conquer challenges the business world poses.