A growing body of research shows that women are at a disadvantage in the communication arena: they are interrupted more than men, their ideas are often adopted by men as their own and being spoken down to is commonplace …

Modern vocabulary reflects this with the adoption of words like “mansplaining” and “monologue”

Wikipedia Merriam-Webster defines mansplaining as follows: “Mansplaining is, at its core, a very specific thing. It’s what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.”

Beware, ladies, these words are not an invitation to shut down a man every time he says something that you disagree with or in a way that you feel sensitive about. Rather, they serve to acknowledge a legacy of stereotypical behaviour that both men and women need to move away from if they are ever to operate as peers.

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Let us look objectively at how we, women, communicate, at some ways that we use language to manipulate men:

  • We talk in sing-song voices, playing on the ‘damsel in distress’ theme where our happiness is dependent on the benevolence of a man
  • We say one thing when we mean another
  • We do not say exactly what is bothering us in the moment that it bothers usThis is by no means an exhaustive list but it should be enough to illustrate that women are not innocent victims here. We are part of the problem.

We want to play both sides; strong and independent yet playing to men’s egos when it suits us. So, the challenge that faces us is that we need to play fair if we want to be treated fairly. We need to see past the gender issue that threatens to destabilise effective communication and agree to some common ground rules – ground rules that apply to men and women alike.

Here are my top five suggestions that you might negotiate with your colleagues:

1. No interrupting, not ever, regardless of who is speaking or whether you agree with what is being said or not

2. Articulate your credibility on an issue, know your worth so that you can clearly state why you have authority on a given subject

3. Speak assertively (not aggressively), outlining your views with clarity and supporting them with substantiating facts

4. Listen properly to what is being said, not just for a pause where you can interrupt

5. Get comfortable with conflict, it usually leads to a positive outcome, as long as everyone follows the rules of fair engagement