by Connie Glaser
Since the publication of my book GenderTalk Works earlier this year, a wide range of companies have used it to help bridge the gender communications gap at work. The main point of the book is that neither men nor women have a better way of communicating, but simply different.
And just as there are different communication styles involved in negotiating and decision making, gender differences also surface when it comes to email. Communicating via email, by its very nature, presents challenges. The differences in how men and women communicate add to the potential land-mine surface of business emails. Even as children, gender differences are obvious: girls tend to be collaboration-oriented; while boys tend to be competition-oriented. What this means is that girls (and later, women) tend to use language to create rapport, closeness, and friendship. While boys (and later, men) tend to use language as a way to establish status or authority among themselves. At the office, these differences can result in emails that have a distinct gender bias, as men and women use language for different purposes. One of the most obvious distinctions is that men’s emails tend to be terse and laconic, while women’s tend to be more voluble and detailed. Researchers have found that when online, men tend to provide information or an answer, then end the conversation as quickly as possible. Women, on the other hand, tend to provide more details and often make things more complex by adding additional questions or information. Men tend to be more direct; women tend to be more concerned with people’s feelings. Here’s some advice on how to send messages that may help win the “battle of the genders” and reduce misunderstandings at work. He-Mail Acknowledge e-mail response with at least one complete sentence. Otherwise, you risk coming across as brusque or too busy to listen. Answer e-mails promptly. If you don’t, people may assume that they are low on your priority list. Skip the sarcasm. Even when you’re just joking around, a person who can’t read your body language may take offense. She-Mail Use a professional tone in your e-mail and avoid getting too personal. Tentative language or online lingo (“lol” for instance) can make you appear cute or unsure of yourself. Cut to the chase, particularly when emailing men. Make your message direct and to the point. Avoid using smiley faces and excessive exclamation marks (!!!) that can prevent you from being taken seriously.