Getting a Word in Edgewise – Still a Challenge for Women

meetingThe gender research is in. After all these years, women still speak drastically less when outnumbered by guys. And that’s bad. Or is it?

I don’t care how MUCH I talk. I care that the perspective I offer contributes. Of course, the two are related. The researcher reported:

“When women participated more, they brought unique and helpful perspectives to the issue under discussion. We’re not just losing the voice of someone who would say the same things as everybody else in the conversation.”

(Of course, it’s not strictly a gender thing. Some women are naturally masculine in their participation and some men are naturally feminine in their participation – and that’s not a criticism of either.)

The exception

There was one exception to the finding. When the resulting decision needed to be unanimous, women spoke more, and the decision reflected more community values. In other words, when every opinion matters by design, every voice is heard.

I’ve spent 25 years learning to SpeakStrong, and be direct when my inherently more feminine perspective is ignored. I’ve also spent much of that time learning to change the game so I don’t have to compete in a style that is unnatural to me, and less refined than I’m capable of. 

The alternatives

It would be inefficient to require that every decision be reached unanimously. There are other ways to structure discussion so every voice matters. Many of my communication formulas do just that. Often, just pointing out how unbalanced a conversation is makes the difference. Phrases like this can change the dynamic.

  • I notice that I have to power-up to be heard in this conversation. How can we shift from competing with each other to listening to each other?

It’s a meta-message that addresses context. Some say content is king. I say context is. If the context won’t let you get a word in edgewise, create one that does. 

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