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Code Switching: How to Talk So Men Will Listen
by Audrey Nelson, PhD

Jack says, “She just goes on and on, when all I want is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer! Can you get this report to me by Friday? Yes or no? Instead, I get her life story.”

Just look at a man listening to a woman who is rambling on. He enters the trance, kind of like a dog staring at a fan. He looks dazed and confused. His eyes seem to beg, “Why is she telling me all of this needless information? Just tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ woman!apostrophe

During one seminar, a man used that old saying, “You ask a woman what time is it, and she tells you how to build a clock!apostrophe Do we have a gender gabber dilemma here?

Sayings such as “Get to the pointapostrophe and “What is the bottom line?apostrophe are borne out of male culture. Women are more process oriented. They want to share their stories and provide the details that they think make the stories rich. Women want to go on more than men want to hear. Simple as that.

When Beth’s grown son, Nathan, calls home to ask a simple question, such as what time they’re meeting for dinner, he always asks for Dad.

“No offense, but if I get Mom on the phone, I’ll get sucked into the ‘mom zone,’apostrophe he jokes. “No one can escape the ‘mom zone’ in less than an hour.apostrophe

Switch It Up!

If you tend to be a ramblin’ kind of woman, we recommend speaking in pyramid style. When a man asks a question, begin your answer with a one-word or one-sentence explanation. Imagine this as the top of the pyramid, the smallest part. Good. You’ve given him what he wants: direct and to the point. Now, if you must elaborate, shorten your descriptive explanation by half. Finish with silence. If he wants you to go on, he will ask for it. But most of the time, you won’t hear him begging for more. He’s too busy doing the internal happy dance that you cut to the chase. If he doesn’t request more info, you’re done. Turns out, he does not want to hear the history of everything you know about the topic. It may feel unfinished to you, but he is satisfied.

Silence Is Golden
Maybe it just seems that women talk more because men expect women to be silent. When silence is your yardstick, any woman who talks at all seems to be talking too much. The truth is, men get the floor more often, and when they get it, they hang on to it! We live with a myth of a loquacious woman, with the ideal of the silent one. We want her to be quiet, unpretentious, and basically more involved in listening than speaking. Just the act of speaking up is assertive in nature.

Code switch: Women, be the first to speak. This is a bold act and commands attention. You also have the opportunity to set the tone of the interaction and meeting. People will be more likely to sit up and take notice.

About the author:

Audrey Nelson PhD is an international corporate communication consultant, trainer, key note speaker and author of You Don’t Say: Navigating Nonverbal Communication between the Sexes is in 6 languages and Code Switching: How to Talk so Men will Listen.