Learning to Understand Each Other by

By Shari Caudron

May. 1, 1995

Although a difference in communication styles is only one of the many differences men and women bring to the workplace, miscommunication does cause the most immediate and frequent frustrations. In her book, “Genderflex: Men & Women Speaking Each Other’s Language at Work,” Judith Tingley argues that men and women successfully can address their chronic conflicts and misunderstandings-without sacrificing their strengths-through a process she calls “genderflexing.” According to Tingley, all that genderflexing requires is that you consider a situation from someone else’s point of view. To begin addressing and modifying our very different communication styles, the author suggests:




1) Maintain their ability to discuss people, feelings and relationships because companies are finally realizing the importance of relationships in the workplace. What women need to do, however, is cut down on the quantity of such talk.

2) Maintain their “facilitative listening skills,” or their ability to really listen and hear what people are saying, and to gather information from others in a nonthreatening way.

3) They should, however, add more conversation about business, money and sports to their vocabulary, because these topics are important to men.

4) Add humor, but not self-effacing humor.

5) Acquire the ability to create win-win solutions.

6) Add forcefulness to their speech and power words to their vocabulary.

7) Be brief and specific.

8) Say what needs to be said concisely, without excessive apologies or disclaimers.

1) Keep their focus on sports, money and business. Men have talked about these topics with their fathers and their fathers’ fathers, and their sons and their buddies. It makes no sense for them to change.

2) Maintain a precise, concise structure of communication for this is one of their strengths.

3) They should, however, put more emphasis on people, feelings and relationships for the same reason women need to talk more about sports, money and business.

4) Use more active listening skills, which will increase the likelihood that the speaker feels understood and heard.

5) Adopt a win-win competitive style of communication, not a win-lose.

6) Use terms that don’t offend; replace “lady” or “gals” with “woman” or “women.”

7) Use general humor, not aggressive, sexual humor. Occasionally, also use self-effacing humor.





To fit reality with expectations about men, women need to:


To fit reality with expectations about women, men need to:

  • Recognize that men are as unique among themselves as are women
  • Generalize rather than stereotype after gathering data about individual men and don’t assume all men have bad motives
  • Decrease male-bashing.

  • Think about women as business beings rather than sexual beings
  • Recognize that women are as unique among themselves as are men
  • Communicate to women based on their individuality, rather than as members of a stereotypical group.

Personnel Journal, May 1995, Vol. 74, No. 5, p. 54.

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