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Communication and Women: 3 Tips to Be More Assertive in the Workplace

When it comes to communication at work, women may be interpreted differently than men. Know the difference and what to what to do about it.

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In this article, you will:

  • Revisit the female voice throughout history;
  • Know how communication is judged differently between men and women;
  • Learn 3 tips for women to communicate more effectively.

Verbal communication means that our ideas and opinions are transmitted quickly in the work environment. However, the way we communicate can be a factor that facilitates or hinders relationships and business, which makes us have to be attentive not only to the message, but also to the tone of voice we use, facial expression, language and body movement.

When it comes to communication at work, women may be interpreted differently than men. While women can be seen as aggressive, emotional or hysterical professionals in unstable and crisis settings, men with the same behavior would be considered energetic and active. Such a difference in vision represents a strong presence of unconscious biases about the way we women express ourselves in the world.

In today’s article, we’re going to talk about how we can still be judged by the way we communicate. In addition, we are going to suggest 3 tips on how women can communicate more effectively.

The female voice in history

Historically, over the last few centuries, women played a role that was restricted to the family and domestic universe. However, little by little, some pioneers expanded their spaces of action and socialization, entering the world of business, science and arts.

From then on, the need to expose their thoughts, feelings and positions became more urgent. However, those who managed to be heard had to deal with discredit, prejudice and even violence.

As a form of historical repair, the American speaker and consultant Dana Rubin created the project “Speaking while Female – Speech Bank” a space that highlights speeches by women on a wide range of topics, in different historical periods.

According to the initiative’s website, the idea is to highlight women who have historically been silenced and little noticed in history books in a bank of audios and videos, as a way of rewriting the history of oratory, this time from a female perspective.

Female communication and unconscious biases

Today, women occupy new spaces, work in practically all economic sectors, have more autonomy and freedom to choose their professional paths. But the way they communicate still encounters resistance and mistrust.

According to the Harvard Business Review article “The Different Words We Use to Describe Male and Female Leaders

“…women leaders often receive conflicting feedback – on the one hand, they are said to be too bossy or aggressive, but on the other hand, they should be more confident and assertive”

The fact that women used to be associated with the home and to be silent, that is, they questioned the status quo very little, makes them still associated with a low, sweet and restrained speech. Any more incisive positioning can be considered aggressive and even temperamental, denoting a lack of emotional control, which is not necessarily true.

Feedback of a so-called aggressive behavior, according to the Forbes article “When Women Are Called ‘Aggressive’ At Work” is considered vague because it does not imply clear actions for improvement and can denote patterns of prejudice.

Also according to this article:

“Those who have the responsibility to assess someone else’s performance must choose their words carefully. There is a world of difference between being “aggressive” and being an assertive professional. Having ambition and speaking with authority are not aggressive acts.”

3 tips to communicate assertively

As a way to be safer and combat any misinterpretation about your communication style, it is extremely important to pay attention to the 3 communication tips that we will present below:

  1. Be prepared for what you want to communicate

A professional who knows what she is going to communicate has more opportunity to be assertive in her communication. Having facts and data to back it up makes any questioning more difficult and makes it easier to gain allies.

  1. Practice self-awareness in times of stress

In more critical situations at work, learn how to regain calm, whether through breathing or taking a short break. The idea is to understand how you can be centered enough to solve problems in a professional way.

  1. Question what would be an accepted communication standard

In case of feedback on your communication style, try to transform criticism into concrete development actions. Ask the person who is giving you feeback to make an effort to coherently explain their point view and objectively show how you can make an improvement.

If you believe that your way of expressing yourself is based on respect, knowledge and willingness to work, keep your communication style and move on. Form alliances, strengthen your arguments and dream big. Great leaders were not always interpreted well and sometimes had to face disaffections along their way. That may be your case!

Continue this conversation with us!

Have you ever been in a situation where you were considered too aggressive or too emotional? How did you handle this feedback?

By addressing and normalizing existing issues about female leadership, we can learn from our experiences and strengthen ourselves as a group towards a more diverse and fairer work environment for all.

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Co-authored with Sandra Milena Acosta

Sandra has worked for more than 12 years in the strategic planning and risk management of global financial institutions. Master in Economics from UFPR, graduated in Economics from UNICAMP and post-graduated in Digital Marketing from Kellogg Executive Education, she recently went through a career transition and is now a Writer of Chronicles, Children’s Literature and Poems. All of her work is available on her Instagram page (@sandramtca) and on Medium.

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