Communication Styles: Women vs. Men

by Tom Grandy

Unless your parents dropped you in the jungle shortly after birth and you were raised by wild animals, you have probably noticed there are significant differences between men and women. Physical differences are rather obvious. However, when it comes to communication, there are also some major differences.

Many years ago I listened to a presentation by Sharon Roberts entitled “Selling to Women.” That presentation was an eye opener that changed my marriage as well as my business. Let’s review what she shared and look at a few practical applications.

Sharon stated that when men are talking, they tend to communicate like this: one man talks while the others listen. When the one speaking has completed his thoughts, another man will then comment and/or add his thoughts. It’s very logical and straight forward, right? Well, it seems logical and straight forward if you are a man but perhaps not so much if you are a woman.

Sharon shared when most women are talking, they tend to “think out loud.” Translated that means they tend to say what they are thinking. Now that may not sound earth shattering but it has HUGE ramifications in marriage, as well as business. Let me explain.

I have been married for a long time. As a matter of fact, my wife and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. When I heard Sharon talk about women “thinking out loud” something inside of me clicked. “Wow, that’s my wife! Boy, have I crippled our communication for over 25 years!” Again, in a man’s conversation the process is: talk, listen and talk, listen. Women, in many cases but certainly not all, tend to say what they are thinking. Case in point, I would come home from work and my wife would start talking about her day. She would go on and on while my male brain was thinking “Ok, that is all well and good, but what’s the point?” Usually, after 10 or 15 minutes, I would interrupt her and ask, “Ok, what’s the point?” Bad move! My interrupting just ended the conversation resulting in a long and often very quiet evening.

As our children grew up I would sometimes come home to find there was a problem with one of the kids. Again, my wife would go on and on and again I would eventually interrupt, asking her to get to the point. Again, bad decision, conversation over! After listening to Sharon’s presentation I learned a very valuable lesson – to listen while my wife was talking! What followed really amazed me. As she was sharing her day, she was simply saying what she was thinking. When I did not interrupt, she would complete her “thought press” and all was fine.

When it came to discussing problems concerning the children, I quickly realized that she often did not want an answer or even a suggestion of what could be done to solve the problem. She was simply sharing what she was thinking about. When I would fully listen, she could fully share her thoughts without my needing to comment. The end result was that she didn’t really want a solution; she simply wanted to verbalize what she was thinking. By the end, the so called “problem” wasn’t really a problem at all, she just wanted to share her thoughts on the subject. My lack of interrupting actually made us both a lot happier!

Now carry those thoughts over to women as customers. First of all, realize that women directly purchase, or are part of the buying decision over 75% of the time. When it comes to sales in the business world most sales people are men and most customers are women.  A salesman is making the sales presentation and the woman starts asking questions even before the full presentation has been completed. This is normal for most women since they are simply saying what they are thinking. What’s going on in the man’s mind? “Why is she asking all those questions now? I haven’t even finished the presentation yet.” If you are the normal sales person you wait a bit, silently and then eventually interrupt her and ask (in a nice way) what the real question is. When you interrupted, what happened? The woman thinks you are rude, communication ceases, and the sales process ends without making the sale. Sure, she may be polite and allow you to go on but in her mind, the decision was made when you interrupted because she is now thinking. “I don’t like this guy and I am NOT buying anything from him!”

A wise sales professional allows the woman to speak whenever she wishes and allows her to talk until she has completed her thought process. When the conversation is handled in this way the odds of closing the sales go up dramatically. If you will apply these principles to your marriage you might just be celebrating your 47th wedding anniversary in a few years! If you apply them in your business your close rate just might increase.

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