Book teaches - How to talk so men will listen

Zico Mathews
Zico Mathews
Oct 8, 2009
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Ever watch a colleague take credit for your idea, been accused of being emotional, taken jokes too personally or been interrupted frequently in a meeting?

Most women will nod yes to such scenarios, say the authors of "Code Switching: How to Talk So Men Will Listen," a new book on communication, or the lack thereof, between men and women.

Men and women communicate differently, say authors Claire Damken Brown and Audrey Nelson, in ingrained styles learned from birth and deeply embedded in the workplace structure.

They propose "code switching," which they describe as using knowledge of more than one culture and language to communicate.

"It's a travel guide, in a way, to another country with another culture," Nelson said in an interview with Reuters about the book, published by Alpha Books.

The differences in men's and women's styles create a persistent "credibility gap," where women are credited with less authority and power than men, they write.

"The biggest complaint I have gotten for 30 years from all levels, all professions of women, is, 'How can I get men to take me seriously?'" Nelson said. "This book is to build a bridge in that credibility gap."

Men have lost about three-quarters of the jobs during the recession, but having more women in the workplace does not necessarily bring change, the authors say.

"There are more of us ... but do not assume because the person is a woman that she is on board," Nelson said.

"There are a number of women out there that are still happy to accommodate men, that do not want to rock the boat, that have no assertive skills and don't want them."


Signs of the gender difference are everywhere, they write. Women apologize more than men, play the role of "office mom" to whom everyone confides and offer more subjective opinions.

Men tell more jokes, but women laugh at them more. Men want solutions to problems while women look for understanding of problems, and men like to play devil's advocate while women want to help everyone to agree, they say.

Even in e-mails, men banter and write short to-the-point messages, while women share personal information and express appreciation and support in longer messages, they say.

Brown hailed from the corporate world, where she worked at companies like AT&T and Lucent Technologies, while Nelson is a veteran communication consultant.

Their book proposes tools to help women bridge that communication gap, such as steps to respond to interruptions, with suggested phrases and body language.

"Part of our goal in this book is to make women more self-conscious," said Nelson. "Step up to the plate. Do something about it."

It was not intended to be a "whining, bitching session," said Nelson. Nor is it "male bashing," Brown added.

"It's really trying to say, 'Here's another way we can communicate and get a point across,'" Brown said.

To help spread their word, and sell their book, the authors are offering on their website ( to address book clubs by telephone.

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