At leadership workshops (usually quietly and to one side of the main discussion), I have been asked “Do you think women are better communicators than men?”
As you may well imagine, even at the best of times, straying into this area by expressing an opinion one way or the other would be fraught with danger. However, the questions led me to think back to the many people with whom I have worked in leadership programmes and the many stories that have been related to me about workplace and personal situations.
After pondering the question I came to the conclusion that I could not say whether women, as a group, were better (or worse) than men. Furthermore, I realised that many men were far better communicators than many women and that many women were far better communicators than many men. Put another way, I came to the general conclusion that the differences within each gender are greater than the differences between them.
Focusing on the differences within each gender being greater than those between the genders takes the potential heat out of discussions by shifting the focus onto individual action – with the possible bonus that the effort required to change your viewpoint is probably less than that required to change your gender.
Short story: ‘The difference within… ’ approach can be usefully applied to any situation in which you want to move the focus from the stereotype to the individual.