How do you effectively “listen”?
What Men Do
For men, listening effectively means you should: quietly pay attention, stay focused.
What Women Do
For women, listening effectively means you should: actively participate; nodding or occasional interjections demonstrate you’re being attentive and following the conversation.
Men often think women are agreeing when we are just showing that we’re listening. A lawyer told me he used to fall into this trap during jury trials. While making his final address to the jury, he sometimes noticed that some of the women were nodding. He assumed he had them on his side. But during the opposing lawyer’s summation, the same women kept nodding. “It seemed to me the same women were agreeing with opposite positions. I had no idea it was just their way of showing they were listening.”
Men demonstrate their attentiveness by sitting still and watching. Even after seeing hundreds of groups of men in my workshops sit and stare at me while I speak, I still get the impression they’re not listening, but they are.
When we see men sitting stiff and staring while we talk, we may conclude men aren’t listening, or interested. Men consider it businesslike to listen attentively giving full attention. When men watch women actively listening, they can’t tell if the women are just listening, or agreeing. When women turn out not to be agreeing at all, it can leave men confused, frustrated and even feeling like they are being manipulated. “You can never tell what women mean,” they say.
When women don’t see any signs that men are actively listening, they often conclude men aren’t listening at all. Some women managers have told me that after a presentation, they make men repeat what they said. Needless to say, this kind of patronizing behavior probably doesn’t help. Women should not assume that men aren’t listening if they are sitting still. The best approach is to check. I often ask men if they agree, or if they understand.
Bottom line – we can thrive in a masculine environment without changing who we are through understanding the environment. If you would like more tips on how do just that, then download my free Magnetic Influence Litmus Test where I share 4 simple questions you can ask yourself to predict your ability to influence, and how to gain that influence.