Spotlight on Communication

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In part 3 of our 5-part series on future female leadership, we discuss communication. This is an overview of a talk the author found resonant.

Mairi’s McHaffie’s talk at the recent WeAreFutureLeaders conference for women highlighted the 360 degree nature of communication, which is expressed through all verbal, written and physical activity. Often women ‘couch’ opinions as questions, when they should be really expressed as statements. This may occur at meetings or other settings where women feel less confident. Preparation and awareness of yourself and environment is key to creating the right perception and leaving a winning impression.

WeAreCommunicators – Mairi McHaffie
It’s no secret that men and women communicate differently. Men are more straightforward, direct and assertive and appear less concerned about the consequences of how they are perceived. Consequently they get more and go further faster. It is also self-perpetuating– ‘talking up’ results in being heard. Conversely many women feel unheard, small, and not expert, especially at meetings.
Thanks to technology, text or email makes communication easy. But this can be a trap, especially with difficult topics, because while hiding behind emails primes the other party ahead of time and may reduce conflict, you will have to clarify yourself in person afterwards anyway.

1. Ask pertinent, open questions. Practice in unfamiliar situations, with people you do not know e.g. at a public speaking workshop. This builds confidence.

2. Prepare ahead of time, even if it means reading a couple of topics before showing up to an event. This gives you ‘communication confidence’ and reduces any fear you have about how you’ll be perceived when engaging in dialogue.

3. Concentrating on the other person reduces nerves. Remember they may be nervous too. Observe their communication style. What senses do they use? Are they feelers listeners, thinkers? You’re more likely to get what you want when speaking the other person’s language.

Mairi demonstrated a simple but effective exercise with the sentence, ‘I didn’t kiss my boss.’ Five volunteers from the audience repeated that sentence, each woman putting the emphasis on a different word in the sentence. This demonstrated how the same sentence can be perceived differently. Try it for yourself. Early preparation goes a long way.

Mairi is founder and CEO of Scene Change Creative Consultants Ltd who provide bespoke people development. She also founded the House of Commons Women Into Leadership programme. Her transferable skills as a professional actress and BBC TV presenter have helped her train others in confidence development and increasing their visibility.

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