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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How We Speak- The Basic Question We Need To Ask

Cast your mind back to those first impressions.

  • 55 per cent is based on what we see (appearance and body language)
  • 38 per cent on how we speak
  • 7 per cent on the actual words we are speaking.

We have examined the 55 per cent ‘what we see’ and to some extent the 7 per cent when we looked at building our conversations but there is more to it than this, and a great deal more to how we speak, plus some fundamental differences between what he says and what she says.

We also need to understand the structure of how we speak. This can be described in three stages.
  • descriptive
  • reflective
  • speculative
For example we might say:
‘Nice day’ (Descriptive)
‘Better than yesterday’ ( Reflective)
‘I wonder if it will last?’ (Speculative)
Now there are some differences between the way men and women use this structure. When men talk they often miss out the reflective stage i.e. the ‘better than yesterday’ part. So their conversation might go something like this: ‘Nice day, hope it lasts.’ Whereas when women speak they often miss out the speculative phase i.e. the ‘I wonder if it will last?’ part. So their conversation might go something like this: ‘Nice day, isn’t it? Better than yesterday.’ This has implications for communication in the workplace and of course in personal relationships. An example. In a meeting when there is a problem to be solved, or some procedure or matter is up for discussion, men will often launch straight into the solution, or they might state the problem and then launch into the solution, missing out the reflective part of the total.
For example: ‘As I see it we’ve got a problem meeting these delivery dates so what we’ll do is alter the production schedule.’ Whereas a woman might say ‘As I see it we have a problem meeting these delivery dates because we’ve overstretched ourselves taking on the South African order.’ She misses out the speculative stage, i.e. the solution. Or: He says, ‘Staff motivation is a real problem in this office, what we’ll do is take everyone out on a teambuilding day.’ She says, ‘Staff motivation is a real problem in this office, that’s because we can never get to talk things through with management and we feel that we really don’t matter at all.’ When a man hears this he is thinking ‘I know there’s a problem with staff motivation: why doesn’t she suggest a solution?’ Or ‘I know we’ve got a problem with delivery dates but what’s her solution?’ He will then try and solve the problem by saying, ‘OK, if the staff feel like that why don’t we all get together for a teambuilding day!’ But she says, ‘No, that’s not the issue.’ ‘Well what is?’ he replies irritably. ‘We need to discuss why we have poor motivation.’ ‘I don’t want discussions I want to know how we can solve it,’ he snaps. Men ask how first – women ask why.
Sometimes men miss out the descriptive stage in their speech altogether and go straight to the speculative i.e. the solutions. For example he comes into the meeting and says, ‘Right, what we’re going to do is bring forward production.’ Or ‘OK, I’ve arranged for us all to go on a team building day.’ The women are thinking – why? In addition they feel disorientated because he hasn’t followed the stages of speech, which they prefer. Understanding these differences can help us to improve our communication skills both at work and in our personal lives. Because women like to go through the stages of speech men should give them more time to explain themselves and then should prompt for the solution i.e. the speculative. Women need to train themselves to think through to a solution or solutions to the problem and then be confident enough to offer them.