We’ve all internalised it as if it’s true: women take things too personally. It’s usually said in a tone that implies we’re somehow inferior, and it can erode our confidence and power. What we fail to notice is that for men, it’s also very personal.
We’ve all seen it: Guys talking over each other, slamming the table and behaving as though they’re about to deck each other. Then someone wins the argument and they head to the pub for a beer.
Today a client shared an account of a meeting she attended as the only woman amongst a bunch of posturing angry men. She was new in the role and her predecessor had been a bloke.
At this meeting the guys talked over each other, were rude and critical and openly disparaged all ideas that weren’t their own. They were so invested in being right, they had lost the point of the meeting, which was to come up with a solution to an intractable problem.
My client didn’t join in, but when the finger was pointed and a demand made of her, she calmly said, ‘that sounds like a good idea.’ These guys were looking for a fight; she was looking for a solution. Her calmness, common sense and focus on what they were there for won the day and changed the dynamic. They all left the meeting applauding it as ‘constructive’ and ‘a refreshing change.’
When meetings are dominated by men, they too frequently become a contest – where views are presented and ‘discussed’ until one person wins. Perspectives are tabled and argued, not necessarily because they’re great ideas, or that the bloke presenting it thinks he’s right. It’s because he wants to win so badly, he can't remove himself from the story.
Men allow their egos to get in the way of a good outcome. Women allow their feelings to get in the way of objectivity. Neither is good, and for both, it’s personal.