What happens when women are bold?

Photo: Brett Weinstein via Flickr

I am, frankly, terrified to write today’s post.

If you are a woman, I need your help.

My upcoming book is full of advice about how to communicate in a clear, bold, and powerful way in the workplace. But my editor posed a question that I need to address: how are these challenges different for women?

I don’t know. I’ve never been a woman. And to be as honest as I can be about it, I tend to bull ahead, heedless of consequences, and as a result, I don’t always notice the experience of the people around me. In fact, although I respect and have been impressed with the skills of many women I’ve worked with, I’m sure that my own attitudes have contributed to the challenges they have faced.

Today, I’m interested in the answers to these questions from the women who read my blog, especially if you can answer from your personal experience:

  • How do people in the workplace react differently to emails, reports, or other work-related content if it comes from a woman, compared to coming from a man?
  • How do these challenges differ for in-person vs. written communications? (For example, some women are more likely to engage in up-talking, which makes them appear less certain.)
  • What types of experiences do women have in school, college, and at work that can get in the way of presenting their points of view clearly?
  • What advantages do women have in communicating, both in writing and in print?

The reason that I am terrified is that I would prefer to be gender-neutral and give the same advice to everyone. And I react with horror to generalizations about women in the workplace, because in my experience women are people, and people are diverse.

Still, I want to give good advice and will not ignore the challenges. So please educate me. Add a comment here to create what I hope will be a lively conversation, or email me your thoughts privately at josh at bernoff dotcom.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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  1. In my experience, women use more modifiers (e.g. “maybe”, “I think”) to similar (querulous) effect as verbal up talking. When I write an email, I go back and strip out such modifiers, and turn questions into statements as much as possible. Unless I am dealing with a person I know from experience responds well to the former approach, in which case I am craven enough to let it work for me.

    1. Women use qualifiers because when we don’t, men perceive us as being hostile. It may be enlightening for you to have an assortment of emails to test on some subjects. When an email is perceived to be from a man, it would be read as straightforward. When the same email is perceived to be from a woman, it would be read as hostile.

  2. As a female, if I am “bold and forthright” in comments, especially to a male, I am seen as “bitchy and demanding”. Women tend to couch their statements because we are viewed negatively if we bull ahead.

    Sadly, weasel words are required for communications when coming from a female. Written communication can be much clearer, since gender is not always obvious in the written form.

  3. Oooh! This post makes me think. Personally, I find written communication is easier; clear writing is clear writing. Since reading your posts, I have become more aware of “weasel words” and my voice is more active. My emails and reports are the better for it.

    Spoken communication is more challenging. I sit in many meetings each year and watch men speak over women, get the floor more readily, project more forceful opinions. I hear women apologize and cede valid points when neither is necessary. I work at an international nonprofit, so these gender communication issues are compounded by cultural issues. I have suggested that women struggling to be heard should sit closer to the person leading the meeting or near someone more forceful. I have personally tried to eliminate apologies (unless legitimate). I will actually follow this post all day to see how other women respond. It would be helpful.

  4. I have a big advantage when communicating through email or in a written report, where I can think through the points I want to make.

    In meetings, my male boss tends to rattle me and I don’t feel confident. I’ve come to learn that he is a poor manager, as he is not getting the best out of me in those scenarios, but I pay the price. He is the first male boss I’ve ever had. My female bosses int he past never had that effect on me. I’m trying to strengthen my voice, working extra hard to be prepared to answer any of his possible questions, but that creates extra work, and is not efficient.

    In short, I’m looking for a different job.

  5. I’ll echo the previous comments by saying that I often have to stop myself from agonizing over tone in emails, as I’ve become more aware of how frequently I try to soften what I’m saying. I’ve worked in offices where women pass around articles about remembering to remove “just” from our emails, since it crops up so often. Why do we feel that our opinions need these extra words? Are we timid (unlikely) or do we communicate with more empathy (on the whole, I’d bet this is the case)? Especially in emails, tone is important, but I do take notice that I’m not watering down my message with politeness. I’d go further to say that this isn’t limited to email communication, but see it more often there than with in person conversation. The “just” article and a counterpoint:

    I stumbled upon this article about a study done at Harvard as well. In particular, the part about women being “vulnerable to interruption” struck me. That’s certainly something I’ve experienced personally in conversation, much more often by male peers. https://isites.harvard.edu/fs/html/icb.topic58474/krupnick.html

    1. I recently read the “just” article, and I hadn’t noticed how much I used that word! It’s just one more thing that I now strip out of my emails when editing, along with “I think” or “maybe”.

  6. Josh, I agree with s comments (esp. Debbie): direct women tend to be perceived as bitchy (at least) and threatening. I am generally zen with that, since I am established in my field (and not here to make friends). Directness is unusual enough in both genders that when it finds a receptive audience, it makes an impact and gets results. Those, frankly, are the people I’m interested in reaching.

    More than gender differences, the thing which leads to bad writing is the multitasking, too busy to re-read, go go go mindset; that’s the thing I battle. It’s easy to dash off an email, appear “busy” by replying quickly, and leave oneself wiggle room by writing something wishy washy, rather than crafting a message which definitively gets results.

  7. Wow–this intrigued me. My takes from experience:

    How do people in the workplace react differently to emails, reports, or other work-related content if it comes from a woman, compared to coming from a man?
    Many men see women as nags (many get nagged at home), so if you are questioning or offering an opinion, you are a nag first, co-worker second. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all men, but in general, I think it’s truth.

    What types of experiences do women have in school, college, and at work that can get in the way of presenting their points of view clearly? In life, many of my vintage grew up with that “you gotta let the men speak first, defer and listen” stuff. Even the “women are only good for one thing” myth still sticks today thanks to the wonderful world of Madison Avenue. I think it is different in younger generations because they grew up in a much more gender-neutral world. To me, some of this is generational.

    What advantages do women have in communicating, both in writing and in print? I think women are better story tellers and better at connecting with emotions to persuade.

  8. Josh,

    I am a writer who also teaches college–both English comp, business writing and PR–so MOST of my experience with meetings is in academia. I tend to be more direct than other women in conversations, so it was very educational for me to be assigned to a 90-minute brainstorming discussion with a male professor (probably in history or poli-sci) at a private college where I taught part time. He clearly was used to dominating any discussion, so every time I started talking before he had wrapped up his (long-winded) point he would shut me down with “I’m sorry, was I interrupting?” (I interpreted this as ‘Down, girl; master isn’t finished yet.’)

    I laughed out loud a little more every time he did it (3 or 4) because I was so surprised by the insistence of his defense mechanism. He didn’t have any better ideas than I did, but he sure had practice in not yielding the floor! The other participants (mostly female) just seemed mystified by our exchange.

    Of course, I didn’t actually have to work with this man, and maybe the whole day of faculty input was intended more to boost morale by pretending to collect faculty/staff input, so it’s easy to shrug it off.

    However, I HAVE participated in a session intended to rename the local YWCA (apparently “Christian” in the name makes it hard to recruit diverse board members) that had a professional moderator. Her approach certainly encouraged ideas out of the more introverted folks in the room of at least 40 that was overwhelmingly female. We wrote our ideas on sticky notes, gathered them by topic on poster board around the room, then voted for the favorites. (In case you are curious, we came up with “Oasis” as our suggested name, but lots of folks thought it sounded like a bar. 2 weeks later the group announced “Weighpoint” as its new name, based on the group’s process and very civil discussions.)

    Good luck with your book–it takes a very secure man to ask a woman for pointers in an area where he knows he’s weak. These are flexible times we live in. 😉

    1. I am the worst possible person to make generalizations about women, but my audience needs me, so I will try to provide some useful advice based on these extremely helpful comments.

  9. Stereotypes handicap everyone. Good writing arises from clear thinking. Essential to that clear thinking is awareness of your audience. Understand your audience’s biases and preconceived notions. Dismantle them with bold thoughts. Deliver your bold thoughts with grace and a touch of humor. Who can do this? Human writers.

      1. Ha, that’s not a word I would ever associate with you, Josh. Yes, I am suggesting that communicating well through writing is not (or should not be) inherently different for men, for women, for tall people, for amputees, for midwesterners, for baby boomers. All of these attributes can add delicious flavor to a memoir or personal account. But in a business context, we write to collaborate, to build, to create. The term ‘colleague’ is neutral as to gender, rank, etc. If we think, write, and listen as colleagues, then it follows that good, clear writing arises from strategies that are universally accessible and effective for all. To paraphrase the old Joe Jackson song, it’s NOT different for girls.

        1. Lauren, that would be an ideal world but unfortunately we haven’t reached it yet. Our culture has taught us to be more accommodating, and males are accustomed to being seen as the experts in the room. I worked under a bullying male manager once, and guess who was the only employee in the department who wasn’t bullied? Right, the only other male. I hope the comment above about this being generational is right, because then there’s hope that eventually we’ll achieve the situation you describe. But my experience has definitely been that men are listened to more, and have been raised to be more forthright because they are not in the same danger of being dismissed as women are.

          1. The instances of discrimination shared on this thread are authentic and painful. All of you have my respect. (And my hat’s off to you, Josh, for plunging into this topic.)

            My point here is that we must create the world we wish to live in by our actions, small and large. I refuse to perpetuate the past. I AM one of the experts in the room. We all are.

            Let’s look beyond gender roles that confine, limit, and thwart everyone, to greater and lesser degrees. The reason this is relevant to Josh’s question is that a good place to start making this progress is through our writing. On the internet no one knows you’re a dog, right? Let’s lead by example. Let’s not communicate deference or dominance. Instead, let’s communicate competence and empathy. Cool things will happen–I truly believe it.

  10. The big difference in gender communication in meetings that I’ve noticed is that men are more confident that their opinion is valid and important, women less so. I hear a lot of “this may be a stupid question…” or “maybe I’m confused, but…” from women (I’ve even said this myself) in meetings. Could this have been ingrained in us from a young age? Could it be a learned behavior after years in the workplace? Hard to say.

  11. It may also depend on a woman’s position within any given company. As an executive assistant, I know that I have to adopt a certain tone. I work in an office of all male executives. I am as noticeable as the beige vinyl wallpaper, necessary to the function of the business, but not expected to voice an opinion.

    It is both infuriating and demeaning, but a paycheck is a paycheck.

    If I were to become more “male” in my communications, I probably wouldn’t have a job much longer.

  12. Your advice in general on this blog is as applicable for women as it is for men because the fact is: we SHOULD communicate in these ways. The problem is how audiences receive/perceive that communication, which is what some of the above comments note: direct from a man is the same as bitchy from a woman.

    Women are taught from a young age that they are supposed to be deferential and polite (I’m sure many men are taught this, too, but it tends to be a cultural expectation for women). One of the [male] members of my non-profit’s board of directors told me that I had “iron-fisted charm.” I was actually pleased because it meant that I was somehow pulling off an elusive balance for women leaders communicating in the workplace: being charming and likable (per expectations) but simultaneously firm and direct.

    But that isn’t a comment that would ever be directed at a man. He would be a strong and respectable leader. My leadership was still somewhat adorable.

  13. I can’t speak for all women, but I’ll tell you what I know from my own experience.

    I’m someone who likes to process information a bit before providing thoughts, solutions, discussion points, etc. It’s not that I’m afraid of appearing stupid, I just like to consider the information at hand then speak — a process that was probably influenced by teachers during the ’70s and ’80s as they called on the boys going “oh oh oh I know” when I just kept my hand up being what I taught was polite. (I have gotten better at interrupting, although I don’t like to. It’s still rude.)

    Unfortunately, I get branded as “introverted” or “quiet” because of my pondering process. When I do speak, my ideas are usually well received and often escape the cutting room floor.

    In meetings I also find that the initial spark of a good idea may come from a woman, but a man will build upon it to make it his. I have tried to adopt this line of thinking and build as a way of helping out, but I always say things like “building on what Lisa said…” because it’s not my original idea. To me, it’s the right thing to do, to collaborate, not steal. I don’t need the glory as long we we’ve figured out a solution.

    When it comes to written communication, I’m definitely more confident and I get right to it, but that might be because I’m a professional writer. Even when I send an email, I’ve thought about the target audience and how I want them to understand the information and react to it. I build my case and I try to give the person what I think they need.

    I find that, at least within my organization, I often have to ask male email and report writers for additional information and background. In general , females tend to provide me with the detail I prefer to make a good decision. Maybe we’re thinking about what the recipient needs?

    When it comes to in-person communications, I watch everyone’s body language and tailor my message accordingly. Must be my years of presentation/sales training!

    I do think many women have an advantage when it comes to storytelling. It comes more naturally since that is how we communicate with other women and teach children. Men are sometimes dismissive of the details of the story and want to get to the point, whereas many women like the details because it helps to provide complete information. Again, this isn’t the case for all men, just like all women aren’t great storytellers.

    One last thought: I don’t find the differences between male and female communication style to be as extreme as I did at the beginning of my career. Maybe it’s time or maybe I’m just used to it, but I’d like to think that we’re all communicating better. Or maybe I’ve just adapted to what’s around me.

  14. The Broad Experience episodes 76 & 77 are on female communication. She addresses these issues with tips on how woman can use their power.

  15. Now Josh, you do know this entire thread is sexist, don’t you, typifying the patriarchal assumption that biology dictates behaviour?

    Or is that just the putdown you would get from feminists Downunder?

    If we are ever to get to a gender-blind world (or indeed a colour-blind, sexuality-blind, disability-blind etc etc world) we have to get beyond counter-productive identity politics, which includes providing separate advice for the two main genders (and what about intersex people, hmmm?)

    1. Greg…while the same advice might be applicable to both men and women if you believe that men and women experience situations and think the same way then I agree with Josh you have alot to learn and are not living in the real world :-)…When people react to women showing particular behavior the same way they do to men then we have gotten beyond identity politics but believe me that is not yet the way things stand

      1. I’ve been on the horns of this particular dilemma all of my life, with my tomboy older sister and me the sissy, or in later life the “old woman” to my male friends (mostly because I could talk under wet cement).

        The problem with saying that men and women behave in a certain way because they are men and women and not because of other factors that we can and must change, is not only factually wrong but worse, it acts to reinforce those bad behaviours.

        Nature predisposes, nurture confirms or contradicts, but the individual always chooses.

        One day I must tell you about my former colleague John Gray, author of the Mars and Venus series, old “colourless sap” himself…

          1. Sadly, Josh, most people don’t think their biases are biases – they think they are simply describing a biological reality, and they would see in your need to produce his and hers versions of your instruction manual a verification, a justification, of their belief (however ignorant and unfair that might be).

            It’s a culture that is reinforced by the Mars and Venus phenomenon. We have our own John Gray here in Australia, Allan Pease, a guy who made his name here as an expert on body language, and is now an “expert” (along with his wife Barbara) on how the male and female brains are fundamentally different and therefore require us to treat men and women differently, purely because they are of one gender or the other. http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Listen-Women-Cant-Read/dp/0767907639

  16. I have a confession to make. I usually use my male partner’s email address and signature block if I’m writing a “business” email rather than use my own. I’ve just found that overall I can [a] use a jocular language that is better accepted by males [b] bypasses perceived prejudice in male dominated industries and [c] gets quicker/more desired outcomes.

    I am about to embark on a new business venture involving temperament assessment and I’m going to risk doing this in the “female” mode because my experience is that the “female touch” in this area is more acceptable than the more direct male approach.

  17. ohhhh- don’t get me started. i am a bold, visible minority woman who is in an industry that is ‘dominated’ by men- construction and development- not to mention, in probably one of the most, still backwards, sexist cities in North America- Miami!

    however, i have found in my 13 years of living here, that most of the men who display any sense of insecurity, or discomfort with my boldness are usually the men who have severe inadequacies career/ego/physical inadequacies- which often eventually are exposed. i find this empowering at best and it actually makes me stronger and more assertive- letting the chips fall where they may and watching the weak, writhe. pure entertainment and humor and justification that women are the ‘stronger’ sex. thankssssss.

  18. Hi Josh …I had to laugh when I saw your post as this very topic is something that myself and others are trying to tackle through delivering a program called “Taking the Stage” essentially directed at helping women overcome the issues you will have seen in the comments to your blog….This program would also be helpful for men who like you may not realize how a lot of women react and experience situations differently. Anyway it is nice to see this topic getting some air play…a lot of women are not even aware that their reactions reflect conditioning that starts early on in a girls life .. and most men ignore this fact ..which in any case is usually to their advantage as they tend to get their way while the women take a step back….. I’ll stop there as there or else I will be going on forever… Looking forward to seeing your advice ! I’ll gladly incorporate it into the sessions I animate.

  19. I’ve been told my emails that are short and to the point come off as cold. Would a man be told the same thing about his emails that are short and to the point? I don’t know. I don’t see their emails that way but that doesn’t mean someone else would.

    Some things I’ve noticed both in my verbal and written communication that I’m trying to stop:

    – Apologizing for something that doesn’t need an apology
    – Saying please when it’s unnecessary. This one may seem confusing. But I’ve noticed that the male leaders in my company don’t say please. They just make requests and/or demands. They do it respectfully without having to say please. So why do I feel the need to always include it? Because I don’t want to seem demanding? So I’ve started only including it in emails to people who I know respond better to a little softer request.

  20. So curious where you will end up after thinking about this new set of questions! it can certainly change your life and have the power to change more lives. And I love that you had Hillary’s pic attached, because her entire public life has been just a great example of the questions you are asking.

  21. This is a very interesting topic but, as has already been mentioned, extremely complex because, well, people are complex. I’m now “retired”, having had an extremely successful career in the sciences and academic administration.

    I started to launch into a kind of bio sharing my experiences, but reading the other posts, I decided to just pare mine down to a few points. These are very general and come from my own experience. Because people are complex and because my own experience is my own (see complexity), they may not apply.

    Women who project genuine confidence do better than women who do not. What are some of the markers of confidence? In no particular order, some are:
    (1) no uptalking
    (2) being direct and matter-of-fact
    (3) being tall and not having a high, breathy voice (I’m serious)
    (4) internalizing that you are credible and knowledgeable and have something to offer the world (in other words, not being too self-critical)
    (5) not apologizing
    (6) standing or sitting straight and having a calm, but assertive body language
    (7) having a sense of humor about yourself and the world around you
    (8) being able to speak and write very well
    (9) not taking slights, idiotic remarks, or criticism personally, even if they are unfair. Another way of putting this one is, knowing who you are.

    Some of these things can be learned, but not all. In my experience, women who are petite and have high voices have a much more difficult time; not much they can do about these physical characteristics.

    One thing that has helped me, even in the most difficult situations, the ones where the issue is a man being attracted to and coming on to me, is to not try to categorize the action as sexism or anything else; to me, these men are just jerks, and every profession has them (this is not dissimilar to a shim’s comment about recognizing the deficiencies in the bad actors). It’s not you, it’s them.

    And, of course,
    (10) being very good at what you do and
    (11) having sufficient awareness of where your work really does fit in to the overall competence hierarchy. This is going to sound contradictory, but it’s not: You have to be realistic (self-critical, if you will) enough to be able to see your own work clearly. This is a different kind of self-criticism than the type I mentioned above. I have female colleagues who are OK at what they do, but not outstanding (in this case, I’m talking about the creativity, credibility, and impact of their scientific research). They blame their lack of success compared to others around them on sexism when, in fact, it’s nothing of the sort. They just aren’t as good as they think they are. And it’s too bad they don’t have that self-awareness because some of them could be very good, or they could be more accepting of their situations and learn other ways to excel. Or, they could recognize that, even though they are not “stars”, their work is still useful to science–some of these folks do the unexciting but oh-so-vital journeyman’s work that underpins the exciting stuff. (By the way, the only gender-specific aspect to this is that women have something–sexism–to blame for their relative lack of success, whereas men don’t have anything else to blame.)

    A comment on Ayelet’s post: I have not been above using phrases like “this may be a stupid question, but..”. I do it intentionally to disarm some people. They can be men or women, but in my profession it’s usually men. I admit to sly intent–I use the phrase when someone is being obnoxious and wrong. My “stupid” question is, of course, anything but, something nearly everyone else in the room recognizes immediately as soon as I ask it. Sometimes my victim realizes what I’ve done, but sometimes he (or she) doesn’t. But whether they do or not, it accomplishes the twin goals of making them think through what they’ve been saying (without being as defensive as a direct challenge would cause them to be) and making my participation even more relevant. People’s respect for me grows visibly, and I have never had a negative reaction to this tactic, except occasionally from my victim; in other words, these seemingly weak “weasel” phrases can be tactically useful if you know what you are doing and aren’t actually being weak. If the person lashes out, I accord them particular respect to make clear that it was not them as individuals I was going after but “merely” the point they were making. Nearly all of them calm down after that. And the ones who don’t are jerks and everyone in the room recognizes it. It works best if everyone in the room recognizes already that you are confidence, but it’s also a way to build that credibility. The first couple of times you use it, the audience may think you’re being weak. But once you ask the not-actually-stupid question, people will immediately start building a different image of you.

    On the issue of raising an idea and others (mostly men) getting the credit: It’s also possible, if you are artful enough, to turn the conversation to make people in the room realize what’s happened. I never call someone out on it directly. Why? Mostly because I don’t really care that much. Ever since a colleague frankly stole one of my ideas and published it, I’ve take the attitude that if someone’s ideas are so impoverished that they have to steal, that’s their problem; I’ve got lots more ideas. Convincing yourself this is actually true can be a bit harder, but you’ve got to project that confidence.

    These last two points, in the previous paragraph and the end of the one before it, boil down to two other important markers of confidence:
    (12) being quick to think on your feet and
    (13) being in control of yourself, of your own words and reactions.

    One of the biggest differences between men and women is that women tend to take stuff too personally. Actually, I think men take things personally, too, but they are in better control of themselves and so don’t show it as much. So of all the points I made, I’d consider not taking things personally and being in control of your feelings and, most importantly, your reactions, as being the two most important, and they go hand-in-hand.

    Judy Parrish

    1. Bingo. I advise young colleagues who are navigating business environments, “Focus on process, not personality.” That’s really just professionalism, but breaking it down helps.
      Beautifully expressed, Judy!

  22. I, too, have read the “just” article (as previous commenters have noted), and I realized how often I was putting it in EVERYTHING–always asking permission subconsciously. Once I made a conscious effort to remove it from formal and business communications, I noticed my emails and other communication pieces becoming cleaner and more precise. Go figure.

    Once I stopped asking for permission, I became a more efficient communicator. But now I also see how many women still use that word OR something similar (I believe previous commenters used the word “qualifiers”). I also began to notice how often women apologized, which pissed me off. Why are you apologizing for something that didn’t harm me?

    As a teacher, I want to teach my students how to be bold in their writing and understand that though there are differences in how men and women communicate, there are strengths for each style. I want them to know that saying “sorry” should only be used when you actually mean it AND when it’s to apologizing for causing harm to someone else.

    As an editor, I was scared to be straightforward with any of my clients (at the beginning of my career) because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. When I understood that honesty was going to help them improve their books so they didn’t suck, I began to be extremely honest while softening the blow. About 99% of my clients are grateful for my honesty and have become stronger and clearer writers. The 1% is probably still crying and playing a victim.

    I think that most girls in our society are constantly told “be nice; play nice” and that can create a stigma about honesty. Somehow, I equated honesty as being mean–or something that only guys could do–because I was always expected to “be nice.” As I grow older, I find that I give a shit less and less, which is really awesome, and I am (often) brutally honest. And you know what? I have amazing friends who appreciate me being me. 🙂

  23. Lauren–Thanks.

    Tamar–Extremely important point about not worrying about hurting people’s feelings, especially if you are being paid to be critical. But I would disagree about the softening the blow. I hope what you mean is that between being frank and harsh and frank but not harsh, you chose the latter. But women very often try so hard to soften the blow (a lot of men do this, too), that they end up sending mixed messages. This is particularly unfortunate when doing consulting and in managing people.

    When I’m doing a review of someone whose performance is not up to snuff, I am very straightforward. People hear what they want to hear. If you soft-pedal a negative message, they will only hear the words that you use to soften the blow; they will not hear the real points you need them to absorb. I don’t rip them to shreds, but I make sure the message is clear. While I have, on occasion, been taken to task for being “harsh”, when I ask what that means, the person admitted she or he didn’t expect straightforwardness from a woman and interpreted that as harshness. But when I ask if I was clear, the person always admits I was. Over time, people came to appreciate that I had high expectations but that I was always fair, always constructive, and that they always knew where I was coming from. I’ve seen a lot of women get into trouble because in the effort to not appear “harsh”, they end up confusing people.

  24. Being direct wins every time. You can be nice as well as direct but if you don’t get your message across what was the point? I used to be a classic passive writer and I still have to remember to take ‘just’ out of emails. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the desire to soften the blow but there is a time and a place for it. If you know a topic has a lot of emotion behind it for the recipient, then by all means write very carefully. Although in these situations I’ll almost always choose to have a conversation so no mistakes in tone are made.

    And that is my biggest bit of advice, no matter how good your writing skills are, sometimes the best option is to get up, go see the person and have a face-to-face conversation. Follow up with an email afterwards so you both have a record of anything agreed.

    I have to admit I’ve only come across the occasional bit of sexism that I could spot and exclusively from men quite a bit older than myself that assume I know less than I do. This often comes in the form of mansplaining which nobody wants. http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-04-07

  25. Hi Josh. The question itself belies sexism we face – the question is valid, but why isn’t there a second half to the question, “and how are these challenges different for men”? Why is it assumed that there’s the general advice about communication, and then special advice for women as a sub-category, as though women are a minority? Why is it assumed there are no challenges specific to men, that men are the norm? You might be doing other research on this that’s not public like the above post is, or perhaps you assume as a man you already know the challenges for men (although I know that really you’d know you can’t generalise for all men from just your experiences), in which case I understand you asking only the women side of the question here.

    My questions are partly rhetorical, because the reality is that male styles are in fact “the norm” for practical purposes. It would be nice to see though not just a section for women, but also a section for men, perhaps suggesting ways to be aware of how to communicate with women who likely have a different style without compromising on directness. Given your topic is writing not other forms of communication it will perhaps not be necessary, but please carefully consider having a “for everyone” section and a “for women” section without a “for men” section, and should you include a “for men” section please even consider ordering the book so that section is last.