Men—Why Now is the Time to Have Difficult Conversations with Women
How should we, as men, respond to the hashtag #metoo?
There is something going on in our culture right now related to the hashtag #metoo.
Women are feeling empowered to speak out in numbers, and the rallying cry continues to gain momentum.
They are coming from all areas and walks of life to have an honest and open dialogue about how sexual harassment in the workplace has affected them.
This dialogue has given women a powerful voice relative to the challenges they face in the workforce. As men—we are compelled to respond.
Some reading this article may be under the impression that this cultural trend isn’t that big of a deal. You don’t see it in your workplace, so outside of a few news headlines in your SM feed—it doesn’t really affect you.
You are wrong.
Men, I encourage you to ask questions of the women significant in your life.
I have three grown daughters. As I opened up the conversation with them, I was shocked and surprised by the energy they had towards this topic. They shared with me how often they have felt (and continue to feel) that their voice is not respected, appreciated, or made room for.
They may not have dealt as much with sexual harassment, but they are very aware of the way that they are treated differently because they are women.
I believe that now is the time that men need to question how effective they are at making room for women’s ideas and opinions.
It boils down to this—do we respect their voice?
In difficult conversations, and in our training at Ember, there are some key thoughts or concepts that speak into this very topic.
We coach that in order to be effective at difficult conversations, you have to create the right environment. You need to create an environment that collects information puzzle pieces, or data points, related to the conflict.
In order to do that, you want to create an environment where people feel heard. In this hour, that is incredibly important as it relates to women.
First, we need to acknowledge that most men and women are wired differently. We typically approach and process life uniquely, and as a result—we need to make room for different perspectives.
As individuals, regardless of gender, we come into any conversation with a specific lens that is rooted in our personal experiences. Making room for that lens in how we approach and frame conversations will prepare us for success in our personal and professional lives.
The landscape of the current marketplace is changing dramatically.
Still not convinced this hashtag matters?
I have spent a lot of time consulting in the accounting profession. In most accounting firms, 70 to 80 percent of the executive partners are men. That said, in recent years, more women than men are graduating from accounting programs. The gender inequality is going to shift dramatically over the next few decades, and I don’t believe it is isolated to accounting.
Learning how to relate well to women in the workplace is a critical part of being effective in the marketplace.
And this isn’t just an issue of numbers.
There is an incredible amount of research supporting the fact that women are better at listening and creating space for other people’s voices. Simply put—they make better managers.
As a man, you need to take note. Now is the time to not only make room for the voice of women—respect it as an asset to the future of your company.
So how does all of this tie into the topic of difficult conversations with women?
Because of potential differences in perspective, making room for the much needed voices of the women in your life may at times present conflict.
The first challenge in having difficult conversations with women is acknowledging the stereotypes you may have. I am sure you have heard of, if not through bias believed, one of the following:
- Women are too emotional.
- The emotional nature of women disqualifies them from leading well.
- It is simply not possible for men and women to work well together.
Emotion is a normal part of life and an expected element to any difficult conversation. It is not more prevalent in women—it just may be expressed differently. Anger may be more accepted among men, but it is still emotion.
Research around the topic of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, has supported the notion that relating well to emotion, or understanding how our emotions help us process life—serves to make us better leaders and more effective team players.
As mentioned before, women are proven to be more effective managers and team leaders for this very fact. Avoiding or minimizing emotion is not only unrealistic, it is detrimental to successful dialogue and team dynamics.
Many high-performing companies now make it a value to employe and retain women in their organizational leadership.
In the words of James Baldwin, “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” It is absolutely possible for men to have difficult conversations with women and to work effectively with them.
Again, as I talked with my daughters about the hashtag #metoo, each one told of times where they felt disrespected as a woman in the workforce.
I was reenergized as a father, and as a man, by the need to build a culture that respects and honors women. We need to value an environment that empowers their voice and makes room for them to lead.
Now is the time to use what is happening in society as a platform for discussion.
Ask women in your family, your workplace, even in your neighborhood for their thoughts on this topic—and don’t be surprised if difficult conversations follow suit.
You may find challenges to your leadership or way of relating. Don’t back away from the conversation, but lean into it even as it gets difficult. There are nuggets of truth and insight in the conflict and opportunities to grow as a man in how you relate to the other gender.
Ultimately, these conversations will empower healthy marriages, healthy families, and healthy organizations. Now is the time to lean into difficult conversations with women. Don’t miss the opportunity.
These are just a few insights that will help you navigate those critical conversations in your life and career, but there’s so much more.
There are powerful tools that can really help you become more effective, and we at Ember Learning are here to help. With over 25 years of professional consulting in top businesses around the country, we want to share some of our top insights with you.
Download our FREE PDF “15 Ways to Turn Hard Conversations into Win-Win Dialogue” now!