There is widespread acceptance of the notion that we humans communicate in four main channels. These channels are the visual, verbal, cognitive and experiential ways we have of taking in the world around us, organizing our perceptions, and communicating to others. Thanks to Neuro Linguistic Psychology (NLP) we all have the opportunity to reflect on what this means for our daily interaction with others. Women in management may find this set of insights particularly useful for a quick assessment of what is happening in their shop.
The stereotype of women is that they feel while men analyze. Based on this assumption men are presumed to be the better commanders in battle and the more desirable candidates for top management positions. CEO’s, after all, need to be free of emotion that could cloud their judgment. The implication is that women are not free of emotion that could cloud their judgment. The stereotype forgets to mention that because men in high places often try to “not be emotional” they stuff their feelings. This simply means that they are emotional but operate blind to feeling – more accurately, numb to feeling. Those who are not aware of their own emotions are at the mercy of their emotions, and thereby put everyone else at the mercy of emotion-driven decisions by leaders and managers who claim not to be emotional.
All of us operate verbally, visually, experientially and cognitively even though most people have a preferred or favorite channel. For persons in management to be in tune with their workforce it is helpful to be versatile in all four modes. The workforce will be made up of people who communicate in their preferred modes, especially about important matters. As the leader, if you only “listen” in your mode you will not connect with very many of those you lead. You will be perceived as controlling and giving orders but as not very good at listening. The work force will peg you as not interested in them. You will never be liked, trusted or respected.
o Visuals “give the picture” when communicating. They like to give their boss the picture. It is not the actual words but “the picture” conveyed by words that it important. Visuals are very good at taking in the entire situation and seeing where it will lead. Projections based on all the known information are a frequent strength of visuals.
o Verbals need to talk it out. They only feel connected when there is conversation. They need to talk to their boss and their subordinates, frequently. Meetings, therefore, are very important to them for fostering teamwork.
o Cognitives trade in data and like to analyze. They put thought into their work and into any suggestions they might have for the boss. They do not like to have a boss who is not logical. They especially do not like for the boss to be unreasonable. And they expect thoughtful, objective work from their subordinates.
o Feelers value experience and are put off when what they are experiencing is not considered significant. Feelers worry about how the boss and fellow workers are feeling.
So: with regard to being a woman in management, it makes no difference that you are a woman and not a man. We are all communicators and the same principles of communication apply equally. Forget about the stereotypes. Focus on how those around you are communicating and build up your listening skills.