Use eye contact, speak firmly, author advises women workers

February 22, 1993|By Leslie A. Williams | Leslie A. Williams,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Is this you?

Your boss asks why the report is late. Flustered and apologetic, you take your boss through a long-winded explanation of how busy it has been in the office, never really answering the question.

Or later you ask: "I know this is a stupid question, but. . . ."

This type of behavior keeps people from being powerful and effective communicators, says Connie Glaser, co-author of "More Power To You!: How Women Can Communicate Their Way to Success."

And women often seem to have the most difficulty in asserting their power in the workplace.

Ms. Glaser, along with co-author Barbara Steinberg Smalley, drew from communications research by several authors, including Deborah Tannen, who wrote the best seller "You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation."

Ms. Glaser then outlined scenarios and suggestions for women to become more effective communicators not only at work, but in all areas of their lives.

Gloria Leshinksy of Boca Raton, who attended a recent book signing, said she plans to send a copy to her daughter in New York -- after she reads it herself.

"I am definitely not a women's libber," Ms. Leshinksy said. "[But] I would like to be more assertive. Maybe it will help me."

Little girls are taught to be polite, docile and cooperative. They are encouraged to speak softly, always say "please" and "thank you," and smile a lot.

"Research had been done that said women had these traits, but the next step had not been taken: So what? What can we do to empower ourselves?" Ms. Glaser said. Breaking away from some "typical" female behavior is a start, she said.

Because many women have been taught to take on the role of the weaker sex -- passive, super-sensitive -- they have developed characteristics that often hinder their communications skills.

Men, on the other hand, are conditioned to be leaders.

Bad communication habits, such as babbling on about why work is late, discrediting the validity of questions, smiling when it's not necessary, not making eye contact, and toying with jewelry while talking, all give negative impressions of your seriousness and confidence. It also can be annoying.

"Men in particular will become more impatient, because they're more bottom-line," Ms. Glaser said.

The direct approach -- making eye contact, stating exactly what your goals are, speaking in a strong, audible tone will produce results.

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