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Podcast Transcript

Weirdos In The Room

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we uncover what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, I get such a kick out of our podcast titles, and today's I think is winning, winning so far. So it's called "Weirdos in the Room or Don't Take it Personally". So what is going on with these two names?

Marsha Clark  0:38  
So yes, Wendi, you know sometimes my team likes to have some fun with the titles. And this might be a perfect example. We got some other good ones coming up, by the way. But our focus today is on all of the research that we've followed and presented on how men and women show up so differently in situations, you know, especially in the workplace. And when people describe those differences, they often speak of them in terms of "The weirdos in the room", or at least you referring to the behaviors of the opposite gender, whichever side of that you're on, as weird or strange.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:14  
Right. Okay, so where does the "Don't Take it Personally" part come in?

Marsha Clark  1:19  
So the same situations when people of different genders are trying to work through some of those sometimes opposing or strange perspectives and it's not necessarily going well, we end up hearing the phrase, "Well don't take it personally", as you know, or "It's only business", that's another one of my favorites. It's as if it's, you know, some kind of get out of jail free card that can be played basically to discount or deny that there are gender differences. "Just get over it", you know.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:47  
Right. Right. So what seems like a playful title is actually an introduction to something that's a pretty serious subject.

Marsha Clark  1:54  
Well, it is. That's absolutely true. And so it's meant to capture our listeners' attention and potential listeners, and to provoke a meaningful and relevant conversation about how gender differences can impact our ability to really build and maintain meaningful relationships and really, our overall effectiveness.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:12  
Yeah, I think I had shared an experience like a lot of women who went through the Power of Self Program. So my experience was that I worked in a predominantly male dominated organization. Honestly, I've done that through most of my career. So I didn't really take time to think about the impact that gender and gender roles and expectations of all of that. I just really didn't think about this. I mean, does that make sense?

Marsha Clark  2:42  
Absolutely. I hear it often. And there's also an aspect of "Welcome to the Gen X generation".

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  2:50  
I want to put a plug for Gen X very quickly. I have to interrupt on this because Gen X is the last generation that actually has respect for elders, we have respect for title, and we understand that hierarchy in the room from a position of respect. Now, you know, so I'm just putting that out, okay.

Marsha Clark  3:14  
Yeah, well, and even your entrepreneurial spirit is indicative of your Gen X. That's the most entrepreneurial generation on record. So it's that shared experience of just doing it is so indicative, just, you know, just make it happen, right, is indicative of the women who went to school and entered the workforce in the late 80s and into the 90s. That's, you know, typically our Gen Xers. And it's an important distinction that we'll touch on here and we'll dive more deeply into that in a later episode because to be honest, the generational aspect of gender role expectations is a whole other layer, you know, to peel back when we look at at gender differences in the workplace.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  3:54  
Absolutely makes sense.

Marsha Clark  3:56  
Yeah. So when you entered the working world, and let's just take the last 40 to 45 years for example, when you entered makes a difference on your shared experience. And when you add the layer of where you entered the workplace, where in the world did you start working, even if you just look at the US, where within the US makes a difference. So regional, cultural and social values have a strong influence on your professional experience. And needless to say, exploring the role of gender and gender expectations has lots and lots of different facets and we're going to be looking at all of them, you know, as we go through these future episodes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:34  
Okay, so if there's so many different angles to explore this, what's our specific focus for today?

Marsha Clark  4:39  
Yeah,  good to bring us in. So we're literally going to go look at the basics, what the fundamental differences are, and a lot of this is based on Dr. Patricia Heim's work where she studied gender differences for over 50 years and she calls them "invisible differences" between how men and women operate in the workplace. And I do say this in the introduction of chapter two in my book "Embracing Your Power" so I want to say it here as well. You know, we frequently see women joining our programs who declare they aren't sure there are differences between men and women, especially as it relates to leadership. Leadership is leadership is leadership. So I don't know about you, but there's, you know, if you look at us biologically we're 96, 97% the same and yet that three to 4% difference, I think it matters, the discrepancy matters.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  5:35  
Yeah. Just a little.

Marsha Clark  5:37  
And keep in mind as you listen to this podcast and our future podcasts, that each of us has both masculine and feminine characteristics in us. I say that over and over and over again, and that masculine is not 100% male any more than feminine is 100% female. I have masculine, you have masculine. Men have feminine, so it's all in all of us.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:03  
Right. So just to remind our listeners, we talked about this back in Episode 13, The Yinyang of Leadership, this range of feminine and masculine characteristics.

Marsha Clark  6:15  
Yes and as part of our research, even for the Power of Self Program, we were looking for credible information that was relevant and insightful and that didn't make one gender right and one wrong. So Dr. Heim's work, Dr. Patricia Heim's work surged to the top of our list. And again, it wasn't about good or bad, right or wrong. It's just about being different. And I love when she makes the point in some of her, you know, teachings that if you and I were going to a foreign country, we would expect the people there to speak a different language, you know, perhaps to see things differently than we do, to display different behaviors or tendencies. And so, Dr. Heim explains that men see themselves as being from their own world, and that women are from a different world and vice versa. And we speak a different language, and we see things differently. And hence, the others, whoever the others might be, are the weirdos in the room because they're acting and speaking so strangely, or differently than we are.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  7:17  
So true. I mean, we expect people to be different once we cross a geographical border.  But then even when we compare one family's traditions to another family's traditions just across the street from us, we can see these differences.

Marsha Clark  7:34  
Yes. I have a dear colleague who talks about you get married and all of a sudden, your partner doesn't make up the bed like you do, or doesn't make up the bed at all. You know, I leave the cap off the, you know. Exactly, all those things. So again, this conversation isn't about how anyone's traditions or cultures or beliefs are right or wrong, or better than or any of that. It's about how they're different and how those differences can really create and even amplify challenges if we're not mindful of them and yet take them for what they are and take them into consideration as we're trying to interact and dare I say, even thrive in relation to one another.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  8:15  
Yeah. So you mentioned Dr. Heim's research and what she called "invisible differences". What does she mean by that? What are the invisible differences?

Marsha Clark  8:26  
Yeah, so as I mentioned, Dr. Hein has been studying these gender differences for over 40 years, probably at this point, 50 years. But some things have changed during that time, obviously, and some have remained pretty consistent. And it varies from company to company, industry to industry, and so on. And her research focuses on the differences between how men and women are socially conditioned, and then reinforced to behave when thrown into these mixed gender working environments. So now before, before we dive into some of her research, and even some of the other foundational studies that we're going to bring to the table here, I want to make a really important caveat. And I say this every time I deliver the content, so I want everyone listening to hear this loud and clear. The information that I'm about to share with you is based on a bell shaped curve. There are exceptions and outliers in every single scenario I'm going to share with you. And so the examples from the research don't reflect every single person's experience. The research we include in our work, which continues to be updated and validated, and particularly in the last several years, where there's a whole lot more research regarding women, is a reflection of accumulated data across lots and lots of years. So are there examples even in our listening audience, and in my classes where women and men have had different or contrary experiences? Yes, absolutely. We found that to be true in every single program we run whether it be women only, men only, or co-ed programs. And like any typical bell shaped curve, we have a few people, two or three out of each program, who share that they've experienced none to few of the gender based differences that we're going to cover here and, you know, then the other 20 or so in the room who nod in complete recognition of the differences. So I just, I want our listeners to hear that loud and clear.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:19  
Yeah, so I'm realizing that even for those to two or three who haven't had their own personal experiences around these gender based differences, this information can still be really useful, especially if they're leading or mentoring someone who is facing challenges based on these differences, right?

Marsha Clark  10:40  
Well, that's absolutely right. And just because I haven't experienced something firsthand doesn't mean one, that it's not happening or to anyone else, two, that I can't understand and even empathize with someone who's looking for support and guidance in that area. And in fact, for those who are on the edges, if you will, of that bell shaped curve, they often do still find great value and understanding that these invisible differences do still exist, and are in play every day in the world and in some places stronger than ever. And, you know, one other thing, Wendi, that I would say is that we often take differences and assign it to the individual person. So Joe's a this or Susie's a this or Bob's a this or Jennifer's a this, when and that's a part of the, well that's just about Joe or Bob or Susie or Jennifer. No, it is about masculine and feminine. And so that often even can turn some people who broaden the perspective of those who come into the room saying there are no differences.  I just want to also say that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  11:50  
Yep, yep. So I also know that you cover about 13 of what you call these lessons in contrast in chapter two of your book, and we've already talked about a few of them in previous episodes like the insight about the importance of holding the meeting before the meeting, in Episode 10, the politics of meetings. So what are a few of the other invisible differences that you highlight in the book that our listeners can be on the watch-out for.

Marsha Clark  12:19  
Yeah, we like to do these in bite-sized chunks, right? So yeah, for today we're going to talk about three of Dr. Heim's, which what she calls invisible differences. And so I'll give everybody kind of a quick preview of what we're going to talk about. So one is how do men and women or masculine and feminine approaches to, Approaching New Situations is number one. Number two is Goal-oriented Versus Process-oriented. And three are Linguistic Patterns. And then we're going to wrap up with a reflection exercise, if you will.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  12:52  
Okay, so approaching new situations is our first of the three to highlight. Will you set this up for us a little bit and explain how men and women do this differently?

Marsha Clark  13:02  
Of course. So what Dr. Heim found, and I certainly see it all the time with my, you know, executive coaching clients, is that men and women approach new, unknown work situations very differently. And so I'll quote from my book: "When women approach new situations, they tend to tell you everything they don't know before they tell you what they do know." And Dr. Heim describes this as going into the confessional.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  13:30  
Oh my gosh, going into the confessional. So expand on that a little. What does that look or sound like?

Marsha Clark  13:37  
Yeah when I read this the first time, I heard this the first time I went, Oh my gosh, I have the perfect example from my own experience. So you know, I remember getting a call from my boss, this goes back to my corporate EDS days, and my boss was telling me that as of tomorrow, I was the president of the Healthcare Strategic Business Unit. It was a huge job and a really important promotion. And I'm not kidding you the first words out of my mouth were "I don't know anything about health care.  I'm so healthy. My family is too. I don't even think I've filed a health claim and several years."

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:11  
Ah, the confessional. Here's what I don't know, right, Marsha?

And it was right off the get go, you know. Here's how much I don't know, or I'm not qualified to do the thing you're asking me to do. And my boss, I remember him looking at me like this with this look on his face. My boss told me, I'm not putting you there for your healthcare knowledge or experience. He was putting me there because of my leadership skills, and there's a lot of lessons in that. Leadership is leadership. Leadership is a profession. But you know, mine was all that I don't know anything about health care. But he said, you've got a team of 2500 competent healthcare technology professionals so you're going to rely on them. You need to bring leadership to them. So another reference point here is in her book about gender differences at work, author Sheryl Sandberg, the book was "Lean In", cites an example using a job posting, you know, let's just say the job posting has 10 requirements. And if a woman has eight of those 10 requirements, she's likely to not apply or not to apply. So you know, here I am, I've got eight, but I don't have those other two. So I'm going to tell you, I'm going to focus on the two that I don't have versus the eight that I do. And she also says that the research shows if a man has four of the 10 requirements -  four, not even half - he's going to apply. So get that contrast.

Wow. Why does this happen? Where do we get this?

Marsha Clark  15:38  
So both Heim and Sandberg explain it that for the woman, it's a matter of fairness and  honesty. I want you to know what you're getting. Just pure and simple. I don't want to lead you astray, I want to be upfront, I want to be transparent, all of that. And for the man, it's a matter of adventure. I'll tell them I can do it, and then I'm gonna go figure out how to do it. And so those are two very different ways of seeing, processing, and experiencing new opportunities.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  16:10  
And you know, and I'm just flashing back to some content that's in your book. We haven't discussed it on the podcast yet. But when we're little boys and little girls and the fact that girls play house and it's about fairness. And boys are out there climbing trees, kicking soccer balls, beating each other up, and that is a matter of adventure. Like I'm hearing it in this description, us as children and bringing that force into the workplace.

Marsha Clark  16:40  
Well that's right. And we also get the good girl messages, right, fairness, and justice and equity. So the impact of these differences, you know, we as women, we can limit our opportunities to achieve career aspirations or secure seats at the table where those big decisions are being made. And we're not stepping into opportunities as often as men, because they believe they have to be at this 90% we believe, that we have to be at this 90 plus percent level of expertise before we can even consider applying for positions. And, you know, and don't always have the kind of leaders like I did, who were looking past the gaps that I was seeing, and were really looking for my overall leadership capabilities.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:25  
Yeah, you know over time, I can see how this can really negatively impact a woman's career if she doesn't realize that she's doing this.

Marsha Clark  17:36  
Well. That's right. And that's probably why we've been talking about this. And we and I've been coaching about it for decades, because women are still doing it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:43  
Mm hum. So the second one is going back to what we talked about earlier, goal- oriented versus process-oriented. What are you talking about there?

Marsha Clark  17:52  
Yeah, so our listeners may have heard about this concept before, but more in terms of, you know, the whole hunter-gatherer phenomenon, and that being from the more anthropological perspective, but from our very beginnings as human beings, the men were the hunters and the women were the gatherers.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:10  
Absolutely. Heard that.

Marsha Clark  18:11  
Yes, yes, yes. And you know, how that translates for us today is that men tend to be more goal-focused, or hunter, you know, they think of those as similar lasering in on the target and boom, it's mine, right, versus women as process-focused. We're gathering information, along with berries, right, you know, you go way back when, building relationships to learn what's going on and sharing that knowledge. So holding the institutional or the cultural knowledge and keeping those traditions, even teaching the next generation if you think about parenting, and childbearing and all that. And all of that takes time. And it's all about having a process orientation.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:11  
Right. So how does that play out in the workplace today?

Marsha Clark  18:15  
So again, I'm going to refer back to my book  and I want to be really clear about this. Women are goal oriented. It's not that we don't have an end game in mind, we just want to make sure that the other person knows that we've done our homework and that whatever we're proposing or recommending is credible and it's based on the great and tedious work that we've done to arrive at our answer. We want to share everything that we have gathered along the way. And so we're going to, we're going to take you on a little trip before we give you the answer. So for men, on the other hand, they often want to hear that answer first. So you know, there's this ancient hunter tendency, you know, they're stalking the answer, if you will stalking to, to make the kill. So once they get that, what they came for, hear what you're offering or they get what they need, then they may ask questions requiring you to give that backstory or the process of how you've arrived at your recommendations. So, if I'm presenting to a man, I want to give the bottom line answer, I want it to be right there up front, early on in the information that I'm sharing.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:10  
So if you're presenting to a woman do you tell the story?

Marsha Clark  20:14  
Well, you know, this is interesting. So let me keep going here for a minute and I'll get to that, I'll get to that answer. So first, I want to start if there are both men and women in your audience, determine if you can, who's the final decision maker and whether that person's male or female, masculine or feminine. Lean toward the gender tendencies of that final decision maker, because that's how you really sell it, right. And if there are women in the room who are influencers, you got to make sure you provide a bit of the background preparation to satisfy their, you know, need to know that you've done your homework and so on, and to consider that background and process. Now, here's the answer to your question. Because we tend to work and live in more masculine environments, they're hierarchical, and you know that's whose water we're swimming in many times, many women have learned how to do the bottom line presentation. So I want you to get that women may have adapted to that more masculine approach. So you want to pay attention to how both men and women like to receive information. So more than gender is at play here and, you know, you can also even take into account whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, or they are, how much time they have, the strength of our trust for one another. If we've worked together for a long time, I can come in and go the answer is blue, right? I don't have to tell them how I got to blue, I don't have to tell them all the research I did on any of that. And so that's where that trust, know love and trust piece comes in, so taking all of that into account.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:44  
Right. So this is reminding me a little of the story you often tell about talking to your husband, Dale, and telling him upfront that he has a yes no question.

Marsha Clark  21:56  
Yeah. So this is long before I was studying any of this gender stuff. This was early in our marriage. So we were both in our mid 20s. So I, and I do use that story to illustrate this point. So what he taught me, what Dale taught me, early on in our marriage was he would ask me a question, and I would take him on a trip, right? I'd worked the process. Well, we could do this, we could do that. Or I thought about that, or I did the research on this. And he would look at me and he would say, Marsha, this is a yes or no question. And what the reality was, so I had to slow down, because I'm going on that trip, right? I mean that's in my head. And I have to get to the destination of yes versus no, because what I learned is that he could not hear another word I was saying until he heard the answer he was looking for, yes or no. So because we had a most respectful relationship, and I love him, for many reasons that being one of them, he would then allow me once he heard yes or no, okay, now he knows we're going here for dinner or, you know, yes, we're gonna do this or no, we're not right, then I could take him on my trip, because that was important for me to tell him about all that. And so we both respected each other's need in that way to get communication and it better ensured that our intended messages once I understood he had to have that bottom line and then he let me tell you more how I got there.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:22  
This is so reminding me of conversations with my mother. I'll ask something. It's a very simple question. And she will start with the whole story. And it's like Mom, all I asked you was is Vicki, her best friend, is Vicki doing better in her health. She gives me the whole backstory of Vicki's health.

Marsha Clark  23:44  
She's been to the doctor seven times. She got new medicine.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  23:48  
That's right, and on the way to the doctor she accidentally hit a cat. Like the whole thing. It's okay, so this is gonna help. Yes. All right. So the last invisible difference that we want to highlight is about linguistic patterns, or how we present ourselves differently as men and women. Yes. So which I found absolutely fascinating when I first heard it, and it's really changed the way that I interact with my male colleagues and even my husband. So tell us what that's all about.

Marsha Clark  24:21  
Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. So we've all experienced men and women have very different linguistic patterns or ways of communicating. We've all been there done that. So men often use verbal bantering that can sometimes sound a bit harsh for women. So they can call each other names, they've got nicknames for one another, they tease one another, they play crude jokes on one another, even their own self deprecating kind of language about themselves. And they can go to these extremes that seem almost offensive to women. And then if they start to treat us like one of the boys we can often misinterpret their communication approach and get our feelings hurt, but why did they say that about me for? You know? And we, and we don't always know how to respond. It kind of, we shut down if you will.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:07  
Yeah. So here's the part, "Don't take it personally." That's where that part of the title comes in.

Marsha Clark  25:14  
Yes, yes, yes. And can I just tell one quick story? Yes. It's not in our script anywhere. But I remember sitting at a table in the cafeteria of the Forest Lane facility of EDS. This was way, way back when. And we had this you know, crusty old Marine guy who was in charge of facilities, dear, dear, dear sweet man. So he comes over and I'm sitting with one of my, she was one of my direct reports at the time, who is a very, I will describe her as a girly girl. So he comes over and he's telling us some story. And he uses, I don't know, a curse word. Nothing, nothing major, nothing major. And he looks at her. He goes, Oh, excuse me. Didn't look at me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  25:59  
Looks at ribbons and curls.

Marsha Clark  26:00  
I'm a little more masculine, you know, all that kind of stuff. And I'm like, it was just, it was a flashpoint moment like, 'Well, who am I, chopped liver?' All right. What about me? Aren't you offended that you said that word with me at the table? And it was just another one of those things.

I would have considered that a compliment!

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:18  
Well, and that's even what Dr. Heim describes, that means you're one of the guys and that's not a bad thing. So anyway, so let's be clear, I'm not advocating that women should be subjected to abusive language. So I don't want to imply that at all. And in some cases that line between the inappropriate locker room talk and good natured zingers or teasing can be quite fine and you know, sometimes difficult to manage. And yet if we can recognize the verbal banter for what it is and not take it as personally, I mean, he didn't mean anything, right?

Right. Yeah, right.

Marsha Clark  26:53  
And we can see beyond the weirdness of it all, or the strangeness of it all, or what about me of it all. It's just a different way of interacting and bonding.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:02  
Right. And doesn't Dr. Heim given an example of this in her videos?

Marsha Clark  27:07  
Yes, she does. It's one of my favorite things. She says it's basically that little boys, we'll  you know, go back to little boys, zinging each other with things like 'you look like a frog'. 'Well, you look like a frog's butt!'  Well, she didn't say that. But this is sort of, any of us who have boys know this stuff. Well, you eat frogs...yeah, and starts to escalate. Yeah. And then they break out in laughter and they throw their arms around each other's necks and run off and play, you know, kind of thing. And she then says, imagine two little girls in this same scenario. 'You look like a frog.'

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:38  
Oh, somebody's crying.

Marsha Clark  27:39  
Exactly. That's not going to end the same way. They're not gonna go skipping off hand in hand down the sidewalk. They're gonna be like, Oh, mommy, she called me a frog! Yeah, all of that. Yep. So what we see is that women's linguistic patterns can sometimes create breakdowns in understanding and can just detract from our potential power much as we see how a man's can impact us, how do ours impact them. And so here are some of the biggest patterns working both sides of the the aisle so to speak, that create the biggest issues for us. So the first one is what we call "disclaimers" And we've all heard these, we've all used these, I'm gonna bet for many of our listeners. These are the phrases that we use before speaking, or even writing if we're writing emails, or whatever, our main message and these disclaimers are things like this might be a stupid question, or maybe this isn't relevant, or I'm not sure if I should bring this up. And the list just goes on and on.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  28:39  
Yeah, I, you know, I'm gonna have to admit that because of you, Marsha, whenever one of these falls out of my mouth, I immediately go back and retract it. I will just as a reaction to something say, "Okay, this might not be an appropriate question". No, this is an appropriate question and here's my question. Like, I have started doing that just to train myself and it's funny the women at the at the table like laugh and go, Wow, okay, I need to start doing that. And men at the table, just kind of go, Okay, why did you say it was stupid in the first place? All we want to hear is your question.

Marsha Clark  29:16  
Right! Right. And so they do, they distract from our intended meaning, whatever we want to contribute, our points of view or ideas, whatever it might be. And the way it often gets heard is a lack of confidence in what we're about to say. So whenever you find yourself, your examples are beautiful and thinking are about to write that disclaimer, avoid it, and get to your point, ask your question, make your point. Make your recommendation.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  29:42  
Yeah, it's a super easy fix. And I've found myself also, especially over the last year and I know it's difficult when people are mainly online, email has no, you know, visual, emotional point of reference. But even so, I have found myself getting very, like taking all of the clutter words, I just call it clutter, out of my emails just to straight out ask the question or make the statement because this is a super easy fix. Yeah. So what else, Marsha.

Marsha Clark  30:15  
Alright, so disclaimers are first. "Hedges" are the second. And these are words that send a signal of, you know, wishy-washy. They're words like "probably", "sort of", "maybe". And you know, I've even noticed newswomen using hedges when they're interviewing someone when it's a live interview kind of thing, which is in contrast to that, I call it the teleprompter news that they read, you know. If I'm just reading, they've taken all the hedges out. But when I'm in conversation, those hedges, you know, enter right back in. So again, first place you can make some of your changes is in the writing because that's where you can look at it, reread it, you know, and rewrite it and work to eliminate some of that wishy-washy language.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:01  
Yep, I do it almost every day.

Marsha Clark  31:04  
Well, and it's natural for us women who are so conditioned to try and level out or even out that power, if you'll remember that from Dr. Heim's work, the flat structure. And we're all in this together. Because we don't want to have any given interaction that, you know, uses those phrases that puts us in a one up versus one down versus all in it together. So we have we learned over the years to soften our approach, and to make it really more amenable and more collaborative in nature. And again, in mixed gender groups, this softening can come across as weak or unsure.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:40  
Yep, absolutely makes sense. So the first step is watching for that in our writing, and then working on it as we're speaking to others and presenting our ideas.

Marsha Clark  31:50  
Yes, and I want to say something here. You know, we've talked about the overlay of generations. And so I want to say something here that I've noticed. I've noticed that young men have more hedges in their linguistic patterns now than the older men that I interact with, from the maybe, and I'm gonna say it's more millennial or Gen Y than even Gen X, that are in this more hedging kind of language. My wonder is, if more women in positions of authority that they are seeing in their lives, and so they're picking up on those linguistic patterns. 30% of households are led by a single parent and it's typically a female, so they're more exposed to. And so it's something that I'm just watching and paying attention to. I haven't seen any research or statistics on it. So it's anecdotal at best, but it's just something that I've noticed, and I want to offer that to our readers accordingly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  32:55  
Yeah, that's really interesting.

Marsha Clark  32:57  
Yeah. So then, here's the last one, or another one, the third one that I want to talk about, which is called "tag questions". And these are questions that we ask after making a point, you know, offering a suggestion, presenting an idea or recommendation or whatever. And here's my favorite, does that make sense? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Does that make sense? And, you know, another one is, wouldn't you agree? And what the way that men often hear these tag questions is as a need that we need their affirmation. Yes, it makes sense. Yes, I do agree. It's like it, again, conveys a lack of confidence in whatever it is that I'm trying to communicate.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  33:42  
Yeah, I had a conversation with a woman once. It was a blind coffee, wasn't a blind date, it was a blind coffee meeting. You know, one woman said, Oh, my gosh, you need to meet so and so. And so we had a meeting, and I was clear on why I was there. I don't think she was clear on why we were both there. But all I remember is that the entire conversation was her ending everything that she said with you know, you know, yeah, you know, and I'm like, yes, yes. I sound like an idiot for saying yes, yes, yes to everything in the way that she said and at the end it forced me to say yes, instead of on to the next line, whatever the whatever the volley back and forth would have been in the conversation to make it feel natural. And it was that, clearly that wanting my approval in what she was saying, and yeah, so women, please stop that.

Marsha Clark  34:47  
Well, especially if you're talking to a man or a woman who is comfortable in that masculine indication. And this, you know, you know, is another way of right? right?

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:58  
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Marsha Clark  35:02  
So here's what I want to offer, you know, like, even in the Does that make sense? What I'm trying to do is, is what I have offered, do you understand it? Do you have any questions? So if I'm talking with another woman, does that make sense? That's fine, because we get it, right, most of the time. And but then,

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  35:20  
Or if you've just explained like rocket fuel clarity. I mean, asking, checking in with somebody that they actually understood what you said when the conversation is complicated.

Marsha Clark  35:33  
Or an ambiguous topic or it's a totally foreign or alien type of thing. But what I like to do in contrast to "Does that make sense" is "What questions do you have?" And here's an important piece. "Does that make sense?" implies that I haven't made sense and therefore, I'm a poor communicator. When I say "What questions do you have?", that makes the communication more two way and more mutually responsible for making sure that if you have questions, then make sure you ask them. I'm going to assume you got it unless you ask the question and tell me otherwise. It's important. This is the invisible part of it, right, the invisible differences, that when I can get stronger. And here's what I have the women who are in my programs come back and tell me or even the male sponsors that are working with them or bosses, they'll say, something's different about Wendi, I can't quite put my finger on it. But it's where I've begun to let go of some of these linguistic patterns that lend doubt to my competence, to the clarity, it takes me away from the wishy-washy, and it shows up, I can't quite put my finger on it but something's different.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:48  
Right. Right. I want to just offer one other thing before you move on to the next thing which I'm not, I'm gonna tease, I'm sorry. Before we move on to that is getting comfortable with silence. I think a lot of this, you know, the tag questions, the, you know, the diminutive, you know, this may be a stupid question and blah, blah, blah. I mean, it's almost like filler language in order to not have to sit in the silence while you gather your thoughts to respond.

Marsha Clark  37:24  
Well, and I will tell you, for the extroverts out there, that's extraordinarily hard, speaking as an extrovert, yes! So I, and especially as a facilitator in the front of the room, or leading a meeting, or making a presentation, or any of that, to fill that silence, to even just ask the question "What questions do you have?" and give time for people to formulate their questions versus fill in the blank, or fill in the void, or fill in the silence. No, I think you're on, I think that's a great point to make.

So the last linguistic pattern, you teased it up, that we're going to highlight today is one of my hot buttons, I have to admit, it's the phrase "I'm sorry". Now, we can all think about this. Have you written an email, this is one that I always get everybody on, but have you written an email in the last 30 days that started with "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you." Oh, almost everybody in every class I teach raises their hand, classes of women. And then I say, now think again, how many emails have you received from a male that start out that way? And everybody kind of goes, I can't remember ever receiving one of those much less the last 30 days. So now don't get me wrong. Two things. Do men sometimes say it? Of course sometimes they do. And I also want to say to you, if you've done something wrong, then be sure to apologize for it. And be specific about what you're sorry for. My son and daughter-in-law do such a good job of this when they're teaching their children to make apologies. You know, George, I'm sorry I threw your toy out the window. It would be just George, I'm sorry. What are you sorry for?  I'm sorry I threw your toy out the window.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  39:01  
Right! That's important.

Marsha Clark  39:03  
And it's a way to really embed that early on in the linguistic patterns of both Jackson, Georgia and Margo. It is such a great teaching point, in my opinion. So shout out for Brent and Claire. And yes I do know we're sorry when something bad happens to someone else because that's usually when it's coming out, Oh, I'm so sorry, when somebody tells a sad story. And at the same time I've heard women apologize, and again one of my favorite examples, just for stepping into the elevator. You know, you're in an elevator, there's four or five people, a woman steps onto the elevator and goes I'm sorry. And you know, I just want to say, for what, taking up space? This elevator is made to transport you from one floor to another. What are you sorry about? And so I just want us to get, and it's not just about politeness or courtesy or good manners. You can step on and not say anything and I won't think of you as a horrible person. You know, take up the space that's here for you to take. And then I also want to say, because you know my grandchildren are my lab, right, I've noticed that they say the "I'm sorry" stuff really early in life, four and five years old. And start, I'll say it again, start with your written communications. And one of the things that I will offer in the alternative language of 'I'm sorry, it's taken me so long', if it has taken you a long time and you really are trying to make right, I will say use the language 'Thanks for your patience'. So thanks for your patience in the time it's taken me to get back to you, or thanks for your patience in awaiting my response or whatever it might be, and then move right to the message, right. But the 'thanks for your patience' lands differently than 'I'm sorry'.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:05  
Yes. It's so funny that we're having this because literally this week, and I can't remember how I saw it, but I stumbled upon an article, listeners, you can Google it, literally google how to replace I'm Sorry with Thank You For. And it's all the ways that you're saying I'm sorry this is late, and instead, it's thank you for your patience. And there's like a list and I saved it to my files and just said, okay, so this is the new language. It's a tool. It is a tool. So you know, I think that that one is the most common, the 'I'm sorry', you know, especially when I'm in the aisle at the grocery store looking at which pasta I'm going to pick out and the dude like literally bumps into me! Like I'm standing there and I'm clearly an obstacle and then someone bumps into me, but what falls out of my mouth? I'm sorry.

Marsha Clark  42:05  
I know. I know. It's it's an automatic default.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  42:10  
Yeah. Words. Okay, so we've covered a lot of territory today. So who knew that those weirdos in the same room, those people who approach new situations and think and speak so differently could be so easily understood with just a few tips and insights?

Marsha Clark  42:28  
Well, you know, I don't mean to trivialize the difference, because there can be significant breakdowns. And when people don't take the time to truly understand one another and try to see things from these different perspectives, I mean, the weirdo thing can happen. But I think we often forget that in our world of differences, whether it be cultural, ethnic, generational, racial, education, all of these, that, you know, we experience the world through different lenses, and that gender differences can impact the worldview and how we show up. And when we minimize or even refuse to acknowledge that gender does make a difference, that's when we get in trouble. And I go back to by sharing these things today, when we know better, we do better.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  43:09  
Right, right. And I think that's why I like the reflection question that you ask in this chapter in your book. And I think it's going to be a great way for us to wrap up today with that question.

Marsha Clark  43:21  
Yeah. So good idea. And so the question is, which of these invisible differences ring true for you today? So today, we explored three of them. There'll be more in some of our subsequent podcasts. The first one is approaching new situations, does that ring true for you? Goal-oriented versus process-oriented, does that ring true for you? Or the linguistic patterns, the ones that we covered about disclaimers, hedges, tag questions, and I'm sorry, does that ring true for you? So how do these behaviors or differences work for you and how might they work against you? And think about these in both your personal and your professional world. So don't just limit it in you know, one aspect. And then ask yourself what changes might you make when you're working across gender lines to deliver your intended message or express your confidence in your abilities. How do you want to show up? How do you want that to sound? And you know, then plan accordingly.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:23  
Right. Ah! This was such a good episode today. I think this will be one of those episodes that people want to like stop and repeat. And okay, first listen to this on your walk and then go home and listen to this again, with the book in front of you and a notepad to address, because these brought up, as we were going through this whole list, that brought up so many things for me.

Marsha Clark  44:45  
Yeah, I think these are, I mean, these happen often, right? So it's a lot to consider and to start paying attention to and that's part of, as I said earlier, why we only focus on three at once. And there are others that we're going to cover. But you know, bottom line is you're noticing these invisible differences across genders. So how can we ultimately be our most authentic, effective selves, as women and as leaders holding on to our power in a way that creates and strengthens those relationships. And I think about it as how it is my responsibility to communicate my intended message. You cannot read my mind, you cannot interpret it if you don't know my language, and so on and so forth. And that's really what this is all about. So, thank you again, Wendi, for walking us through  this really important topic.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  45:34  
Well listeners, you got a real treat today. And thank you for joining us on this journey of authentic powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share this podcast wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at for all the links and the tools and the resources. Subscribe to her email list so you can stay up to date with Marsha and definitely if you haven't gotten her book, it's time. We're on Episode 36 now. It's time to join the wagon and get her book "Embracing Your Power" on the site, and as well as you can check it out on Amazon, you can get it as an audiobook as well. And yeah.

Marsha Clark  46:17  
Well, thanks, Wendi. And I will tell you just this week a woman had done in the book her imposter phenomenon test. And she sent me a note and said, "Can we talk about this?" Because she had said, you know, I've read about this but I've never taken the test,  she's an 87 on a 20 to 100 score. So she's got some stuff she wants to work with. And so I just offered that that's the power of this. You can take a picture of the whatever, the reflection questions or your answers to them, or whatever exercise that we might do. We want to hear from our listeners in many, many ways, because it helps us to, you know, even build in continuous improvement into this and know what topics that our listeners might want to hear more from. So do get in touch with us and we appreciate you being here week after week. And if you're new, please join us again next week. And as always, here's to women supporting women!

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