By Linda Larsen, CSP, CPAE
Most writers would tell you that the hardest part of writing is actually getting started, and I am no exception. When I have a deadline and absolutely have to write an article, it’s astonishing to me how many chores I can think of that absolutely, positively HAVE to be done right then. And since my office is in my home, I am constantly surrounded by projects that scream to be done immediately! Like dusting the tops of the ceiling fans, or wallpapering the bathroom, or painting my dog’s toenails. You think I’m kidding. I wish I was…
But the other day, I broke through all the distractions, closed my office door, hunkered down and started writing an article that was due in two days. And it was going great. I was on a roll. The ideas were flowing and the words were tumbling out and I was rocking the Casbah. And then it happened.
Suddenly the door to my office flew open and my husband popped his head in and abruptly said, “I need your help.” He then slammed the door and left.
Wait. What? Excuse me! I’m working here! I wouldn’t just bust into HIS workplace and yell, “I need your help” and walk away! Grrrrr. I actually debated going in to see what he wanted, but, well, it did seem important.
Begrudgingly I got up and followed him to where he was working on the other side of the house. And yes, I could see that he needed me to hold a door frame in place while he secured it to the wall, so I did what he asked.
When he was finished, he flatly said, “Okay, thanks.”
I took a deep breath, calmly looked at him and said, “John, when you burst into my office and blurt out, ‘I need your help,’ and then abruptly leave, it’s extremely disruptive and feels inconsiderate to me. It’s almost as if you don’t respect the fact that I’m working. In the future, I need you to gently walk in the room and ask for what you need in a specific way. I need you to say, ‘Linda, I know you’re busy, but if it’s not too much trouble could you come now and help me with something? It’s important.’ If you do that, I’ll happily come help.”
He hesitated. He didn’t look happy, but he said okay. I went back to my office and while it took me a while to get back in the groove, believe it or not, it happened again.
About 15 minutes later he slammed into my office again and curtly said, “Okay. I can do that. I can ask you like that. But when YOU need MY help, there’s a particular way I want YOU to ask ME! I want you to walk into my office and immediately say, ‘I need your help.’ Period. If you start saying things like, ‘Honey, I know you’re busy, but when you get the chance, if it’s not too much trouble, I would really appreciate it and be forever in your debt if…’ it will make my head explode!”
I laughed out loud. And – I got it. It wasn’t that either of us was right or wrong in our communication style, it was that we didn’t consider what the other person would want or need in order to get heard. Men and women simply communicate differently. And we would be well-served to find out what the preferred communication style is of the other person and adjust how we present our needs.
The moral of the story is this: When on Mars, speak like a Martian, and when on Venus, speak like a Venetian.
Linda Larsen, CPAE Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker® is passionately committed to helping women communicate effectively, think creatively, and bring the best versions of themselves to life every day. She has spoken at over 1,000 events worldwide for groups like eBay Europe Women’s Leadership, Kuwait Women’s Leadership Summit and FedEx Women’s Symposium. She will be the keynote speaker at our Women in Industry Conference. You can find out more about her at www.lindalarsen.com