Usable Insight – Calling All Women Executives: Part 3 – Turn off your B.S. Detectors

There are few things that cause a wife to lose admiration and respect for her husband than when she observes him trying to b.s. other people with things that she knows are not true.

And there are few things that cause a wife to lose trust and confidence in her husband than when someone is obviously and successfully him and he totally drinks the Kool-Aid.

This may explain why many husbands are uncomfortable bringing their wives to situations where the b.s. is so freely flowing in both directions and the bravado runneth over.

Cut to the corporate executive or management meeting that is 90 % male, 10 % female.  In that meeting, a psychological process called “projection” is rampant.  In such a case many of the men are projecting on the women that the women are judging the men similar to the way those men feel their wives often judge them.  Believing they are being judged in that manner causes the men to feel nervous, uptight, resentful and because of all these to become brittle.  It is on a shaky foundation of brittleness that men often behave is such a childish and testy way, which then compounds their feeling judged and being even more paranoid.

If you read Calling All Women Executives: Part 1 – How to Win (Male) Friends and Influence Everyone you will get a sense of what lies beneath the behavior between men and women that on the surface so offends each other.

Reading both of those descriptions may go a long way to diminish the reactivity that men and women have towards each other, but what next?

Women might simply say, “If men would just stop others and themselves, everything would get much better.”  In actuality when you find such men, there really is less contention between them and women, because a) the women admire, respect, trust and have confidence in them and b) feeling such positive regard from women the men feel respect, appreciation and admiration towards the women.

Why doesn’t this happen more?  Why are so many men so insecure?  A man’s sense of confidence is directly tied to how competent he feels and how much in control of his life he feels.  One of the realities of our complex and complicated lives is that men feel increasingly less or even completely incompetent in many of the situations they find themselves in and in the abilities that others think they have that they know they don’t.  The less competent and less in control a man feels, the more insecure and paranoid he becomes that he will be exposed as the incompetent and out of control person he feels he is inside.

Why don’t men simply say, “I don’t know that” or ask for help.  Well why is it that men don’t ask for directions? For some reason, probably built into them they feel that expressing either of those is humiliating and is admitting to the world that they are stupid or inadequate.  And there is a fear that admitting those in the open will cause people to ridicule you (again you are projecting on others that they will berate you just as you are doing to yourself at that exact moment).  Ironically, to say those two things without a hint of a whine, complaining or excuse making actually triggers the exact opposite response from people.

Years ago I did a forty person workshop with a $50 million security company that included people from sales and operations.  As I often do in such a workshop, I handed out index cards and had people anonymously write down what would be an amazing outcome from spending three hours with a specialist in human behavior and human communication.  I then began to read the cards aloud.  The answers were what you might expect.

The sales people wanted help with difficult customers that squeezed them on price and help in dealing with operational people who were always slowing down sales by refusing to give them inferior items they had sold that would break down and hurt the reputation of the company.  The operations people wanted to find out a way to deal with the Type A aggressive sales people that always seemed to be condescending, angry and impatient with them.

A heated debate followed where each side kept yelling at the other.

Then I read this card aloud: “Sales think operations are gutless; operations think sales are mindless.  We’re all on the same team, can’t we find a way to work together.”

There was a silence where you could hear a pin drop.

One man from operations raised his hand and said, “I never have problems with sales.”  The room fell silent and then someone asked, “How do you do that?”  And he calmly responded, I simply call them and say, “Hi this is Rob in ______, I need your help with something.  And they always help me.”

The room went quiet again and then one of the more aggressive women in sales piped up, “You know, I hate being part of the negativity all of us get into about operations.  We are all on the same team and I for one am stopping.”

The result was that both sides committed to stopping the name calling and agreed to “ask for help” when they needed something from the other side.  And that has continued to this day.

There is something there for men and women and for that matter all teams to emulate and learn.

As for me.  I now bring my wife to all my business meetings where a negotiation might take place.  She is much better at detecting when someone is me, I am them or I am myself.

My only request to her, “I know that in the past I was very capable of making foolish choices that worked against me and now you’re going to help prevent that.  When you do however, I’m okay with your thinking or telling me I was or was about to be foolish, just please don’t tell me I’m stupid.”

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16 Responses to “Usable Insight – Calling All Women Executives: Part 3 – Turn off your B.S. Detectors”

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  16. K.C. Victor Says:

    Unless I am misreading you, I think we women still want our – let’s call it unnecessary bravado – detectors on, we just also want our anger about many men thinking life is a zero sum game lowered.