GLOBE AND MAIL
organizations like hospitals, how
the female staff say things may be
just as important as what they are
says Roz Usheroff, head of Toronto's
Usheroff Institute, and image is not
just a matter of how we look and dress,
it is a matter of the entire persona
we present to others.
Ms. Usheroff will
be a speaker at the Ontario Hospital
Association's annual convention and
exhibition next week at the Metro
Toronto Convention Centre. As an image
and communications consultant, she
counsels both sexes on how to become
more effective at their jobs or professions
however, the very fact that men have
often held the senior managerial jobs
creates a fundamental problem for
women when it comes to advancing their
own ideas aggressively. "Men
and women simply have a different
way of communicating," she says.
"Women are more detailed and
long-winded; they are relationship
builders. Men are generally more blunt
The fact that
women are natural collaborators tends
to make them seem less confident than
their male counterparts, she continues.
"As a result, women in many hospitals
or other health care situations, which
are male dominated often develop feelings
of futility," she says. "They
say their role is not credible."
It is a matter of changing style not
content, she advises. The first step
is to gain an understanding of how
men communicate with non-verbal signals.
The ability to understand those male-ingrained
characteristics can often mean the
difference between being a successful
communicator and advocate and one
whose views are regularly dismissed.
Take head nods,
as an example. "Women tend to
nod their heads a lot when they are
listening. It looks like they are
agreeing," she says. "In
fact, what they are really saying
is that they are listening. On the
other hand, when men nod their heads
they are just telling the speaker
to get on with it; to get to their
point." The result can be a painful
misunderstanding. Males take the head
nods as agreement. If the woman listener
then objects or argues with the man's
opinions, the result is often verbal
or non-verbal aggression.
less comfortable when challenged,"
she continues. "Their reaction
is usually to talk faster, and that
makes them seem even less confident.
Women simply do not know how to be
aggressive effectively. When they
push for a strongly held belief or
idea they are taken as pushy and,
well I won't say the word, but it
rhymes with witch."
On the most basic
level, women want to be liked while
men want to be respected, she says.
That desire to be liked can stand
in the way of relationship building
with men. "They can't joke as
easily as men do," she says.
"A man can make fun of the way
his male co-workers dress or walk
or eat. If a woman does that to another
woman, the end result is usually hurt
feelings. As a result, they are less
willing to take risks in their communications.
They relate to men in much the same
way they would relate to another woman."
can be spotted around any meeting
table, Ms. Usheroff says. Men tend
to spread out, to establish their
own space while women stay within
a small confined area. Men look people
directly in the eyes more than women
do. "It stems back to that Alpha
dog mentality," she explains.
"Eye contact is a challenge and
a way of controlling lesser-ranked
members of the pack. With men it is
a hangover from our primitive past
but is still used to show confidence
Nor are men as
concerned with their appearance as
women. For a woman, the way she looks
determines her level of comfort and
confidence, says Ms. Usheroff. "What
it boils down to is that women in
male-dominated institutions understand
these differences and then change
the way they present themselves and
Unfair? Most certainly. The challenge
in life, however, is not in ignoring
the boundaries but finding ways to
work effectively within them, she
after all, is not just about the message.
It is about how we are able to convey