Teen Spirit

He Said, She Said

By Laura Tiffany

You say toh-mato, I say ta-mahto. He says he's got a problem with a co-worker and expects you to solve it. She mentions a similar problem, but only wants a sounding board, not a solution.

Ah, the age-old problem of miscommunication between men and women. You might think that once you and your significant other separate for the workday, your gender woes are over. Unfortunately, they're only starting.

"For those primarily working with [the opposite sex,] you can [improve] almost all of your interactions if you learn to speak some of the other gender's language," says Judith C. Tingley, co-author with Lee E. Robert of GenderSell: How to Sell to the Opposite Sex (Simon & Schuster, $24, 800-223-2336) and owner of Performance Improvement Pros Inc., a communication consulting firm in Phoenix. Likening such gender differences to speaking Greek among the Spanish, Tingley provides the following advice for dealing with the opposite sex in your business:

1. He says/She says: "I need more time to think before I purchase your product or service."

Translation: He doesn't need as much time, so offer him a sooner and definite follow-up time so he knows you're eager and interested in the sale.

She really does need more time, especially if it's a high-ticket item. Tell her you'll call in a few weeks so she doesn't feel pressured.

2. He says/She says: "I'm taking my business elsewhere because you lost my last order."

Translation: He will be a tough sell. For him, price and service are more important than the business relationship. Be ready to bargain and compromise to keep his business.

She may change her mind, depending on the length and quality of your business relationship. "The relationship itself has value to her that may supersede the quality of service at least once," says Tingley.

3. He says/She says: "The check's in the mail."

Translation: He may thinking that because you're a woman, you'll be a pushover. Don't be afraid to be aggressive--tell him firmly exactly when you'll be coming by to pick up the check.

She may think you'll give her a break and be easier on her. One word of advice: Don't.

4. He says/She says: "I'm putting you on probation because your work hasn't been up to par lately."

Translation: His ego will be somewhat bruised, but the key with him is to be concise and matter-of-fact--and don't worry if he doesn't like you for it. If you deliver the news properly and drop the subject if the probation period goes well, he will respect you as a boss.

She'll take the news much more personally, so dish it out, as Tingley suggests, with "a few more pats on the back.

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Teen Spirit.

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