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Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

One of the key messages across the board at the JUMP forum in Paris was gender communication differences and the impact this has on workplace mis-communication. Not one, but multiple speakers raised this issue, with a particular emphasis on over communication. 

Hmmm.. I thought I need to listen this. Although for a woman I am reasonably direct and brief, I still have the capacity to deliver a monologue on something I feel passionate about.  Some reseach shows that some women can twice as many words as men. We tend to speak in paragraphs, not sentences.

Many of us like to tell the whole story, every last word, down to the finest detail.

But is over communication strictly a gender issue? I don’t think so. I know any number of men who could talk for their countries.  Women often make comments about the monosyllabic “report” style communication patterns of the men in their lives, thinking that the rapport we create via our own delivery is much better. But Lynette Allen, Co-Founder Her Invitation suggests that over sharing (over communication) can indeed be a female characteristic which we use to our detriment seeing it as an  “unconsciously displayed behaviour which actively holds women back. They have to learn to be more succinct in the workplace and not tell the whole story and even more.”  A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  suggested what happened to a senior woman in a meeting ” was like a snowball going down a hill and picking up stuff in its path”  and was a real barrier to being taken seriously.

This message made such an impact on me that recently in recounting a tale I asked in two separate instances if the listeners wanted the “mini- series” version or the “book cover blurb.” One was in a social context with old friends, who clearly wanted the total scoop. The other, was a more professional situation where an overview was requested. I’m going to make asking my new habit.

So why does over communication cause mis-communication, isn’t it important that everyone has all the details?

  1. Your thinking appears cloudy and muddled if you are unable to be succinct and your message becomes blurred in verbiage. If you forget the point of why you’re telling something, you have gone seriously adrift. People stop listening and you fail to get your message across.  You have become a snowball and snowballs melt. Ding!
  2. It seems that you don’t respect other people’s time if you over communicate in any situation, you run the risk of your listener shutting down and retreating, either physically or psychologically. At the far end of the spectrum they will avoid you totally. In all cases your message is not going through. Ding!
  3. It seems that you don’t respect your own time if every time a simple social question of “How are you?” produces a twenty-minute discourse on your health or what is going on for you,  you give the impression of being a poor time manager.  Ding!
  4. It suggests that you are not in touch with your audience as you don’t recognise social cues.  So just as if you were going to France you would try to speak a bit of French, If you are delivering to a male audience then try to speak in a language they will understand. Mench? Ding
  5. It indicates a lack of empathy especially when you fail to pick up disconnected body language signs (loss of eye contact, fidgeting) If you are talking, you are not listening. Ding! Ding!
  6.  If you need to talk to wear someone down with your voice, then they are agreeing under duress. That was not successful communication. It could even be considered a form of passive aggression if you don’t allow your listener the opportunity  to participate. Ding!
  7. It suggests that you think what you have to say is more important than what others have to say and conveys arrogance Ding! Ding!
  8. It confirms that you like the sound of your own voice, email etc. See point 7. Ditto Ding!

Lynette felt that while organisational culture is male dominated this is a necessary work- around to get our voices heard. Isn’t this another one of those fix women things? No apparently not, it can be completely gender neutral. Factor in a general reduction in people’s attention span, then anything prolonged is going to be ineffective for both men and women alike. We have already seen the one minute elevator pitch cut back into the 30 second commercial.

So perhaps the converse  can also apply  Maybe we should start saying  “OK that was the book cover blurb  – now give me the mini-series”

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

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  2. Alan Kay

    As I tend towards speaking in sound-bites I recommend to over-communicators that before speaking they first ask people as many questions as possible about the related topic. This helps them find out what interests their listener and what they already know. I then recommend that they ask even more questions!

    1. DorothyDalton Post author

      Thanks Alan for your comment. I think those are really good points. The “soundbiters can ask questions to pad out a bit their reporting style of communication and the flooders can rein in!

      1. DorothyDalton Post author

        Alan – not sure if you posted a second comment but there was a link that had rather a lot of scantily clad ladies in it! So I haven’t published it. Perhaps you’ve been hacked?

  3. Zoë Dawes

    Very interesting article Dorothy. Communication is such a complex issue both at work and in our personal lives. Over AND under-communicating can both cause problems. When I am coaching I often ask the client how they best like to be communicated with, which usually generates some interesting conversation. Love your suggestion to consider the ‘mini-series’ vs ‘book-cover blurb’ – think I definitely fall into mini (or even major at times!) series so will endeavour to be a tad more focused, especially in business situations.

    1. DorothyDalton Post author

      Thanks Zoe – think for me the lesson was to become more aware that it’s necessary to have the communication flexibility to switch from rapport to report as required. I have been in a number of situations recently where I have felt “flooded” and monitored my reactions very carefully. It was indeed to retreat and avoid. I have also coached especially women who find the 140 character responses of their male colleagues and bosses hard to translate into something more meaningful. There are lessons for all I think!

      Thanks for your comment.

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