How a woman expresses her thoughts, presents herself, and communicates with others are the main components of the feminine voice.
When I think of the feminine voice I think of Taoism. Taoism is an eastern philosophy that places great value on the feminine. Throughout Taoism you can find references to water. Water has long been associated with femininity. One of my favorite passages from the Tao Te Ching illustrates the subtle power of water. This same subtle power I believe can be found in the feminine voice.
“Nothing under heaven is softer or more yielding than water; but when it attacks things hard and resistant there is not one of them that can prevail. For they can find no way of altering it.”
Anthropologists have identified key characteristics of feminine communication. As always, not all women follow this pattern and there are men who have many of the following traits, but in general, women have a distinct way of communicating compared to men. Women’s communication pattern is much more interaction based than men. Therefore, women
- Show a greater tendency to ask questions.
- Provide positive minimal responses such as “mm hmmm” more often.
- Use pronouns “you and we” more frequently.
- Employ “silent protest” when interrupted.
By contrast, men are more willing to
- Challenge the statements of others.
- Offer minimal or no responses.
- Control the topic of conversation.
- Interrupt the speech of others.
I believe that both female and male voices are important. I want to focus on the value of the feminine voice since I feel that it is often overlooked and undervalued, especially in business and technology.
The value in asking questions dates back to ancient Greek philosophy, the Socratic method. The first three feminine characteristics place value on the opinions of the other speaker and encourage the other speaker to express or clarify her opinions. These characteristics can lead to greater dialogue within a team and improve the problem solving abilities of a team.
There are times when I sit in a meeting with 10 other male software engineers and I have a question. It can be extremely difficult to ask that question. I don’t want to appear ignorant. It has been my experience that 9 times out of 10 (I don’t want to claim perfection) my point or question leads to a good conversation. Don’t be afraid to express your opinions or ask your question (and don’t be upset when you get interrupted!).
I can have trouble interrupting and expressing myself when in a male dominated meeting. When I find my voice, it sounds more like the men in the room, argumentative instead of questioning. I want to have the presence express my authentic voice, stating my opinions such that a conversation can begin.
Much like water, the feminine voice yields to others. However, when authentically expressed demonstrates great power in its ability focus a conversation and pursue conclusions.