Over the years I have been working as a communication coach, I have had more male clients than female. I have also noticed that amongst these men, there is a type who come often for public speaking coaching or training, but the communication issues they have are much wider.
These men are highly intelligent and often work as engineers or consultants. They get hired for their high analytical skills or their tech and data knowledge. However, for all the talent they have with analytical skills, they are often lacking in the social and communication skills department. I coached one such man, we will call him Leander, as he needed to prepare for a competency type of job interview.
Now, I like to put my clients just a little bit 'on the spot', so that I can understand them better. Luckily, most men like to be challenged in such a way. I grew up with three brothers, and I love how easy it is to speak to men directly. We analyse things together and try to find a solution to their communication problems.
With Leander we role-played types of questions he would get asked at this specific interview. But it was difficult to progress through the questions. He liked the challenge but seemed to be seriously annoyed if I wanted to know the details of a work situation he described. If I probed into why he thought or did something in a project, he would become defensive. Throughout the role play interview, his body language showed a complete lack of rapport with his interlocutor. In addition, he was restless: he wanted the whole thing to be over and done with! He was only interested to discuss theory, and how things should be in the working world, but not how things are and his role in causing situations that occurred at work.
Although Leander struck me as insensitive and inflexible, I really liked him. I felt that there was more to him than was meeting the eye. I felt empathy towards men like him. Although employers try to avoid any prejudice in terms of culture, skin color and gender, they do have a of bias in terms of personality traits and brain disposition, and this is a difficult one to get rid of. This is where social and communication skills training and coaching becomes useful.
When you meet someone like Leander, it is easy on focus on their lack of tact and thus miss the qualities that these analytical thinkers have. Men like Leander work extremely well when left to their own devices. Yes, they need to learn to communicate better and to work in teams, but they should not completely change their personality to suit an ideal “competent candidate”. They need to simply brush up their communication skills and be aware of what others are thinking about them, so they can react and adjust accordingly.
In some cases, these men who have a hard time with social skills suffer from severe social blindness, which is not apparent but which has made them the subject for ridicule when they were younger. We do not want them to change. Their role is to become aware of what and how we all communicate to work together. Their colleagues need to be patient and have empathy as social and communication skills do not come naturally to everyone. They can be learned but some people have a hard time learning them, as they are 'wired' in a different way.
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