Not long ago, a speechwriter friend of mine sent a video to her CEO client, a woman, and the CEO told her the video was sexist. The speechwriter sent the video to me and asked me what I thought.
The video was a male communication coach, telling the story of a woman doctor who he had taught not to cock her head sympathetically when speaking with colleagues. Don’t act like a nurse, he told her, hold yourself like a doctor. It had changed the way she was perceived at work, he said.
Why did the client react so negatively to the video? I’d say it wasn’t the insight itself, but the supremely assured and completely unapologetic way the man delivered the insight. I’ve heard many other male communication coaches talk in calm, rational, objective tones about how women speakers have a narrower range of acceptable public speaking behavior and vocal styles than men.
And I’ve been amazed at the balls on these guys.
At the very least, if a male speaking coach is going to make observations like that, they should at least express that it’s unfair, regrettable and intolerable that women are required to communicate backward and in heels, as my speechwriter correspondent put it.
Now, is the communication coach correct that the woman doctor is giving up authority by cocking her head sympathetically in meetings with colleagues that she’s competing and cooperating with, versus treating? My hunch is that probably he is. My hunch is also that he’s overemphasizing the effect of his simple tip on the woman’s standing in a complex organization.
In any case, I told the speechwriter, “Wouldn’t the advice have gone down easier if you had delivered it to your client as a lesson you’ve had to (reluctantly) learn in your own career?”
And should a male communication coach be surprised, especially at this precise moment in American history, that women don’t take kindly to men coolly and blithely laying out the different and more restrictive social rules that apply to women?
No more than he should be surprised to receive a crisp little bitch slap to spark a sudden understanding of how it might feel not to have his voice be the John Facenda of the human race.