“Listening like a man”: The Telltale Sign of An Insecure Businesswoman

Ladies in business: you’re showing your vulnerability when you “listen like a man.” You know Diana St. Tropez is a trope, right?

Tina Fey has come full circle from the days of Liz Lemon – rather than being the mentee, she now plays the role of CEO and author and all-around-tough Diana St. Tropez on NBC’s ‘Great News’ and is being touted as the new Jack Donaghy.

Diana’s no-b.s. approach to getting the job done includes strategies like: sleeping 2 hours a night, using westbound international flights to create a 175-hour work week, and listening like a man.

That’s right, the fictitious CEO listens like a man, “which is a real thing,” Fey, an Emmy winner and the show’s executive producer said. She continued, “Women, when they listen, are much more likely to nod and say ‘mm-hmm’ and give supportive cues like that, and men don’t do that.”

Here’s the thing: Women in real life are taking a page from St. Tropez’s nonexistent book, and adopting the same strategy.

To their detriment.

Why is this detrimental, this “listening like a man”?

Consider this one question: Would you want an employee who is engaged in the conversation, or one who’s more concerned with seeming tough/serious?

I’ve had conversations with female executives that would have gone better if I was talking to an automated service line. They were stiff, too worried about playing defense to actually be “about” anything.

And that’s where the facade backfires. Rather than coming across as focused and unswayable, the silent treatment makes women seem defensive, as if they’re scared you’ll get one over on them. That doesn’t bode well for projecting strength and control.

Defensiveness betrays insecurity.

Besides, why fight nature? Why not capitalize on it, and use the natural urge to provide constant feedback as a way to drive conversations?

If you’re truly in control, you won’t have to worry too much about reacting properly. You’ll be acting on-message. If you go into conversations, calls, or meetings with clear objectives — “I’m going to learn about this service,” “I’m listening for weakness” — you’ll be able to respond properly, propel the conversation (even if it’s to wrap things up because you’re not interested), and project the effortlessness of a person who is actually in charge.

“Listening like a man” is not the same as “not listening” and you’ll note that it also doesn’t mean “don’t respond” — the spirit of the notion is more about having a heightened sense of self- and situational-awareness that allows you to know when your response is necessary and when it’s merely to validate the talker. (Hint: it’s not when someone asks, “How are y’all today?” which happened to the author of this post).