How to Be Gender Bilingual

Issue 82 — January 27, 2019

The man in airline club sat down across table from me and spread out his computer and various other electronics all across the width of the three chairs on that side of the table. I was working away on my computer using only the space intended by the chair where I was sitting.

He did not say “hello” or ask me if I was interested in talking with him. Instead, he opined, “You are working too hard.”

He continued talking at me, even though I had not acknowledged him, “With email the answer is always either ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I randomly answer all my emails one or the other,” he continued. “50–50. Finish in no time.”

I must have raised my eyebrows or inadvertently smiled at this ridiculous statement. So he went on as though I had asked him for further explanation: “I allocate 13 minutes for every conversation. That leaves two minutes to go to the bathroom.” (I was thinking this guy must have a really bad prostate.)

“Thirteen is my favorite number,” I replied, biting my tongue because I knew I had made the mistake of giving the man a signal that I was open to communication. My mother had taught me to answer politely whenever people talked to me, after all. But I kept working, never looking up.

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He didn’t stop the mansplaining. No, he was on a roll now.

“And when I go talk to a CEO, I ask for seven minutes of time. If I can’t get someone interested in seven minutes, there’s something wrong.”

Now I am getting annoyed. Intending to call him out politely but pointedly, I said: “So funny to hear that from you today. I’m on my way to lead a course for women in the C-suite. I’ll teach about gender bilingual communication as part of it. We discuss how when women talk in paragraphs, men tune out.”

“Paragraphs are ok.” He said with absolute certainty. But only three sentences per paragraphs. Nine words per sentence. I count them.”

Then he started rapid fire namedropping women he knew or had heard of, probably assuming that if I did training for high level women I’d know them. Since there are so few of us and all. “You must know so and so who is in the Committee of 200. Blah. Blah.”

For some reason I was relieved that I did know a couple of the people he mentioned. Still seeking male approval, I suppose. I was silent, busy working, never making eye contact with him. But he went on.

Next, he mentioned several male CEO’s who he said had taught him all about gendered marketing. “Oh right,” I thought.

I never know when a random meeting might represent a business opportunity. So I handed him my card and asked who I was talking to. “Bill,” he said. No last name, no offer of card in return.

He looked at my card. “Gloria Feldt,” he said. Do I know you?”

“Probably,” I said as I turned and headed out for the plane.

I’m sure that conversation took no more than 13 minutes.

How many gendered communication examples do you see in this story?

If communicating across genders and cultures is of interest to you, if you are a woman who has felt that your voice wasn’t heard in a meeting, or if you are a man who is trying to understand how to make your workplace and meetings more welcoming to your female colleagues, I do hope you’ll join me for this free #CareerMastery Kickstarter summit provided by @MayBusch, one of my favorite #leadership experts.

You’ll learn:

  • How you may be giving away your power by the way you speak, and what to do instead
  • The best way for women to state an opinion and be respected (and it’s not what you think!)
  • How to create an environment that encourages all people to speak up

The Summit features many of my best speaker- friends like Carla Harris, Lisa Gates, Whitney Johnson, and Laura Vanderkam. My interview is on Monday, January 28 when I’ll talk about “How to Communicate More Effectively Across Genders and Cultures.” I promise this summit will help you achieve greater success in your career! My interview will be available free for 48 hours so if you miss it on January 28, you’ll be able to see it for 48 hours after that. Or you can purchase a VIP pass and get unlimited access to dozens of outstanding speakers, coaches, and leadership experts. Plus, there’s a really cool goody bag for everyone who signs up and it includes a valuable coupon from Take The Lead.

It’s a great way to get fresh energy and elevate your intentions for the year ahead.

Wishing you excellent career mastery!

But spoiler alert: the content is so valuable that you’ll likely want to spend more than 13 minutes on it.

And that’s a definite “Yes.”

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at and Tweet Gloria Feldt