COM0015 — Assignment No. 5


Credit: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

When I went looking for a networking event, the topic to be presented during a BPW Ottawa event caught my attention: Empowering Yourself in the Workplace with Words. Who wouldn’t want to do that?

Further, the fact that it was a gathering of business and professional women (hence BPW) made walking into the venue and taking a place at the table feel less daunting than walking into a mixed gathering did. When I arrived at Clocktower Brew Pub on Bank Street at the appointed time, I was welcomed by a woman who turned out to be the chapter’s secretary. She had brought along her three-month-old baby. Definitely not a daunting crowd.

So I was right on that count, and yes, I was right on the other one, too. I would want to do that!

After a social time, during which I met all of the other 11 women at the table and heard something of the history of the organization, which was founded in the 1930s and has chapters around the world, the evening’s presentation began.

Our presenter Sheri, a club member who works as a product manager at a well-known area firm, took us through some of the ways women present themselves verbally in the workplace and the messages they’re sending. Several times during her presentation, she asked us to go deeper into the subject in small groups so I was able to interact more with my group-mates, M.J., a company president who has just finished an MBA, and Sandra, who works for the Red Cross.

Sheri started off with a great question. A small question, but a great question: What does it mean when a woman nods her head?

Here’s her answer, eminently quotable: “When women nod their heads, they could be saying, ‘I’m listening,’ ‘I understand what you’re saying, or ‘I agree.’ When men nod, they’re agreeing.”

When women nod their heads – as I do all the time when I’m listening – they are not being clear about their message. And men think they’re agreeing.

This was a revelation to most if not all of us – we duly nodded our heads in agreement. At least I think it was agreement. I’m not sure.

M.J., Sandra, and I spent a few minutes dissecting the nod, sharing our own stories of being misunderstood in the workplace, and brainstorming ways we could still appear supportive of the speaker – especially if it was a women, who might be looking for that nod to know people were listening. One of my suggestions, which Sheri touched on in her talk afterwards, was to show that support by verbally reinforcing the ideas the speaker was presenting when you were in fact in agreement with them.

I took away lots of ideas for how to better communicate in the workplace, including ensuring that body language was clear and not confusing and ways to acknowledge and affirm the role of feelings in our workplace interactions.

Networking with this group was enjoyable and educational, and I’m already looking forward to the next meeting, when the title of the presentation is “Let’s Talk Investing.” Anyone care to join me? January 18, 6 p.m., Clocktower Brew Pub Glebe, 575 Bank St., Ottawa. Click here to register.

What about you? What paved the way for you to walk into you first in-person networking event? Do you have any tips for communicating in the workplace?






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