It may surprise you – as it did me –that there are still times when men have difficulty finding common ground with their female colleagues. There’s always work to talk about, right? But many men feel they can’t connect with women like they can with other guys, by inviting them for an after-work beer or talking about last night’s football game.
Often they’re afraid of their approach being misconstrued or that other colleagues might look askance on them for mentoring emerging female leaders. As a result, some professional relationships suffer and the team doesn’t work quite as efficiently as it could. Men and women both miss out on opportunities to build advantageous new connections in their industries.
If that sounds familiar, here are ten tips to help men connect with female colleagues:
- Be authentic in every interaction. Nothing creates “awkward” like a coworker who thinks you’re trying to be something you’re not.
- Listen. Ask more questions in conversations, and comment to show you’re engaged and interested.
- Identify topics to talk about – like world news, culture and industry trends – rather than relying on typical small talk about work and sports.
- Family is always a safe area. Parents love to talk about their kids and this can provide you with common ground to bond over.
- Don’t view attractive female colleagues as something to be avoided. Think of them as sisters or girls you grew up with and treat them like anyone else.
- Don’t worry about how you’re being perceived by others. Focus on learning from your coworkers and collaborating to create the best possible results.
- Come up with networking goals before conferences and events. For instance, decide you’re going to meet three new professionals in your industry and learn three specific facts about their background and current position.
- Praise coworkers on their professional abilities or share a technique that’s brought you success. Remember tip 2 – listen more than talk.
- Don’t stick to your clique at work. Attend some of the social team-building events to meet new coworkers at all levels and build genuine connections.
- Don’t assume your new female contact is less accomplished or educated, or needs your assistance. What you might view as “help” might be perceived as condescension. Get to know her background and treat her as a peer, not a subordinate.
Remember, most of your coworkers want to minimize awkward moments, too. Authentic and positive work relationships benefit everyone – and if you reach out to women in your workplace and industry in a respectful way, that’s exactly what you’ll build.