Communication Styles: Rapport versus Report

It’s truly amazing how socialized the communication styles of men and women are in Western culture.  From childhood, girls are praised for working together, talking about their feelings and listening.  Boys are encouraged to be direct, speak their opinion and be independent.  In adult life this translates to different approaches to communication in business.  Men report, and women develop rapport.

Communication style differences are cross-cultural too, according to Joan C. Howden, which can be a detriment when Western and Japanese male executives interact.  In Japan, according to Howden, “One of the most valued traits of an executive is his ability to develop rapport with employees and customers.”  Japanese executives focus on collective investment and responsibility in their roles as leaders.  This contradicts the Western male drive for autonomy and top dog status, leading to uncertainty on how to work with Japanese executives who “appear feminine.”

Western women and Japanese men are much more alike in their approach to business, where “relationships are more important than rules.”  Female entrepreneurs are far more flexible than their male counterparts, and can comfortably adapt to the ever-changing challenges in their businesses.  Needless to say, the similarities between Western women and Japanese business culture is fascinating.  Behaviors traditionally defined as “feminine” in Western society are highly valued in the executive male workforce in Japan.  There the collectivistic approach is superior to the individualistic.

So if traditionally feminine communicative styles can be so successful and highly valued in Japanese business relationships, why are Western businesswomen still marginalized for employing a similar approach?

© 2010 Reece International LLC/Dr. Shannon Reece. All rights reserved.


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