Women in communication, a brief primer; By Ngozi Bell

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Someone said to me “actions speak louder than words, what you say and how you say it does not matter, all that matters is what you do”. I listened to the rhetoric of a disappointed heart, where communication had dwindled and become divorced from its power and relevance. I finally replied “communication is critically important, in many situations it precedes actions. If we listen closely and well, we will see that what was eventually demonstrated in action had many times been exposed in communication”. 

Now, imagine particularly, the communication of women, where has it led and where could it lead? What we say matters because we can say it like women and translate it to life. In this brief primer we will look at some tenets of communication and women and the substantive outcomes from communication.

The dictionary defines communication as – the imparting or exchanging of information or news or a means of sending or receiving information, such as phone lines or computer lines “satellite communications”.

Communication can contain both verbal and non-verbal cues, it conveys a message that seeks a place of deposit and outcome. Communication can enable, deter, uphold, release. It can sustain and discard, it can build and destroy. Communication endears and empowers; it creates wedges and unbridgeable chasms. There are methods and pathways, tunnels and lines, ways and means of communication. We all do it, we all need it, we all benefit from it, and we have all lost from it. Communication is vital and comes in varying operating styles. In this piece we will foray into a few benefits of women in communication.

Three Core Competencies of Communication for Women

Communication by women is an anchor for support:

Women have an innate ability to be candid, to relate beyond the superficial. They can get to the “meaningful bottom line” where the real stuff, the real issue resides. Women can do this quickly. The benefit of this type of communication is that the support that a woman brings is therefore not superficial and gets at the heart of the need – if she lends this support, it has a high probability of yielding success with lasting dividends. Likewise, if she withholds support, it can have a grand negative effect.

Communication by women broadens community:

When women engage in communication, it clarifies a purpose that broadens community and grows the demographic of engagement – we all know that for any major impact or movement, whether political, social, academic, or global – most big wins come out of the support of or large demographics. So, when communication is extensive and deep and serious, it translates to large swathes of support that broadens our community and consolidates power that can be harnessed to super charge activities of the present and the future. Examples are women’s suffrages, voting rights, global violence against women movements, 1929 Aba women’s riot, Girls Code movement, Family Medical Leave Act etc. All these where championed communication that translated to support and then to a power-fueled broad community action.

Communication by women enthrones posterity:

When women communicate a shared understanding surfaces to create unity. The energy that unity generates enthrones posterity; posterity that calls in future generations in the calculus of today. Effective unity no matter how rudimentary is like an anchor; it ensures that the beneficiary is steadied, secured so they can thrive. The beneficiary of such unity might thrive because they live to fight another day or because of an outright win or even a loss; because a loss that is shared, dampens its impact and hence does not yield as devastating an outcome! When thriving is the norm for women and girls, then future generations will come to expect that their female counterparts have the power or gravitas to fulfill their portion of any shared responsibility. When this is the expected outcome, the partnerships that are borne out of engagement are then assured of future success. Success is not the absence of failure but the presence of the will and wherewithal to continue to a compelling destiny! You see unity that generates partnership acknowledges that each member brings relevant adequacy to the “engagement table”  

A story in the journey of Communication:

I remember the day I learned my leadership style. I am a restorer, I fix things, organisations, people, businesses, lives, situations, dishwashers, electronics, math, science, art, projects, puzzles and more. 

I used my restoration skill extensively without always identifying it, until I met my team. They were bright, smart, hardworking, and ready to work, and ready to please. Some were cocky, some were kind, some had been applauded for minor accomplishments. There were the superstars, and the thinkers, the actors and the doers. A mixed bag of extremes, many supremely confident and yet others had been abused, by managers, disrespected by leaders and dishonored by comrades. I will focus on three of these– Got, Lot, Rot. Got was an avid engineer, smart from Asia pacific, the region from which “smart” was nearly assumed and deployed as a birthright. Got loved to be regarded as technical and business savvy all at once.  Lot was the best researcher you could ever have; Lot is European and could find you any information you craved. Lot would study, dig, retain and release. Lot was super smart when the stakes were truly high. Rot had come to from California, a superficial star. I had voted against Rot at the interview stage but lost the bid, it really did not matter because at that time Rot was not mine to worry about. Yet now, for not so happy reasons Rot had eventually landed with me. 

My group was a high pressure, high performance group and the expectation was the work had to be done, we had a direct impact to our share price and shareholder value, if you could not cut it you were cut.

What was interesting is Got, Lot and Rot all came to me indirectly not even remotely by my choice, but amongst the rest of the robust and large team, they stood out. They carried some characteristic that was distinguishably relevant to my ability to have effective encounters with each of them. 

In that experience, I realised two things about leadership, which are that people constantly want to succeed and people constantly want success regardless of whose back the brunt of the ambition is laid on. So, problems and challenges will continue to arrive your way, as long as you present a back that will hold the burdens.

The place of leadership affords a right in the flexibility to discard and explain away what or who you the leader did not choose. This single handedly allows leaders commoditise people. Leadership accumulates and consolidates power and power allows you latitude in choice.

 So, since these three fell to me, I had the choice between receiving them with joy or trampling them, and proceeding to let them out the door. Afterall, part of their being sent to me also gave me the latitude to send them away cleverly. There was a unique diplomacy that a serious and beloved leader could easily  deploy, with no unlikely hint of an adverse backlash.

What followed was astonishing! I saw three things in this situation, my own journey, theirs, and our collective opportunity. I decided to welcome them with joy!

Our ability to empathise, and harness our emotions, when taken together and layered generously on a foundation of honest and respectful communication is transformative. Good communication teases out the best of honest skills, and depending on the situation, good communication can create a delectable sandwich of our skills and our labour, our vulnerabilities and capabilities, our truth and our acts. It makes able to face reality, see the places of improvement, work for what is real and discard all the superficial airs, exchanging them wholesale for an outcome that is tangible and real! This was such with Got, Lot and Rot – the most fabulous situation was created and a success that had so many facets was realised, and we all saw that when we communicate what we hid from, was never so tough after all!!

Below is a bonus for you, the reader!

How to achieve a conversational style public speaking communication in an era of technology behind screens and tools and why women can totally own this space

Public speaking has many contributing facets; including emotional elocution, physical appearance, on-stage presence and of course your cache or credibility. When you were in person, speaking and communicating, everything seemed easier to predict. All you had to do was show up strong and ready. So, what do we do today, as media tools are engaged and many of the in-person physical and material props disappear?

 An expert in media history and technology Brent Malin PhD, of of Pittsburgh, did a that concluded that technology more than any other thing has influenced public speaking and the more technology is involved the more conversational the communication needed to be to reach people more effectively. Radio announcers in the 1920’s were regarded the epitome of public speaking and as other media like televisions, computers, webinars, PowerPoints YouTube showed up, the need to reach people these media accelerated astronomically and the effectiveness of reach continues to metamorphosise. 

What is clear is that an evolution to the use of more of a conversational tone influenced by technology is now king or better still “queen”.

The emergence of the COVID zoom era, accelerated this more than any other time, your stage is gone, your clothing brand and fit unidentifiable, your stance and presence undefinable.  You might be speaking from a home office, a kitchen, some room, you might only be top professional with pajama in tow. You, the communicator is left to create your virtual or imaginary stage, redefine your presence and set your stance.  

If conversational type public speaking is critical to success in the age of hyper-tech media, shouldn’t women be queen of public speaking? Women have since time immemorial been superior at conversational communication. Now that it is more commonplace and necessary, women have a distinguished advantage here. Let recap some key attributes

Key attributes to an effective conversational style public speaking in the age of Zoom

  1. Be authentic and sincere – no need to overcompensate or oversell – technology exaggerates overages and makes them worse, zoom will show you out;
  2. Minimisation of technology fatigue for the audience – Taking a natural and truthful stance, leaning in, smiling, engaging the audience;
  3. Focus on the audience – now you have names in front of you, faces, with this view, you could even predict personalities, use it, call it out, it gets attention all the time;
  4. Imagine yourself as the audience – You can transition from speaking to talking, speaking allows you lecture a bit, talking allows your engagement to feel more empathetic.

A conversation means you are with the audience – speak and talk to the people as though you want their success as much as you want to help and/or engage them, make the technology fade away so you can virtually touch them.

Effective hyper-technology enabled public speaking is about engagement, presence and delivering a message, women are good at this!

Always remember that communication creates a bridge to transition from me to us!

About Ngozi Bell

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).