Let’s talk about Superman Syndrome. As a woman you are not likely to suffer from this, but you are a carrier.
What do I mean? Well, have you ever tried to give an update on a project to your boss or inform your husband about a conflict with your teenager and ended up frustrated? What you intended to be informative summary, even a little self-promotion of your success in handling the situation somehow was interpreted to be a cry for help. You were caught in the backwash of Superman Syndrome.
You see, the basic difference between men and women’s communication styles is that we women need to be heard and men need to be heroes.
For example, my husband traveled extensively for a good part of his career leaving me to manage my career, the house and kids pretty autonomously. When he came home, I would give him the lowdown on all the things that had been happening in detail – partly to keep him up to speed on the kids and finances, but partly to show my superhero efforts to keep things running while he was gone and get an ‘atta girl’ in the process. Invariably, before I could finish one story, he was interrupting with solutions or ways I could have done things differently – I know he was trying to be helpful but I hadn’t finished the story! I already had solved the problem – there was nothing more to do!
This happens in business too. We women have a tendency to start with the detail as a way to connect and gain understanding. So a project update begins with the what happened, who did what, how they reacted to a potential solution, the vendor’s response…before we get to the part that we have it under control and will be back on schedule by Monday. Men often are impatient with the details and hear them as ‘there’s a problem here.’ And VOILA! We have activated the latent Superman Syndrome in our male counterparts.
When we start with the problem, they start searching for the nearest telephone booth. We would save a lot of strife and put our male bosses at ease if we would lead with our bottom line. Once they know there is no problem to solve, they will actually ask for the detail we want so desperately to share. For example…
“XYZ project had a few snafus this week but we are back on track, just want to give you a little update on the issues if you have five minutes to discuss”
NOW he’s open to listening to YOUR superhero efforts to solve the problem – and he knows that it won’t take all afternoon!
Works well at home too – be clear up front about what you need rather than giving him the opportunity to jump at the first thing that looks like a problem.
“Honey, I talked with Johnny’s teacher today. We have a plan to keep him more attentive in school which will mean some changes at home too. I will need your support in enforcing the new rules, can we discuss what his teacher suggested?”
So try making the bottom line your headline. I’ll bet you will get more recognition for your problem solving abilities, a lot less frustration, AND an invitation to fill in all the details.