Kellie Mills – Coach, Trainer and Speaker

Creating Change…one conversation at a time

How to talk to Aliens

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It can be hard to relate to colleagues when you simply have nothing in common or don’t understand where they are coming from. Effective communication is key in a working environment, unfortunately gender based miscommunication is an area which often needs work.

This common issue is something I like to call “Talking to Aliens” and addresses the misunderstanding between male and female styles in the workplace. It is important to note that not all women have a female style of communication and not all men have a male style.

Although we have come along way in recent years in terms of gender equality, I believe we still have room for improvement, particularly in Corporate Australia.  The first step is to remember that women are equal but different to men. Both genders contribute in very different ways, there is no right or wrong.

Understanding the key styles for each gender is significant to moving forward and overcoming gender barriers in communication. In her book ‘Gender Games’, Candy Tymson describes the following things to look for:

Male Style   Female Style
Focus on information   Focus on relationship
Report style of speaking Rapport style of speaking
Goal driven Process oriented
Single task approach Multi-tasking approach
Succinct language Storytelling style of speech
Working towards a destination On a journey
Need to know the answers Want to ask the right questions

The important thing to remember is to be aware of the style of the person you are talking to and address them accordingly. We need to get to know our work mates on a more personal level, instead of a gender-only perspective. This way we can eliminate stereotypes once and for all.

Humans are designed to fear what they do not understand. Most men do not really understand women, therefore, as much as they may not want to admit it, there is a fear-factor that modifies most male / female relationships.

A simple example… Men often think that women want solutions from them, whenthey discuss issues, whereas women generally problem-solve themselves, as they are talking them through.

Men often underestimate their female colleague’s abilities and the responsibility for this can be shared by both genders. Woman need to start speaking up about the things that are important, and sell themselves and their abilities better. When women are given praise they need to learn to believe it and accept it, rather than downplay or minimise the comments.

Men stand up and ask for, or demand, opportunities. While women often hold back and hope their good work will get them noticed. Frankly, if great performance were enough to get women to the top, then there would be a higher percentage of women in senior management and in the boardroom.

Gender barriers can be difficult to work through but it is important to realise  and understand when its happening. Together males and females can counteract this age old barrier and continue on to complete equity.

Mills-Eaton Training delivers In-House training for medium-large organisations. They specialise in Team Development (with expertise in dysfunctional teams), Leadership, Communication and other practical programs.

Contact Kellie Mills on

How to have a courageous conver-sation


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Having tough conversations in the workplace takes courage. It is something that many of us dread.

Many of us will delay asking for a pay rise, for time off or bringing up a sensitive topic about another employee. Whatever the Courageous Conversation may be, it’s about time we stopped putting them off. By pushing these conversations to the side they take up precious energy and focus. This would be better directed to living in the present and getting on with what needs to be done.

Fear is the main reason why these necessary conversations do not take place when they should. Whether it be: fear of being shouted at, fear of looking stupid, fear of offending the person, fear of lack of performance or other repercussions from staff, and fear of being judged. By taking a calm and blame-free approach to having actual courageous conversations, stress levels can be reduced and effective outcomes can be achieved.

CIA is a good first step in assessing what the conversation should involve and how it needs to be approached. CIA involves asking Can I CONTROL it? Can IINFLUENCE it? Or can I ACCEPT it? This helps to take you to the next step: Clarifying the Realistic Outcome you want. For example, if the outcome is for the staff member to change their behaviour, you need to be able to be specific on the change that is required. You need to be clear that you do not want to change their personality or make them feel personally targeted. You need to name the behaviour or the performance issue that needs improving.

The next step involves Three Magic Words. These are three essential qualities that you need to exhibit when having courageous conversations: Empathy, Curiosity and Accountability. Empathy will remind you that you are dealing with another human being with his or her own ideas, emotions, and way of working. Be sensitive to the idea that they may be going through other struggles out of the workplace that you know nothing about.

Be curious, ask appropriate questions and seek understanding rather than making quick judgements. Try to uncover why they behave the way they do and take the time to get the full story. Finally, remember that Accountability is a two way street. Both people in the conversation should be aware of their tone, body language, words, and the way their message is received. Letting frustration seep into your behaviour will be detrimental to the final outcome and chances of resolving the issue will be limited.

Approaching tough conversations in the workplace takes courage. Being self- reflective in the way you process the issue in your own time will help the end result. Be confident and clear on what the issue is and how it can best be resolved.

Mills-Eaton Training delivers In-House training for medium-large organisations. They specialise in Team Development (with expertise in dysfunctional teams), Leadership, Communication and other practical programs.

Contact Kellie Mills on