Differences can be the source of judgment, misunderstanding and tension. Understanding can break through all of that. Understanding can disperse judgment like light disperses darkness.
My job–and passion–is to increase understanding of how and why people are different. With understanding of differences, people can learn to appreciate and use differences. The tool of generalizing is critical to my ability to increase understanding. Generalizing can put people off—unless we have agreement on what generalizing is and why it is useful.
Stereotyping is the process of assigning certain characteristics to a person because he or she is a member of a certain group—e.g., “ Millennials are entitled,” “men are insensitive” or “women can’t read maps.” No one likes to be stereotyped. (I am a woman who can read maps.)
Generalizing, on the other hand, is the conscious use of a “bell curve” approach. On a bell curve representing the behaviors or values of all Millennials or all men or all women, the center is where the largest number of that group show up. Talking about a prototypical woman at the center of a bell curve is a tool to help us understand what is feminine (vs. masculine).
In my book, my prototypical woman is “Fran;” my prototype for the masculine approach is “Max.” I use Max and Fran as generalizations to enable a common understanding of masculine and feminine ways of working. The goal of understanding these differences is for us to move from judgment to acceptance, inclusive action and appreciation of both masculine and feminine approaches at work.
Are both masculine and feminine ways of working appreciated and leveraged in your workplace?