In several cases, I’ve had men tell me that I need to be more friendly, more vulnerable, and warmer when I present in meetings so that I can relate to the audience.  I’ve had women in the same presentations that they were impressed and I had all my facts, figures and analysis together and senior management was impressed with my abilities.

Strangely when men give me this type of feedback I feel taken back to my first week in the BYU EMBA program when one of my fellow students told me I shouldn’t be in the program since I should depend on my husband for support and it was wrong of me to take a spot from a priesthood holder. It shocked me that in 2006 some male could still be that backward.  Fast forward to last month, in the Salt Lake Women book club, we read Women Don’t Ask.  One of the chapters dealt with how management traits which are admired in a man are seen as bullying and aggression when a woman exhibits them.  We expect women to react with emotion and not logic.  We expect men to react with logic and ignore the emotional connection.  However, we then preach the servant leader mentality which would ask men to look at the emotional side and the importance of the relationship in management situations.  So we praise men when they take on feminine traits but we still condemn women for embracing the “masculine” side of their personalities.  I hate when women come across as victims.  We are supposed to be able to ask for what we need and be able to stand our ground.

This leads me to wonder, do I need to pay attention to the “be warmer and friendlier” feedback.  So, what do you do when delivered of questionable feedback?

In my case, I went to neutral parties and asked them for opinions on my interactions with co-workers and social situations.  In all cases, I was asked why I felt I needed the feedback.  I explained the feedback I received and was looking to either validate or discount.  In all cases, I was told they couldn’t see how anyone who knew me could say that.  I did have one person tell me that I do come on as very strong in the first impression and some people are scared of strong women so I might want to look at being softer among strangers.  And that is feedback I can use.