You become whoever you pretend to be. If you act like a woman, you will eventually become one (in your expression). If you act like a man, you will express a male aura.
One day in the hospital, I was stressed out. Ten different things were hitting me at once, so I reached out to a coworker.
“Sally, I’m probably going to need your help wasting this Versed,” I said coyly.
“When you get a chance after this, I could also use your help in room 12 with the obese patient. Would that be possible? Do you have time?” I asked.
“Yes of course!”
As the day moved forward, I started condemning myself. This is what my self-talk looked like: “Wow, why am I talking like a bitch? And why am I talking with such a high pitch? Do I have a vagina now?”
I had always thought I was assertive. But the way I requested help was extremely non-manly. All of a sudden, the light shown: after being a nurse for five years, I had become what I had pretended to be: subservient and coy. Years and years of trying to be an ideal nurse had actually transmuted the pitch of my voice into a pussy’s pitch that I wouldn’t be able to recognize ten years earlier.
I knew I had to change the way I communicated. First, I needed to lower my tone of voice to reflect the way I really talked. Second, I needed to change my words to reflect what I really wanted.
I made a list of words I typically used to qualify my need for help. Do any of these sound familiar?
“I will probably need your help.”
“Would it be possible if…?”
“Do you have time?”
“If it’s okay with you, I just wanted to ask if…”
“I was wondering if…”
“Are you busy? When you get a chance, can you…”
I was disappointed to realize I had absorbed these words from other male nurses who spoke like women in the workplace. All these qualifying words are useless! All I really needed to do was speak my mind without wasting my breath on all these extra syllables.
I was committed to using only one phrase: “I need you to…” I committed myself to saying this with my natural, low pitched voice. No more bitch-ass tones coming from a male nurse! My biggest realization was that talking like a real man would make me become a real man.
I ran an experiment. I started asking for exactly what I wanted on the job. Instead of qualifying my questions or statements, I just said what was on my mind.
“I was wondering if you could let me know who the doctor is?” was transformed into: “Who’s the doctor?”
“Are you busy? When you get a chance, can you help me in room 10?” was transformed into: “I need your help in room 10.”
“I’m not 100% sure. I will look it up and verify it for you” was transformed into: “I don’t know.”
Simple, clear communication became my trademark. Not surprisingly, I garnered more respect from my female coworkers. In the past, they treated me like a female coworker because I talked like a female nurse, using high pitched requests and unnecessary qualifying words in conversation. But when I started talking like a man with a lower pitch and direct requests, they responded to me as if I were a man.
I believe evolution plays a huge role in this phenomenon. Women are genetically wired to “open up” to men, whether that be emotionally or physically. A low-pitched voice (which signals a potential mate) naturally triggers women to respond, even more so than a high-pitched voice (which signals a female). Men are therefore more likely to get what they want if they make requests using low-pitched tones and direct words.
All that said, I pondered the reasons male nurses sometimes speak like women. Five items screamed at me:
-Male nurses are surrounded by women in the workplace. Because humans’ natural tendency is to belong to the in-group, the male nurses absorb the behavior of their female colleagues, adopting their words, gestures, and mannerisms. That is, men start acting like the women around them so the men can be accepted into the in-group of the unit. That’s why many male nurses speak with higher pitches (especially on the phone).
-Male nurses observe that that they are lower than doctors in the pecking order. The realization that they have to follow orders may induce them to act subserviently. Hence, the higher pitched voices.
-The culture of nursing rubs off on male nurses. The culture is one of subservience and stroking. Most nurses have the mentality of pleasing other people, including doctors, other nurses, and patients. And how do people-pleasers talk? That’s right: with high-pitched voices.
-Many male nurses were raised to please women. Their teachers in elementary and junior high school were most likely female. And guess who the male nurses ultimately tried to please? You guessed right: their mothers. Male nurses have been conditioned to please their female superiors. Hence, the high-pitched, subservient tones.
-Many male nurses are precepted by female nurses in the beginning of their jobs. In such roles, the men have no power and must listen to the direction of the female preceptors. Hence, the development of the high-pitched voice.
How do male nurses overcome this drive towards pussification?
I believe the key is in re-conditioning the way one talks. I personally practice key phrases every morning. I look in the mirror and say “I need you to do X.” I also practice “I want you to do X.” I repeat each phrase ten times. That way, when I actually do need help, I know how to request it in a direct, intentional way (the male way).
I would advise that you practice these statements ten times per day until they become a habit. Say each statement in a low-pitched voice. Not only will you sound like a man, but you will also garner more respect from your female colleagues.
Act like a man! Say exactly what you want!