女性在演讲中开玩笑会减分?

英国《金融时报》 皮利塔•克拉克
2019.06.10 12:00

那天晚上我见识了近来伦敦莫名走红的一个现象:由一名女士教其他女士如何作公开演讲。

那个地方很挤。最后排只能站着。台上的是薇弗•格罗索(Viv Groskop),一名脱口秀演员,她还为管理者提供绩效辅导,写过一本叫做《如何赢得满堂彩:女人和谈笑风生的艺术》(How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking)的书。

自去年11月份出了那本书以来,格罗索已在英国各地举办了50多场活动。商务早餐,文学节,为谷歌的员工演讲,还有一场给Facebook员工做的演讲,以及两场有150个座位的公共“大师班”,入场券都是在几天内就销售一空。根据这本书制作的播客很受欢迎。今年迟些时候,格罗索还将在百慕大、芬兰和华盛顿演讲。

她的成功不无道理。越来越多女性担任高管,正如她所说,大多数有关公开演讲的书籍“都是针对男性,由男性作者为男性读者写的”。我见到她的那个晚上,房间里坐满了45岁以下的满怀热切的商界女性。她们也热切地想知道该如何处理对公开演讲的恐惧。

“我会发抖,”其中一个说。“我会完全忘记我的思路,”另一个说。还有一个说会感觉身体不适。我同情她们每个人。我仍然记得我自己早期那些可怜的努力,每当我摇摇晃晃走向台前,我都担心自己会不会呕吐、晕倒或因为某些冠状动脉相关的意外而倒下。唯一有帮助的就是练习。正如格罗索说的:“一遍又一遍地做这件事,是让自己变得擅长此道的最好途径。”

但我怀疑人们热衷于见到她还有另一个原因。她们认为她会很有趣。而她们自己也很想在下一次公开演讲的时候变得有趣。谁不想呢?任何一个能讲出令人愉快又有趣的笑话的人,都离最终赢得满堂彩不远了。我也是这样认为,直到我偶然读到美国的一篇最新研究,它的结论令人吃惊:在做工作报告时开玩笑,对男性会有助力,但对女性反而不利。

当我打电话给其中一位作者,亚利桑那大学(University of Arizona)的领导力研究员乔恩•伊万斯(Jon Evans)时,他说他对这个课题的兴趣来自一名女性。他在采访一名女高管时因对方的一番话而感到惊讶,这位女高管说她会“谨慎地避免展示幽默”,因为她认为这可能会不好。这就提出了一个问题:既然工作中的幽默被视为既好又不好——既是紧张情绪的舒压器又是分散注意力的干扰因子——那么性别成见会影响对玩笑话的解读吗?为了找到答案,由男女演员各一名分别录制视频,扮演一个正在发布季度报告的商店经理,一开始非常严肃,之后开始大量穿插笑话。

我们这儿不是指那些让人拍腿大笑的笑话,而是指一些小诙谐,比如在该“经理”做报告的前夜,他/她的配偶给出的建议:“不管你做什么,都不要试图表现得太过迷人、诙谐或聪慧。就做你自己。”然而,当研究对象们观看视频时,他们对搞笑版本视频中的男性经理,给予其在领导力和社会地位方面,相对于其无笑话版本中的表现有更高的评分。

对于女性来说,恰恰相反。她被认为表现更差,因为试图“通过开玩笑来掩盖她缺乏真正的商业头脑”而被扣分。换句话说,女性的幽默似乎被视为更具破坏性,男性的幽默则更有助益。

对此我们该怎么看?可能还是别过度解读。至少另外一项研究发现,女性领导人会巧妙地运用幽默来展现高效的领导者形象,尽管这是十多年前在新西兰做的研究。

但情境也很重要。伊万斯称,他的研究结果只适用于第一印象。女性向认识她们的人开玩笑可能会有更好的效果。即使她们不能,我也不会把伊万斯的发现添加到女性发言人应该担忧的事项清单上。了解刻板印象很好。越过这些刻板印象继续前行会更好。事实上,下次我若见到女性在演讲中说笑话,因为我知道她所面对的困难,我会因为她敢尝试而给她打更高的分。

译者/艾卜

原文:Why being funny is no joke for women

Pilita Clark Pilita Clark

The other night I went to see something in London that has become an odd sensation: a woman telling other women how to speak in public.

The place was packed. At the back it was standing room only. On the stage was Viv Groskop, a stand-up comedian and executive performance coach who has written a book called How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking.

Ms Groskop has done more than 50 events around the UK since the book was launched in November. Business breakfasts. Literary festivals. A talk for staff at Google. Another one with Facebook and two 150-seat public “masterclasses” that both sold out in days. A podcast based on the book has been a hit and later this year Ms Groskop is off to speak in Bermuda, Finland and Washington DC.

Her success makes sense. More women are becoming executives and as she says, most books on public speaking “have been about men, by men and for men”. The night I saw her, the room was full of business women who were under 45 and desperate. As in, desperate to know how to cope with the horror of public speaking.

“I get really shaky,” said one. “I just completely forget my train of thought,” said another. One felt physically ill. I felt for them all. I can still remember my own pathetic early efforts, when I would wobble up to the stage wondering if I was about to vomit, faint or keel over with some sort of coronary incident. The only thing that ever helped was practice. As Ms Groskop says, “doing it over and over and over is the way to get good at it”.

Yet I suspect there is another reason people are keen to see her. They think she will be funny. And they would quite like to be funny themselves the next time they speak in public. Who would not? Anyone who tells a warm, engaging joke is already on the way to owning the room. Or so I thought until I came across a new US study that showed something quite alarming: making jokes in a work presentation helps men but hurts women.

When I rang one of the authors, Jon Evans, a leadership researcher at the University of Arizona, he said his interest in the idea had been prompted by a woman. A senior female executive he was interviewing had surprised him by saying she was “careful not to be humorous” because she thought it could be damaging. That raised a question: since humour can be seen as good or bad at work — a helpful diffuser of tension or a disruptive distraction — do gender stereotypes affect how jokes are interpreted? To find out, a male and female actor were each filmed separately as they pretended to be a store manager delivering quarterly results, first dead straight and then with jokes thrown in.

We are not talking thigh-slappers here. Gags included advice from a spouse about the manager’s presentation the night before: “Whatever you do don’t try to be too charming, witty, or intellectual. Just be yourself.” Still, when study participants watched the videos, they gave the funnier version of the male manager higher ratings for his leadership and status than the joke-free model.

For the woman, it was the opposite. She was deemed a poorer performer and marked down for trying to “to cover up her lack of real business acumen by making little jokes”. In other words, female humour seems to be seen as more disruptive and male more helpful.

What are we to make of this? Probably not too much. At least one other study has found female leaders skilfully deploy humour to portray themselves as effective leaders, albeit in New Zealand more than a decade ago.

But context matters too. Mr Evans says his research findings only apply to first impressions. Women making jokes to people who know them may get away with more. Even if they can’t, I will not be adding Mr Evans’ findings to the list of things a female speaker already worries about. It is fine to know about stereotypes. It is finer to plough on past them. In fact, the next time I see a woman telling a joke in a presentation, now that I know what she is up against I will be giving her even more points for trying.

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