Gender And Communication Summary Background: Women have made great strides in the workplace, especially since the 1960’s. However, all things are not equ

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Women have made great strides in the workplace, especially since the 1960’s.  However, all things are not equal, and there are still gaps in communication.  Therefore, you will read the following articles and view the videos below to add to our knowledge of communication practices in the workplace.

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5/29/2019 Council Post: Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not The Nail 1/5

176 views | May 28, 2019, 08:30am


Liz Guthridge

Helps leaders in new roles make a bigger impact faster. Neuroscience, behavior change, and communication.

Forbes CommunityVoice Connecting expert communities to the Forbes audience. What is This?

Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not

The Nail

Liz Guthridge Forbes Councils

Forbes Coaches Council CommunityVoice

It’s not about the nail.


5/29/2019 Council Post: Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not The Nail 2/5

The 2013 video It’s Not About The Nail is about something more insidious —

stereotypical gender roles that to be hammered into our heads, often

without our awareness. These stereotypes surface in nearly all aspects of our

lives, including in the workplace.

In this less-than-two-minute video, a young woman complains to her

husband/boyfriend that he doesn’t listen to her. Meanwhile, the man tries to fix

the problem for his wife/girlfriend.

The woman (spoiler alert) has a nail in her forehead that’s the source of her pain

and frustration, but because she doesn’t want the man to tell her to just pull the

nail from her forehead, she comes across as irrational, overly emotional and

unstable. (Regardless of your gender, don’t you think you’d want to remove a nail

that’s causing your head to ache?) What she wants is for him to really listen to her

and respond to her feelings.

The video’s director, writer and male actor, Jason Headley, says his creation is

about communication — or, more accurately, miscommunication. It’s Not About

The Nail, which had garnered almost 18.5 million views by mid-May 2019, is also

about gaslighting.

Oxford Dictionaries defines gaslighting as “manipulating someone by

psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their

own sanity.” The term comes from the 1938 play Gas Light, which was made into

the 1944 Oscar-winning movie of the same name. In both, a husband tries to

convince his new, young wife that she’s going insane.

She notices the gas lights in their mansion brighten and dim, which puzzles her,

but her husband insists it’s a figment of her imagination. In truth, he’s controlling

the lights plus confusing her in other ways to influence her into believing she’s

losing her mind. His plan is to commit her to an insane asylum or perhaps even

murder her so he can get his hands on her inheritance.

For years, film buffs and healthcare professionals were about the only ones who

talked about gaslighting. Last year, though, gaslighting become one of the

contenders for the Oxford Dictionaries 2018 word of the year. The word’s


5/29/2019 Council Post: Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not The Nail 3/5

popularity took off when the public realized how aptly gaslighting describes the

tactics of many powerful men in business and politics.

When I first watched the nail video almost two years ago, I didn’t associate it with

gaslighting. Instead, I was puzzled as to why this trite video was used as the

opening hook to engage college seniors in a special session of their organizational

change class.

The professor had invited a successful entrepreneur to talk about his impressive

accomplishments and share career advice with the , who were all women

except for one man. Since I served as a mentor to the students, I was asked to join


The entrepreneur launched his guest lecture by showing It’s Not About the Nail

and then immediately segued into talking about how he believed women are well

suited to lead in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous)

world. Combining a strong empowerment message with the nail video seemed

odd, but none of us said anything about the video while we were in the room.

Fast forward to this spring. As I was preparing for the All In For Women Summit

workshop that I co-facilitated in early May, the realization hit me: The students

and I had experienced gaslighting in that classroom.

Who knows if the male entrepreneur was aware of the polarizing and conflicting

he was sending about gender and power. On the one hand, he was

reminding the women in the room that we’re emotional characters. And on the

other hand, he was encouraging us to take charge and lead in a VUCA world.

Whether the male entrepreneur was actively or unintentionally complicit in

continuing gender stereotypes is beside the point.

Instead, this is another example of how hard it is to identify and address the

many gender stereotypes that men and women have learned and accepted. These

stereotypes are so entrenched in our unconsciousness and culture that we assume

that’s the way things are.



5/29/2019 Council Post: Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not The Nail 4/5

As I explained in a recent workshop, “Redefining Masculinity for a New

Leadership Mindset Lab,” traditional gender roles perpetuate the power

dynamics and inequalities that they historically are based on. Men traditionally

have exerted power over women, rather than shared power with women. The

power and men exhibit at work (and elsewhere) can make women feel

excluded, inferior and like even pawns.

If we want men and women to work together in an environment that feels safe

and inclusive for everyone, we’ve got to collectively address uneven power

dynamics and polarizing gender rhetoric.

That’s easier said than done. However, you can:

• Be curious. Learn more about gaslighting. For example, mental health

counselor Stephanie Sarkis writes frequently about the topic. Check out her

Forbes article “How to Cope With A Gaslighting Or Narcissist Boss” and her USA

Today opinion piece “Donald Trump Is a Classic Gaslighter in an Abusive

Relationship with America.” Watch the film classic Gaslight, the popular Mrs.

Doubtfire or the thriller What Lies Beneath.

• Be courageous. When you notice troubling behavior or feel something odd in

your gut, pay attention. Then talk about what you’re seeing and feeling with

friendly co-workers. Just ruminating about concerns and staying silent shows


• Commit to taking actions. If you want to make your teams and your

workplace better for everyone, look for ways to help others speak up and

participate. Everyone deserves to be heard and feel included so they can fully


We need to increase the speed and consistency with which we spot power

imbalances, plus any gaslighting, especially now that we have more awareness of

the name for the latter. Awareness will help us as we work to build bridges rather

than continue to hammer each other in the battle of the sexes. The end goal is

worth it: co-creating a more humane work environment that will help us improve

the way we work and achieve better outcomes.


5/29/2019 Council Post: Why It’s About Gaslighting, Not The Nail 5/5

Liz Guthridge Forbes Councils

Helps leaders in new roles make a bigger impact faster. Neuroscience, behavior change, and

communication.… Read More

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading

business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachesc… Read More

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and

career coaches. Do I qualify?

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