Differences in Male and Female Communication

The scriptures seem void on a very important aspect of male-female communication. There are no verses that directly tell the husband or wife to teach each other in a formal sense - none that directly say either husband or wife is to talk to, listen to, or understand each other in the private concerns of their hearts. We have within our lifestyles the need to talk, listen, and understand these intimate concerns. How could God leave out this valuable concern for our marriages? He did not. God, through Jesus as our sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit as our teacher, has given us the ability to come together and use language as a way to express the greatest gift, which is LOVE. He did command us to love one another. If we communicate with the understanding that we are to do all things in love toward each other, we have to come to an understanding of how to cross the gender lines and communicate. Be sure that the enemies of God do not want communication between us and God or each other to prosper. There are numerous scriptures that refer to talking with God, listening to God, and understanding God. (Job 6:24, 42:3, Psalms 14:2, 49:20, 53:2, 82:5, 107:43, 119:27, 119:100, Proverbs 14:8, and 28:5) If we first seek Him and then each other, the process is simplified.

How are we to accomplish these acts of love? With affection (I Corinthians 7:3), giving up authority of our own bodies  (I Corinthians 7:4), and giving up worldly authority for God's authority design (Ephesians 5:23).

The process of communication is very powerful when used appropriately. God watched the power of men as the Tower of Babel was being erected (Genesis 11:6). He confused their speech to stop the process (Genesis 11:7). Satan has taken a lesson from God. He knows that confusing the speech of men and women in marriage will end in the disbursement of families and that the power of God, through families, will be diluted and, as he hopes, dissipated entirely. Gender confusion in communication is Satan's idea or perversion of a sovereign act of God. Let him not reign in your marriage and family. Let Him who knew no sin and has communicated this to us, reign forever, no matter the consequences.

Much of the information collected for describing the differences in male and female communication has been taken from You Just Don't Understand, Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, 1990. While this book is not intended as a Biblical work, it is a scholarly book and the information does not seem to contradict the Biblical standards we, as Christians, must hold fast.

What is communication? Communication is the exchange of mental information. If we are just passing information back and forth, how can there be differences in how we do this? The primary word is "Agenda". Agendas can be both overt and covert. Many of the agendas we will discover in this study of communication styles are covert.

List of Differences in Agendas

Females, Women, Ladies, She's Males, Men, Gentlemen, He's
Communicate in a cooperative nature Communicate in a competitive nature
Communication leads to intimacy Communication leads to independence
Intimacy is a primary goal Independence is a primary goal

Connection is an expression of intimacy

Status is an expression of independence
Essential element of connection is symmetry Essential element of status is asymmetry

Symmetry wants things to be alike

Asymmetry wants things to be different
Messages in giving help may be asking for connection Messages in giving help may be asserting competence
Connection is security Competence is security

Interdependence in feelings...

Misjudged as incompetence and manipulation
Play in small group or pairs Play in large groups that are hierarchically structured
Center of life is a best friend Center stage among friends is life
Take turns at games such as hopscotch or jump rope that are simple without winners or losers Have to have winners and losers and elaborate systems of rules

Express preferences as suggestions

Express preferences by giving orders
More concerned with being liked and being liked is status Jockey for status in an obvious way
Mitigate conflict and preserve harmony by compromise and evasion Conflict is more prolonged through insistence, appeals to rules, and threats of physical violence
Women struggle to make the community strong Men struggle to be strong

Communication Style Differences

If we know the agenda and the difference between the agendas, we have a handle by which to dispel the confusion. Knowing the style differences allows us to see beyond the covert agenda to true communication and avenues to encourage each other in love.

Females, Women, Ladies, She's Males, Men, Gentlemen, He's
Words are there to comfort Words are there to fix
Words are intended to aid in the sharing of broken-ness without a real logical perception of how something can be restored Words are intended to aid in the restoration of what is broken without an emotional perception of why fix something
Words are to convey connection - Without connection there is no sense of satisfaction with having dealt with the problem Words are to fix - without a fix there is no sense of satisfaction with having dealt with the problem
Words convey connection or loss of connection Words convey a challenge or retreat from a challenge
Challenge is usually conveyed indirectly through others Challenge/conflict is usually in the presence of the challenger
Words establish similarity Words establish hierarchy
Words remove the need for rules Words establish rules
Words remove the need for weapons Words are used as weapons
Words establish vulnerability Words are used as defenses
Words remove the need for power or position Words convey power or position
Words intend to make proposals Words intend to command
Comments usually contain reason to elicit cooperation/symmetry Comments rarely do not contain reasons for commands/asymmetry
Words are used to make peace and thereby find agreement which is intimacy Words are used to provoke conflict and thereby find intimacy

How Is Communication Used Inappropriately?

Often, when a person feels threatened, there is an almost, involuntary response to the threat via offensive or defensive measures. The offensive measures for men can be physical violence, manipulation, and communication of threats. The offensive measures for women can be through other people or by inclusion (Let's do ....). Women usually prefer to avoid direct confrontation whereas men prefer to settle things with direct confrontation. It is not that women do not want their way - it is that do not want their way at the price of conflict. Men often see the indirect method as running from the conflict or lack of care or loyalty and will attack when understanding is what is needed. Women are often seen as intrusive when they want to know "why" when a man gives a "just enough" answer. Men often see conflict as an avenue to intimacy since conflict raises emotions to unusual levels where greater depth is felt and displayed. In some cultures, raised voices and heated debate is considered intimate sharing. In other cultures, raised voices and heated debate is considered disrespect. Teasing is often used as a form of intimate physical contact by men. Teasing may become too serious, causing pain and damage, both physically and emotionally. Teasing by girls is usually not dangerous physically and is intended to include and provoke deeper intimacy from a psychological basis, which men find dangerous.

Men and women need to learn what is in the meta-message as well as the message. Getting to the meaning of a meta-message is the process of looking at the agenda and using understanding of the opposite sex to discern what the words mean from the speaker's perspective and not the hearer's perspective. The speaker does need to consider the agenda of the hearer so the message can be properly formulated in a context that the hearer will understand with clarity. The opposite of this is true. If you want to confuse the other - do not consider the differences - this has worked for centuries. The love of one for another - especially your spouse - who is very different - is what God builds a righteous society upon.

The above information was prepared by Bill Buck and taught to:Marriage Enrichment for All Ages and StagesJune 12 and 19, 1994 - Spring Quarter - Sunday SchoolMuriel Evans, Bill Dunn, and Bill Buck - Providence Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC  

You can find more on gender differences by clicking:  Divine Expectations, Divine Expectations by Men, and Divine Expectations by Women.