Tag Archives: gender communication differences

Wives, Your Voice Matters (in the Bedroom & Beyond)

Last week, I asked wives to answer a simple question: Why don’t you comment more often? The answers I received were enlightening. And a little surprising.

The Results of My Survey

Among the reasons were lack of time, agreeing with what was said and having nothing to add, and a few issues with some male commenters. But what caught me off guard was how many women said they did not comment because they didn’t know who would want to hear what they had to say.

Consider these examples:

  • I often write a comment … and then don’t post it because I figure I’m not an expert so I doubt my two cents is actually worth anything.
  • I generally feel that my words could come across wrong or are not useful as I often speak bluntly.
  • I tend to not comment because I always catch myself with “why would my opinion matter?
  • Much like [another commenter] I often wonder why my opinion would even matter, which I know is a little weird considering I don’t have that thought about the comments of others.

While I don’t believe gender differences completely explain this viewpoint, research has shown women are less likely to exhibit boldness than men.

What the Research Shows

According to a commonly cited internal report from Hewlett Packard from the 2010s: “Women…applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.” Further studies showed that women didn’t lack confidence in themselves as much as confidence in the system being willing to hire them if they didn’t meet every qualification.

Men have also been shown to be bolder in dating apps, initiating more contacts than women, not by double but four times the number of messages. Certainly some of this is cultural, in that men tend to initiate relationships more often, but it still indicates a bias toward men just going for what they want.

And then there’s the study showing that at meetings where both men and women attend, women speak 25% less than men. Moreover: “Participants who held the floor for a greater percentage of the group’s deliberation were more likely to be seen as influential by the other members of the group. Thus the active use of voice translates into greater perceived influence, as we expected.” Even more discouraging, perhaps, was the researchers’ conclusion that women fare better in homogeneous groups, meaning all women.

So are we ladies really supposed to exist in a world where we only express ourselves fully when in the company of women?

What Are We Missing?

Look, I’m a big fan of gathering into all-female groups at times. I co-host a podcast with that framework, Sex Chat for Christian Wives. I also have a higher-drive wife group on Facebook, comprised exclusively of women whose libidos are higher than their husbands. And when I speak, I primarily teach women’s groups.

However, I’m really bothered that some of us gals don’t feel like our opinions, our beliefs, our desires are worth expressing, even in mixed company.

And I’ve seen this play out with wives in the bedroom, who have sadly absorbed the message that their sexuality and/or sexual pleasure doesn’t matter as much as their husbands’. When nothing could be further from the truth.

Yet, we have promoted this belief in our culture, both Christian and secular, by talking much more often about the male sex drive, by telling wives their role is to meet their husband’s sexual needs, by presuming that male sex arousal is the sexual cycle for all people (see our “Women’s Sexual Response” episode), and by using scriptures about the mutuality of sexual intimacy to argue that a wife can never say no.

Instead, I want to say unequivocally right now to all of you wives out there: You matter.

The Importance of Women and Their Words

What you feel, what you think, what you believe … is important. What you want, what you need, what you dream about … is valuable. Who you are … is precious.

Just ponder these verses:

  • Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26
  • See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16a
  • Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7
  • So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

And in a society that discounted a woman’s testimony as unreliable in court, our Lord Jesus appeared first to women, making them the initial eyewitnesses to His resurrection (Mark 16:1-8). What a message about how He values the words of women!

What This Means about Your Bedroom

I often feel in my ministry as if I’m balancing two disparate concepts I want wives to understand about their sexual intimacy:

  1. We must lovingly care for our spouse’s sexuality.
  2. We must speak up for what we need and desire.

Some might say it’s a weaving selflessness and selfishness in the marriage bed. But I think of it as other-focus and self-awareness—an approach that values both of you as equally worthwhile partners in intimacy.

Do you discount your sexual desires? Do you tend to believe his pleasure or climax matters more than your own? Do you hesitate to speak up for yourself and what you want? Do you lack boldness in your bedroom?

Maybe it’s time, or well past time, to value your opinions, express yourself, and create more mutual conversation and sexual intimacy in your marriage.

And hey, comment more here! I’d love to hear what you gals think.

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Sources: Harvard Business Review – Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified; Forbes – Act Now To Shrink The Confidence Gap; Forbes – The Confidence Gap In Men And Women: Why It Matters And How To Overcome It; The Daily Free Press – Men’s online dating habits more bold than women’s, study finds; Enterpreneur – Head Into Your Next Male-Dominated Meeting Ready to Contribute by Following These Tips; American Political Science Review – Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation

When Women and Men Struggle to Communicate

Mansplaining.

I know from experience that just seeing that word caused different reactions among readers who believe it exists or doesn’t exist, who find the term accurate or insulting, who now feel understood or irritated. And while this doesn’t capture the whole picture, the line of who reacted how can be drawn between female and male.

If you’re a woman, you’re far more likely to agree “mansplaining” happens, to say you’ve experienced it, and to object to its use. If you’re a man, you’re far more likely to disagree that it happens, to say you haven’t seen or done it, and to object to the use of that word.

But what if I told you that women tend toward a communication style that really irritates men? Have you ever heard a husband say, “I wish she’d just get to the point”?

Well, he’s got a point.

Women are more likely to meander in conversation, sharing personal stories, including details, and checking for understanding as they speak. We often do this because it’s not the point that matters as much as the connection we feel from interacting with the person we’re talking to.

But that’s not how many men approach communication. So it’s understandably annoying for him when figuring out the takeaway feels like an impossible game of Where’s Waldo?

Yes, we’re different.

I’m not highlighting “mansplaining” and “womeandering”—yes, I made that up, and it should totally become a word—to get us upset about the opposite gender’s real or perceived communication flaws. Rather, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how men and women discuss sensitive topics.

From blog comment threads to Facebook post replies to my own interactions with my husband, I’m reminded how much our distinct perspectives play into conversational conflict.

Men tend to be more to the point, even gruff at times, to offer direct advice, and to feel disrespected when their feelings or points are not acknowledged. Meanwhile, women tend to tell stories as a way to convey that someone isn’t alone, to offer more detailed advice, and to feel personally hurt when their feelings or points are not acknowledged.

What’s your communication style?

Does this describe all men and women? Of course not. As I often say, stereotypes exist for a reason, but they’re not all-encompassing. The gender continuum really looks more like this:

So you may identify strongly with what I said above (the ends), more in the middle, or in that overlapping part where you’re more like the other gender. Okay, fine. And just to be clear—not identifying with something labeled as men/women doesn’t make you any less masculine or feminine. God just made a variety of us. Still, it’s helpful to understand some generalities to communicate well with the opposite gender on social media and in face-to-face conversation.

And be sure not to take the stereotype for granted with your own spouse. Rather, ask your beloved which, if any, of the following common gender differences apply to them.

MENWOMEN
Converse for informationConverse for connection
Wants to get to the pointWants to share how she gets to the point
Talks more easily shoulder-to-shoulderTalks more easily with eye contact
Responds by offering solutionsResponds by offering sympathy/empathy
Display less tone variation and gesturesDisplay more tone variation and gestures
Views strong challenges as disrespectfulViews strong challenges as insensitive

How does this apply to real life?

If you went back and read blog posts I wrote specifically to women and others specifically to men, you’d see a difference in how I communicate. I also change my approach in the comments section depending on who I’m dealing with, which includes what I can glean about their background and personality as well as their gender. Because men and women tend to respond differently to different approaches.

But too often, we forget this in regular conversation—here on my blog and in my Facebook group, but most especially in our marriages.

Indeed, I was flummoxed this past weekend when I said something I thought was helping my husband and he felt challenged and disrespected. I didn’t intend that, but looking back, I can see how it came across to him that way. The gap in perception was mostly about gender communication differences.

What’s the solution? Well, we each need to give a little. But the burden to adapt seems to lie more with the speaker. That’s what you see over and over and over in Scripture: commands and advice about how we speak to one another. Here’s a sampling:

  • Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity” (Proverbs 21:23).
  • Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
  • Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:19). 

We won’t get it right every time. It really is hard to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. But it’s worth trying, because by making that effort we show love and respect to others, avoid some unnecessary conflict, and experience our own personal growth as we become more other-focused and simply kinder in how we communicate.

What it all means when talking to your spouse.

Now scroll back up and look at the table on what men and women tend to do. This time, instead of seeing whether you identify with the gender you are, ask what your spouse is like and how you could change your speech to cater to their needs. What if you both did that? Wouldn’t your discussions immediately become more productive?

I’m working on this, and I hope you will too.

And if you’re looking for ways to have more productive conversations about sexual intimacy, check out my recent release, Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations about Sex for Married Couples.

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Related post: Why She Communicates the Way She Does (and It May Not Be What You Think) at Generous Husband