Communication between different languages requires translation and adaptation. When men and women communicate, their different primary language requires some understanding and consideration by the other. Judith Tingley described this process of adaptation as “genderflex” in her book Genderflex: Men and Women Speaking Each Other’s Language at Work. In the book, genderflex is defined as an active process: “to temporarily use communication behavior typical of the other gender in order to increase potential for influence.”
Because of the natural way men and women communicate, temporary adaptation to a different style of communication is necessary when talking with someone of the opposite gender. The primary goal of this adjustment is effective communication with members of the opposite sex.
Genderflex is necessary in life and ministry. Researchers have concluded that women make more adjustments in communication than men in mixed groups. Women tend to talk about topics of more interest to men when both genders are present. They also adjust their style and structure more easily in order to be understood and appreciated. These studies demonstrate that male-female conversations are more like men’s conversations than they are like women’s.
In the context of the Christian community, several strategies for improving gender communication can be employed:
1. Become aware of your communication style.
2. Understand the communication style of the opposite sex.
3. Adjust to different conversational styles.
4. Alter your conversational style to fit the context.
5. Don’t assume that the opposite sex understands your message.
6. Don’t criticize others who communicate in a different way.
It is a human tendency to think “my way is the best way.” In the area of communication, remember that different conversational styles are not bad. Different is simply different. Accept the differences and adjust when needed. Men and women have different – though equally valid – communication styles!
For more about communicating between genders, see Chapter One of Talking is a Gift! Monica and I share personal stories of miscommunication with men, and what we learned!