Communication between Men and Women in the Context of the Christian Community -- By: Rhonda H. Kelley

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 14:1 (Fall 1996)
Article: Communication between Men and Women in the Context of the Christian Community
Author: Rhonda H. Kelley


Communication between Men and Women in the Context of the Christian Community

Rhonda H. Kelley

President’s Wife
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
4111 Seminary Place
New Orleans, LA 70126

Introduction

Scripture teaches about the uniqueness of men and women. While created in the image of God with equality of worth and value, men and women are different by design and function. Gender differences are apparent physically and behaviorally. Men and women differ in the way they think, feel, act, and talk. In fact, one of the most striking differences between the sexes is the unique ways that men and women communicate.

In recent years, the communication styles of men and women have been studied scientifically. Linguists have documented these perceived differences. The primary purpose of these intensive investigations is not to determine which communicative style is best or to motivate others to change completely, but to identify differences for the purpose of understanding and adaptation. As men and women better recognize differences in communicative styles, they can work to improve their own communication with members of the opposite sex.

These general gender communication differences affect all men and women in every context. Whether Christian or non-Christian, churched or unchurched, men and women have unique ways of expressing their thoughts and feelings. At home and at the office, in marriage and in friendships, these differences are immediately apparent. The church, as a body of believers male and female, is challenged by these differences in communicative style. The impact of these gender differences is experienced in informal conversations, Bible study classes, church committee meetings, counseling sessions, and pulpit preaching.

What is Genderlect?

In recent years, perhaps as women have entered the workplace in larger numbers, the obvious communicative style differences between men and women have been discussed publicly. Unique conversational styles have been observed, and communicative conflicts have been encountered. As a result, linguists have begun to research gender communication.

The term genderlect has been coined to define the language of the sexes. Similar in form to the word “dialect” (the unique language of people in a specific geographical area), genderlect is “a variety of a language that is tied not to geography or to family background or to a role, but to the speaker’s sexual gender.”1 Suzette Haden Elgin suggests communication techniques to combat gender style differences in her book entitled Genderspe...

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