Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gender Differences: A Few Practical Suggestions on How to Avoid Conflict


My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

James 1:19-20

If each gender has a radically different view of the world and communicates from this perspective, how do you deal with the inevitable conflicts that will occur? Here are some simple techniques and suggestions to get you through these rough spots.

First, expect misunderstandings to occur. If you expect occasional communication errors, then you won't be surprised, and your attitude will more likely be supportive, open, and cooperative, making it easier to resolve any conflicts that arise. It is easy to believe that you consistently and accurately share your thoughts, opinions, and views. This perspective, however, will lead you to assume that when miscommunications occur they are the listener's fault. This, in fact, may be correct, but your stance will make negotiation and resolution difficult since it often causes the listener to feel defensive.

Second, in tricky or touchy situations, clarify your intentions before you start to discuss the issue. In this instance, you tell the listener what you hope is accomplished before you embark on the effort. Imagine a father and daughter having an argument. They disagree on the teenager's curfew. If the father explains his desire to keep his daughter safe from harm (the intention), the daughter will have an easier time understanding his conservative stance on the curfew (the issue).

Third, when you receive controversial or objectionable information, pause and clarify the main gist of the message by repeating the message back to the speaker, before giving a verbal reaction. Message are often lost in translation between what the speaker intended to say and what the listener believes he heard the speaker say. Just play a children's game of "Operator" or "Telephone" to see how easily this happens. Clarifying the main points of the communication will enable the speaker to hear what message was transmitted and to adjust it if there were errors in the initial proclamation. This process also gives you time during the pause to process your reaction to the information. This may help you avoid hasty or impulsive reactions. This technique may also divert silly arguments that were only miscommunicated messages.

Finally, error in the direction of being kind over being right. In most disagreements there comes a moment when you can choose to move in the direction of preserving the relationship or choose to pursue your need to be right. You may achieve your desire to come out on top in the disagreement, but at great costs to the long-term health of the relationship. Consistently choosing to win arguments can result in lost relationships.

God made each gender unique. Each sex brings a necessary perspective: men's awareness of standing helps to give structure to our society whereas women's focus on relationships provides the social connections to that structure. Your challenge is to use your particular gender viewpoint to live a righteous life.

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