I am exhausted. Not physically tired, but because my nice quiet Saturday morning has been disrupted by a very tedious conversation beside me.
Brenda is away on a course so I decide to have a quiet morning starting with breakfast out at our neighborhood spot. It started well until a voice stood out in the crowd. You know the type of voice that is not speaking loudly but just stands out because it is unique in tone and frequency? It was that kind of voice.
It was a young school teacher who was out with a woman that he seemed to be trying to impress, however this is where it went sideways.
They were one table away from my nice ‘quiet’ corner location. I wasn’t meaning to listen. I had reading with me I wanted to do but I just couldn’t stop myself. It was like there was no one else in the cafe.
For forty-five minutes the teacher talked, almost without a breath, detailing every action of his last week at work. Where he was, what he did, who he talked to, what he said, what they said – even I was bored! His gal just sat there, back straight with her hands in her lap expressionless. The shape of her mouth gives the impression of a slight smile constantly. I think he misreads this as her being interested.
I felt like just bursting in, sliding into the chair beside him for an impromptu mentoring moment. Here is what I would like to share with him:
1. Don’t try to dominate by talking all the time. It is probably your own insecurity that makes you do this. Do you feel you have to monopolize conversations droning on and on about topics that bore women to tears?
2. Do you really think she is interested? Just because a woman listens to you and acts interested in what you’re saying doesn’t necessarily mean she is. If you would pause long enough to notice the social cues, like her looking at her watch every five minutes, and her glancing up desperately to see if she knows anyone – anyone at all – entering the cafe – you might have given her an opportunity to say something and you could actually learn about her.
3. Stop worrying about what you’re going to say next. Instead, focus all your attention and energy on listening to what she wants to say to you. This does take a little effort but it’s not very hard to do. It is not something that you (as a man) do “naturally”. You simply have to concentrate and you can learn to do this.
Okay, I can’t take this any longer, I have to leave. She has now been listening to you for an hour (yes, I am typing this right beside them). Oh no! It just got worse, now he is talking to her about his involvement at his church. Lord help us!
My restaurant experience today is repeated day after day in ministry and organizational offices I visit. With women in leadership roles I observe similar behavior in the board room. Men dominating conversation and discussion. Women waiting for an appropriate opportunity to say something and to actually add to the deliberations. Women leaders report to me that they do not feel listened to, that when they speak in meetings their comments and suggestions are ignored or belittled—and that the same comments or suggestions from men have more.
We want women to talk like us – “Martian”. Recently my assistant, Wendy, said to me, “you want me to speak like a man” referring to my asking her to send me “bullet point” updates. It made me smile but she was right. John Gray in “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus” closes his book “remember men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Even if you don’t remember anything else from this book, remembering that we are supposed to be different will help you to be more loving.”
In another book, the Bible, it reads “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).
In these very early verses in Genesis it is interesting to note that God called both male and female, “Adam” (meaning “man”) the day they were created. Adam and Eve were created with differences, but together they made a full “man,” – a complete picture of God Himself. The differences between men and women were not to be a source of discord or inequality, but a beautiful compliment to each other. So let’s at least learn how to have a conversation.
Brenda is home now. I can hardly wait to go listen about her day.