Friday, April 15, 2011

Listening and Gender Stereotypes

My regular readers know that I am working on my second book, which is tentatively entitled The Art of Listening. It will be released by InterVarsity Press, probably in 2013.

I've received an unexpected and interesting response from several of my friends as I've told them about my new book contract. One of my best friends from college said "Great. Now my wife is going to read it and expect me to actually do what it says. Thanks for nothing!" He was kidding, but there was a grain of truth in it. Or possibly quite a few grains. I received an almost identical response from a well known theologian.

Back in the 90s, a lot of us read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus , and there we learned that women are listeners and men are problem solvers. When women express concerns, so the book says, they want empathy, whereas when men express concerns they want solutions. John Gray says this creates much conflict between the sexes.

So, according to the responses I've received, the rumor that men are not good listeners is alive and well. So what do you think? Is it a stereotype or is it a fact? Are women more natural listeners than men? If so, why?

My experiences may be skewed, so I could use your input. I'm a hospice chaplain and a trained certified director, and I often call myself a "professional listener." My life and ministry majors on listening. Plus, I am surrounded by men who are excellent listeners, whether pastors, spiritual directors, or chaplains. Further, and this may be controversial, I find that many women are quick to dispense and ask for advice.

Is one gender better at listening than the other, or is listening judged strictly on a case-by-case basis?