It's lunchtime at my local Panera. I'm here slurping French onion soup and conducting a sociological experiment at this popular lunch spot for the business set. Okay, so maybe it's more "eavesdropping on the people around me while my husband wraps up his phone call" than a scientific experiment, but still. I'm noticing something interesting: the differences in the way men and women do business lunches.
Two tables over we've got two men. Their lunch trays are pushed to the side, and they've each got their legal tablets out in front of them. The older one is talking ("Here's what you need to do?.") as his fancy-looking pen flies across his tablet - drawing diagrams, underlining words, and doubling back to circle something he said earlier. It's amusing because it could not be a more stereotypic picture of the Way Men Do Business Lunches if I pulled it out of my brain.
Behind my husband, we've got two women. Again, total textbook women communicating: They're leaning into one another across the table as they chat about some other (presumably annoying) person. One of them apparently said something shocking because the other just reached across the table to touch her hand and say, "No she did not!" They also have notebooks out - and a couple of agenda-looking worksheets - but they only occasionally jot something down - usually after the words, "Okay, so let's get back to?." are uttered.
Then, we've got the tables like me and my husband's - the mixed gender tables. A bit more interesting, I think. I can't stop observing (read: spying on) the way the two men and the woman next to us are doing their lunch. The men and the woman have such drastic differences in their communication and work style, body language, and notepad placement, but yet they're working in out. Of all the tables around me, they SEEM to be having the best time and being the most productive.
Of course, I could be dead wrong - and I realize I'm basing this on the far-fetched assumptions and some pretty unreliable data (at least according to my husband who caught me snooping and is now rolling his eyes at me!). And I don't mean to detract from the power of women working with just women, or men with men. Nor do I want to imply anything is wrong with the way two men lunch or two women do lunch or business or communicate (each has their strengths and weaknesses).
But when men and women lunch or work or minister together well, you see in action what Carolyn Custis James has dubbed "The Blessed Alliance." You get a picture of what God intended in the Garden when he looked at man and said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Hey, it's not good for you to be alone!" While bunches of reasons went into why it wasn't good for man to be alone, one of them had to be that the image of God was only half represented. It's harder to see God or to understand God if you only see or only understand (or communicate or lunch with) men or women.
We need each other to reflect his image most fully. And because of that, when we do things together - each of us bringing the best of our genders to honor the God who made us so different and yet so compatible - exciting things can happen.
But of course men and women don't always lunch or work or minister or live together well. Since the time of Adam and Eve this "alliance" has hit a few snags, to say the least. Snags that each of us have experienced in our work life, ministry life, or even home life. Snags that sometimes blur our understanding of the wonderful working relationship God originally intended for men and women.
One of the many reasons why I'm so excited about the Synergy conference in Orlando next weekend is that we'll be exploring this theme: "Your Relationships in the Story: Recovering the Blessed Alliance." It's not too late for you to join us. (For more information, click here.)
But in the meantime, I'd love to hear your experiences of working with men and handling differences in communication and work styles. What are your good experiences? What are the bad?
Hope to see you at in Orlando!