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Coffee Break

Coffee Break

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"Would you like to stop for a cold drink or a cup or coffee now?" Sara asked her husband as they approached a service station, at the side of the highway. The couple had been driving towards their destination for several hours, and now, in the late afternoon, the trip was becoming tiresome.

"No, thanks." Barry replied, wanting to speed up their arrival time.

"Oh." Sara answered with a slight edge in her tone, as they drove past the station.

When Sara asked Barry if he wanted a coffee, her subliminal message to him was that she wanted a coffee

Barry was too busy paying attention to the road to detect any change in Sara's demeanor. It took a full fifteen minutes of deafening silence till Barry finally realized that something was amiss. Mentally, he reviewed their last lines of dialogue before the communication had broken down, but couldn't figure out, for the life of him, what Sara could possibly be upset about.


When Sara asked Barry if he wanted a coffee, her subliminal message to him was that she wanted a coffee. Asking him was her way of allowing him to reciprocate and demonstrate his consideration for her. By not reciprocating, in Sara's mind, Barry was being inconsiderate to her needs.

Barry, on the other hand, couldn't fathom why, if Sara wanted a coffee, she couldn't simply say so. He certainly wouldn't have minded stopping for her and even delaying the trip — if she only would have explicitly asked.

The differences of mission for man and woman, as reflected in the original blueprint of creation, are expressed in the very first pages of the Torah. Man's primary role is evident in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis where he is enjoined to "fill the earth and conquer it; and rule over the fish of the sea, the bird of the sky and every living thing that moves the earth." He is the goal-oriented "conqueror" who — in the words of the Kabbalists — "draws down G‑dliness onto creation."

Woman's role, on the other hand, becomes evident in the second chapter of Genesis where she comes into being as an independent person "corresponding to him." At this point, humanity is charged with building a home for G‑d in the Garden of Eden, which they are commanded "to work and to guard." While man "works" the Garden, woman is charged to protect and nurture it, or (in Kabbalistic terms) "reveal the G‑dliness already inherent and impregnated within creation."

While obviously both men and women are urged to "conquer" and subdue the negative aspects of creation, the male assumes the primary role in this area. Similarly, while both are entrusted with redeeming creation and uncovering the G‑dliness within, the female exemplifies this ability. From the very beginning of their creation, man and woman have two respective roles — both integral to the Creator's plan.

Each gender was created with unique differences to further its particular role and goal in creation

Interestingly, more and more studies, articles and books published nowadays are coming to the conclusion that gender differences do not only stem from nurture, but also from nature. In other words, psychologists are finally admitting that it is not only society that shapes men and women, that biology plays an equally significant role.

Each gender was created with unique differences to further its particular role and goal in creation. What Torah has been saying for centuries is surprisingly only lately being read in the pages of modern psychology; namely, that being equal does not mean being the same.

An example of this is a recent study on the managerial styles and skills of men and women. The study found that women are better than men at empowering teams and staff, while men tend to be more speedy decision makers.

"Women ask questions, men tend to give answers," says author and coach Terri Levine.

"Typically, when comparing managers, the dialogue is framed as men's commanding style versus women's team-building or consensus approach," writes Joanna Krotz, a marketing intelligence professional.

The study concluded that woman's stronger ability to keep staffers enthusiastic is vital and perhaps the most important tool for success in today's competitive small and midsized business markets.

I was considering these statements as I reflected on the different lecturing styles that my husband and I respectively employ. Both of us lecture regularly to adults of all backgrounds to enhance their Jewish awareness and education.

My husband will invariably pose a thought-provoking question. As participants venture to answer, he'll brilliantly disprove or discredit their offerings, in order to build up and bring out his central point and hypothesis. He'll demonstrate the fallacy of other ways of life to lead towards his line of conclusion.

I, on the other hand, might also pose a thought-provoking question. But every answer from participants will receive a complimentary comment. Somehow, I'll discover or elicit from even the more far-fetched responses some point of similarity with my own view, some point of worth that can further the principles that I am attempting to convey.

Masculine and feminine modes of communication reflect our respective arenas of spiritual expertise. The masculine is often more direct and goal-oriented, since man epitomizes the role of impacting and affecting the outside environment. The feminine persona, on the other hand, is more intuitive since woman finds and exposes the common grain of truth and connection inherent in us all.

Unfortunately, the differences in our makeup and communication styles can sometimes result in unintended discord

For this reason, workforce specialists and interpersonal counselors alike are discovering that it is inborn for a woman to ask questions, to empower teams, to build relationships — i.e. "guarding" and nurturing, just as it is natural for a man to provide answers, work on the bottom line and be quicker with decisions i.e. "conquering" and ruling.

It is not coincidental that each gender was provided with precisely the tools that it needs to best execute its distinct role in making this world a better G‑dly home. Unfortunately, the differences in our makeup and communication styles can sometimes result in unintended discord.

So, while a fellow woman would have intuitively understood Sara's suggestion as her needing a coffee break, expecting her husband to realize this is akin to expecting him to mind read. Sara (as well as women as a whole) needs to learn how to word her requests in ways that her husband can readily understand. While Sara may automatically intuit her husband's underlying wishes, she cannot be insulted when he doesn't realize hers.

On the other hand, Barry — and men as a whole — must learn to sensitize himself, (with the help of the women in his life) to picking up on some of the nuances in his wife's tone and words. Occasionally, that might mean that Barry needs to forgo his immediate goal and sidetrack or delay its outcome in order to become attuned and aware of Sara's thought process.

Equally important is for both men a women to realize that the underlying differences in the way they communicate and relate are not due to a lack of focus or an insensitivity towards the other, but merely a difference in approach and outlook.

Indeed, these differences in approach — as we are taught on the Torah's opening pages — are what make both man and woman such integral and vital partners in transforming our world into a home for G‑d.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Anonymous May 4, 2006

Coffee Break male/female communication I printed this up to share with my Mother. This has always been one of her big frustratioins with the males in the family. Perhaps this will help to show that we all need to work on it and no one is blaming anyone else. Reply

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