There is man-talk and woman-talk--and the modes are
distinctively different. Men, in the proverbial parlor, talk one way, while women, in the
kitchen, talk another. While separate, each gender often puts down on the other:
Man: Just listen to those women chattering away.
Woman: All those men do is argue about sports.
When we get together around the table we often try, at least temporarily, to be civil with one another. Women may suspend their natural mode while men try to make what they privately call small talk. Soon bored, predictably, we part when eating is finished. Men retire to the parlor; women return to the kitchen--excuses, much of the time, for returning to our own native ways of talking.
Past the criticisms (Women only chit-chat. Men just want to argue. etc., etc.), there often lie sincere desires to talk with one another. Men complain that women won't listen to them; women complain that men won't talk to them--expressive of the difficulty of bridging the communications gap.
This book is based on the premise that men and women each have distinctively different ways of talking which naturally conflict with each other. The communications gap is inevitable so long as each gender insists that the other give up their own way of speaking and talk the way we do. The battle of the sexes, brought to the realm of conversation, is, all-to-often, which mode will prevail--parlor talk vs. kitchen talk, man-talk vs. woman-talk. Will men learn to talk like women? Or will women give up their way and learn to talk like men?
The gap may, however, be bridged if we cease
warring, stop complaining, and come to face and accept our differences. The book begins
with a list of rules for man/woman talk, for man talk, and for woman talk. Next, the rules
are explained, followed by a more detailed analysis of the different modes of talk.
Understanding, hopefully, may oil the machinery of compromise which is essential if men
and women are ever to learn to converse with one another intimately and lovingly.
Toward that end, this book is pointed.
At least three editorial issues will hopefully be borne in mind by the reader: stereotyping, colloquialisms, and my own latent chauvinism. Without tolerance in these areas, the book will be confusing at best and offensive at worst.
First: stereotypes. Obviously there are few
if any pure men or women as I describe them here. We all are combinations of some
masculinity and femininity--most with a predominance of one or the other. For sake of
clarity and brevity I avoid this obvious fact and make stereotypes of each gender. I speak
of man and woman as though every male is Tarzan and every female, Jane.
Certainly we are, most of the time, further from the jungle than that.
Nevertheless, to get the issues more pointedly into the open, I have chosen to risk the criticism and dangers of stereotyping. My fictitious man and woman won't be exactly like any one you know, least of all yourself. Be tolerant though, and perhaps you will see reflections in these stereotypical mirrors.
Second: colloquialisms. The book if full of them. Regularly I depart from dictionary English, choosing "down home" words which are most familiar to me. Again, my intent is to communicate on a level below classroom speech. The risks are that your "at home" talk may be different from mine--that I strike a confusing rather than familiar chord, when I imply connotations not given in the dictionary. Also, for some, my colloquialisms may be distracting as well as unclear. Bear with me when they don't help; your hearing me better is at least my intent.
Third: male chauvinism. Although I attempt to be neutral, to write fairly for both genders, the fact is: I am male. My best efforts at neutrality will likely not conceal unconscious male bias from any discerning female. I can only hope that those readers who see through my intended neutral stance will smile and read on, keeping an eye for any new insight which may be useful in your own quest for better cross-gender communication.
That, at least, is my aim for this book.
RULES FOR MAN/WOMAN TALK
MAN: Thou shalt talk to a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt listen to a man.
MAN: Thou shalt draw pictures for a woman, not make points.
Thou shalt throw dark around things, not light on things.
WOMAN: Thou shalt make points with a man, not draw pictures.
Thou shalt throw light on things, not keep them vague.
MAN: Thou shalt get off track with a woman and talk in circles.
Thou shalt free-associate with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt exit the merry-go-round with a man and stick to the point.
Thou shalt weigh thy words with a man.
MAN: Thou shalt avoid conclusions with a woman; keep it open-ended.
WOMAN: Thou shalt risk closure with a man; resist keeping all options open.
MAN: Thou shalt lay down sense and pick up on feelings with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt hold thy feelings and stick to sense with a man.
MAN: Thou shalt be silent about sex and verbal about security with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt be silent about security and let sex into the light with a man.
MAN: Thou shalt be positive about femininity, or silent, with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt be positive about masculinity, or silent, with a man.
MAN: Thou shalt never argue with a woman; agree quickly with something she has said.
Thou shalt talk cooperatively, not competitively.
WOMAN: Thou shalt not agree with a man, unless you truly do; argue with him reasonably.
Thou shalt add fair competition to your kind cooperation.
RULES FOR MAN-TALK
1. POINT IS NECESSARY
Casual observations, irrelevant or unconnected comments are not allowed.
If relevancy is not obvious, it must be established immediately.
With women: No point is required. Connection is irrelevant.
2. POINT MUST BE ENTERTAINED
Any related point must be heard and respected, especially if it is divisive or contrary to previous point.
With women: Any point can be ignored. Divisive points are particularly overlooked.
3. POINT MUST BE SUPPORTABLE
Some objective facts are required for a point to be admissible. Personal affirmation (I think so) is inadequate basis for any point. Feelings are not enough. I feel like it is true means nothing in man-talk.
With women: Points need no support with facts. Personal experience is sufficient for any statement. Feeling is more than enough. I feel.... justifies any statement.
4. POINT MUST BE CONNECTED TO PREVIOUS SUBJECT
Unconnected points, no matter how powerful, are not acceptable. Connection must be obvious, explained, or promised.
With women: Points need no connection. No explanation is necessary. All points are equally valid, whether on current subject or any other.
5. POINTS MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED AND RESPECTED
I see what you mean (or some acknowledgement) is necessary. I'll take that into account (or some notation of respect) is essential.
With women: Points need not be acknowledged.I don't feel like talking about that is completely acceptable. That's your perception (discounting a point) is acceptable.
6. CONCLUSION IS CRUCIAL
Someone must win or lose: Who? is the only question. Open-ended = defeating; closure is required.
With women: Conclusion is irrelevant. Better if no one wins (Win-win is best). Open-ended is wonderful; closure is avoided.
RULES FOR WOMAN-TALK
1. ANY STATEMENT IS HONORED
No logic or connection is required; anything another says is accepted and stood-under-with.
With men: statements are only honored if they are logical, connected, and understandable.
2. BEAUTIFUL DESCRIPTION IS PREFERRED
Going somewhere (point or purpose) is not required. Just observing is acceptable.
With men: statements should be clearly expressed but need not be beautifully described. Going somewhere is required. Just observing is not enough.
3. SPEAKER IS HONORED OVER THE SPEECH
Affirmation of idea is unnecessary. Honor is for the speaker, not sense of what's said. Statement can be weird, dumb, non-sensible, non-sequitur, and still be honored.
With men: Speech is honored over the speaker. Affirmation of valid (provable) idea is necessary. Honor is for sensibleness, not the speaker.
4. ACCEPTANCE MATTERS MORE THAN UNDERSTANDING
Embracing is crucial. Winning is avoided; if someone is about to win, a woman withdraws. If man makes a good point, it must be erased.
With men: Understanding matters more than accepting. Winning is crucial; embracing is avoided. If someone is about to get close, he starts to fight. If a woman smooths out a good point, a man tries harder to make it stand out.
5. FUSION IS THE GOAL
Sharing and harmony is what talking is all about. Conclusion is irrelevant.
With men: Conclusion is the goal. Harmony is distracting. Reaching a conclusion is everything.
EXPLANATIONS OF RULES
The rules are guidelines--rules-of-thumb, not to be taken literally, but as guides for avoiding the typical conversational pitfalls between men and women. The dogmatic statements are for purposes of clarity. If they were followed to the letter, that is, if men completely switch to women's way of talking, and women to men's, then the gap will still exist, only reversed.
The rules are really about compromise--that is, accepting your own way of talking but reaching out to include the way of the other as well. Without abandoning where you come from, they are about building a bridge toward the other person. Instead of fighting for supremacy, insisting on your own natural way of talking for you both, the rules invite peace-making rather than warring, cooperating rather than competing over which mode will prevail.
When each person has the private agenda of requiring that the other abandon their natural way of talking before he/she will converse, this battle of modes always undercuts any intimate conversation. Every conversation is shifted into a battle of the sexes whenever a difference occurs.
Neither mode of speaking is better or worse than the other; they are simply different. Men, given their genetic structures and social training are naturally more inclined to use one; women, the other. But as long as we insist on judging the mode of the other, making our own sacred while condemning their's, we toss an uncrossable roadblock on the path of good talk. Recognizing our differences, we must cease to condemn the way which is not our own, stop trying to make the other person be like us, and learn to compromise--if we want to converse together.
Unfortunately compromise has gotten a bad name in our society. Common wisdom is: a good person should avoid compromising. Taken to mean, abandoning one's integrity for sake of another, the judgment is valid. Better not to talk with the opposite sex than to lose oneself in the process.
But compromise comes from two Latin words which literally mean with promise. This is the sense of the word meant here. One is to assume the conversational mode of the other, temporarily, with the promise or hope of meeting more honestly.
In following the rules, you are not to give up your own way of talking permanently (as though that were possible). You are simply to go beyond it, temporarily, as a compromise. You suspend something which matters to you with promise of experiencing a type of communication which may be even more valuable in the long run.
See these rules in this light: guidelines for lovingly compromising on the path toward better communication with a person of the opposite sex.
MAN: Thou shalt talk to a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt listen to a man.
Rule 1 is the most basic and general of the rules, applying primarily to initiating conversation and conversing with relative strangers. Once into a conversation, the rule obviously will be abandoned; otherwise, there could be no con-versing. If only the man talks and only the woman listens, only a monologue could take place. Still, in the beginning and at crucial times in a conversation, the rule will apply.
To begin understanding the rule, note that it goes against our most natural inclinations. Men know much about listening to women, but little about talking honestly with them. They tend to clam up, or forget that they have anything to say when women are present. Even though they may talk freely among other men, the presence of a woman is likely to inhibit a man's freedom of speech. Most men have little experience in honest talk with any woman, especially in their native tongues and on their own subjects.
Feeling nervous around women, a man's inclination is to remain silent and expect the woman to carry the weight of the conversation, both initiating talk, choosing subjects, and changing from one topic to another. When this occurs, men pretend to listen to whatever a woman has to say, although in fact they are threatened by women's mode of talking and are seldom interested in typical woman talk.
Women, on the other hand, are more skilled in verbal arts than are men. They talk easily and naturally. When a situation is tense, as in the initial stages of meeting a man, their inclination is to do what comes naturally for them--namely, talk. Nervous men retreat to silence; nervous women retreat to talk. Unfortunately, they often talk into a void and men only appear to be listening. The man's body may be present, but women know, intuitively, that he is not truly listening to them, just as men see through the defense of female chatter.
This first rule respects these general facts and recommends going against our natural inclinations at critical points in conversation with the opposite gender. Man, instead of closing up, will fare better with women if he contains his own nervousness and opens up instead. Woman, conversely, will increase the chances of a real conversation if she bites her tongue when her strongest inclination is to speak out. The easiest thing for each is not inherently the best thing to do.
For a man, the two key words in his part of the rule are talk and to. To talk means more than merely saying words. Men are good at oration--giving speeches, telling jokes, delivering monologues--coming on with a line of one sort or another. Easily they brag about themselves, tell about their successful adventures, or issue dictums from on high. All this, however, is to be distinguished from the talk which this rule calls for.
To talk, as meant here, is to open up and say things which are actually on one's mind. It is to get verbally honest, revealing oneself, rather than using words in an effort to cover nervousness. For example, instead of pretending to be cool by relating a sports event, a man might talk by saying, I was surprised to see you standing here and feel excited about talking to you.
More about subjects later, but this first rule for the man is to talk, that is, to speak himself, rather than to remain silent, to try to get the woman to talk, or to use lines as a substitute for self-revelation. When a man talks honestly with a woman--on any subject--he is likely to be heard. This is the best way for a man to begin a conversation.
The second critical word in the rule is to. A man should talk to a woman, rather than merely verbalizing in her presence. Saying words in a woman's hearing is not the same as speaking to the particular woman present. Remember, the point is to begin a conversation (with-verses, sharing versions), not simply to have a forum for delivering a speech. Whatever a man says in following this rule, he should remember that it is being shared with this specific woman who is listening. He is speaking himself; but he is also talking to an equally personal woman.
This means that he must also remain attentive to her while he is speaking. He must both look and speak at the same time, saying what is on his mind, but also watching to note her reactions, especially emotional, to what he is saying. he will be looking for clues to her receptivity--to how she is receiving what he says. Is she smiling or frowning? Is she listening or turning away? Interested or disinterested? Delighted or offended?
He will also be attentive to her willingness to speak herself. If at any point she seems ready to talk, he will be open to her entering the conversation, literally, to the transformation of his monologue into a sharing of versions. Whatever she has to say, he will be as diligent about listening to her as he was honest in speaking himself. Just as she received what he had to say, so he will carefully accept her initial verbal offerings on this altar of a beginning conversation.
Carefully he will avoid trying to make her talk. If she chooses to remain silent, he will continue to talk, that is, to reveal his mind or heart, all the while attentive to her reception. Should she speak, however, he will honor whatever she has to say.
The woman's half of this rule is exactly the opposite of the man's. Although her inclination when meeting or when nervous may be to talk, she increases the chances of a good conversation if, at first, she listens to the man instead. Not continually, of course, but in the beginning and when tension arises.
As in the man's rule, her two key words are listen and to. Temporarily restraining any urge to talk instead, she will, if she follows this rule, focus other initial attention on listening to whatever the man has to say. Listening, as used here, refers to the complicated process of actually hearing what the man is revealing about himself--listening to him, in contrast with merely being patient while he talks.
Most women, especially those who have spent much time around children, have perfected the art of appearing to listen while actually going about their personal business. The sometimes extended or incessant talk of children, mixed with a mother's necessity of doing more than simply being a listener, gives her good training in doing what she has to do and hearing a child speak at the same time.
This skill, once perfected, easily transfers to grown male children also. While a man is talking, a woman may easily appear to be listening, indeed hanging on to his every word, while she is actually planning her next move or day's wash. This appearance of listening is not what this rule is about. In fact, many women are so skilled at pretending to hear that discipline will be required for actually listening to the meaning of what a man says.
To listen, in this sense of the word, means to hear the words being spoken, while attempting to discern the meaning of the idea being conveyed by them, that is, to try to catch the sense of the man's statements. Other motherly skills may have to be laid aside in such a genuine act of listening--for instance, the inclination to nurture or to correct. A woman's instinct to take care of others can be a real roadblock in actually hearing a person as presented. If some need is revealed by the man's words, she may be distracted by an urge to help him with his problem. If some error is expressed, for instance in facts stated, words used, or even pronunciation, a motherly woman may substitute correcting the man's errors for listening to what is being said.
Another female habit which is generally acceptable in woman talk (to be discussed later) must be restrained when talking to a man--namely, interrupting what the other is saying to voice an observation or opinion. When listening to a man, it is important to hear him out before speaking oneself. Most men are easily distracted by a woman who interrupts before they have had their say. They think she has not been listening to them.
The second key word is to. Although a woman following this rule will be hearing the words expressed, she will be listening to the man who is speaking. Words will be recognized as mere symbols for revealing the speaker, not as the total material for her attention. As a good listener, she will be trying to understand his experience--his thinking or feeling--as revealed in the words he uses.
To further complicate the matter, she will be attentive both to what he means to say and also to possible revelations beyond his conscious intentions. In other words, she will listen to both his conscious and unconscious mind, to what he intends to say as well as what he reveals unintentionally. For instance, if he is telling about a failure while fighting back the tears, she will listen to the story about what happened, but also be hearing his fear, anger, or sadness about his loss.
Listening to a man, in this personal sense of the word, will often be extremely difficult for a woman because his experience--what things are like for him--is apt to be foreign to how things are for her. Often she will have to transcend both her inclinations to nurture or correct, and also imagine a way of being which is quite different to anything familiar to her. Men, to women, are like a different breed of human. Listening to any woman is likely to be easier than actually hearing any man, even one she loves.
MAN: Thou shalt draw pictures for a woman, not make points.
Thou shalt throw dark around things, not light on things.
WOMAN: Thou shalt make points with a man, not draw pictures.
Thou shalt throw light on things, not keep them vague.
As with Rule 1, our inclinations are at odds with Rule 2. Men, naturally, tend to make points rather than to draw verbal pictures. Women following their own bent will talk in pictures instead of making a point clear. When this rule is followed, both will go against the grain and do what the opposite gender most commonly does.
To draw verbal pictures means to use words to paint portraits of scenes--to describe clearly and beautifully rather than to define accurately and precisely. It is to tell stories, letting the events speak for themselves, rather than giving morals (theories, philosophies, the meaning of things).
In verbal picture-drawing one expresses his actual seeing, describing appearances instead of summarizing or telling about "how it is." Such story telling is like a soap opera in which the stage is graphically set, the characters are beautifully described, the drama is clearly portrayed, including both actions and feelings--all this without any obvious message or point. The story can go on and on, without going anywhere in particular. You can miss one segment and still catch up in the next because there is no essential connection between the characters and events. Like life, the story simply goes on, aimlessly.
This type of story telling is unlike the speech of a lawyer, preacher, or teacher--all of which have a specific aim in mind. If a point (moral, goal, or end) begins to appear in picture language, it is quickly evaded or concealed. Where is a soap opera headed? Nowhere in particular, except to portray human experience in believable forms.
Though often difficult for a man to do (for reasons to be explained later), this rule directs men to learn to simply tell things as they are, carefully avoiding points. The rule might be stated: tell pointless stories beautifully, describing events in detail, especially emotional happenings. Avoid making points or drawing conclusions. Describe well, but avoid defining. Speak graphically, yet not dogmatically. Let your descriptions stand openly; leave the woman who is hearing to draw her own conclusions.
Instead of trying to throw light on things, as men are want to do, throw dark around the meaning of things, while picturing them with words. Sound mysterious and vague. May I light your cigarette? If asked, What are you after?, answer, I noticed that your lighter was not handy. Soften harsh reality with an air of mystery. Light conversational candles rather than flashing verbal spotlights. Speak indirectly instead of directly. Let's go dancing, rather than, Let's have sex.
Woman's half of this rule is just the opposite. If you want a man to hear you, try to make your point as clear as possible. Throw the light on things; avoid the dark. De-code your mysteries. Go against your natural inclinations; instead of hiding things, bring them into the open.
Give your point first; elaborate later, if you must, but avoid painting graphic pictures, giving all the details, before you make it clear where you are headed. Men get confused, agitated, and judge you for talking like a woman when they can't get the point quickly. They are more tolerant of explanations after they understand what you are talking about.
State your subject first. I want to tell you how I feel about what happened today. Don't launch into a long, detailed recounting of the day's events, hoping he will focus in on your feelings of frustration. If you do, expect to be disappointed. Because men are inclined to try to fix things, including feelings, you may want to further clarify in the beginning: I don't expect you to do anything about how I feel, but I would like to tell you.
Throwing light, making points, includes clearly defining your words. Men are inclined to go by the dictionary rather than trying to read your mind or heart. If you use any word in an unusual sense, as most other women would tend to understand, take time to explain your meanings to a man before proceeding. You may save much disappointment later if you carefully define in the beginning. Because women often speak to find out what they mean, they forget that men try to figure out what they mean before they speak. In following this rule, women will often have to discipline themselves to think more about their point before they begin to talk. Men, coming from a different place, usually lack the patience of other women who will gladly hear you out while your point becomes clear to you.
MAN: Thou shalt get off track with a woman and talk in circles.
Thou shalt free-associate with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt exit the merry-go-round with a man and stick to the point.
Thou shalt weigh thy words with a man.
Geometrically speaking, men tend to talk in lines; women, to talk in circles. Man-talk is like riding a train on a straight track. One point follows another and leaves the last behind, moving on toward some invisible goal at the end of the track. Woman-talk is more like riding a merry-go-round. The fun is in the ride; a goal is not required. The ride continues in circular fashion, with no particular end in mind. In man-talk, the end of the subject, the conclusion, is the point of it all. In woman-talk the purpose lies in the event of sharing; the end of the ride is often a disappointment, certainly not the goal.
When we wish to converse with each other, this rule notes that we must temporarily lay aside our natural modes and attempt to speak in the manner which the other understands best. We compromise for the sake of enhancing the verbal encounter for each.
For the man, this means that he will contain his urge to establish and maintain some strict order in the conversation. Instead of trying to pick a subject and stick to it, requiring that each comment be related to the previous statement, and all in the ball park of the established subject, he will willingly move from any particular track. Such moves will likely feel uncomfortable at first. However, in the interest of talking to a woman, he will get on the conversational merry-go-round and ride it wherever it goes. For him, it will feel like he is talking in circles in the judgmental sense of the phrase. Actually he will only be experiencing the inevitable threat of getting lost when he gets off his chosen track.
A woman, wishing to talk to a man and willing to compromise her preferred mode of conversation, will do just the opposite. She will lay aside her circular way of speaking and learn to talk as though she were on a train track. This means that she will do what is unnecessary for herself personally, namely, find and agree on a particular topic; then stick to it. She will carefully restrict her comments to the established subject and make each point related to the previous one.
Subject-changing will, of course, be in order; but only after the previous topic has been agreeably concluded by both parties and a new subject mutually accepted.
Man's train-track style of talking leaves little room for spontaneity. Since every statement must be kept on the subject, there is no room for freely changing topics at will. Woman-talk knows no such boundaries. On the merry-go-round where points are irrelevant, any point or topic may be brought up at any time. Even if the participants don't understand any immediate connection with the current subject, they have a tacit understanding that either there is some unknown-as-yet relevance, of if not, no matter.
Men, if they are to learn to talk with women, must learn to go beyond the narrow boundaries of calculating every statement. They must learn to recognize the possible relevancy of data which has no obvious connection at first glance. Whether the thought arises in their own mind or comes from the mouth of the women, they must learn to respect every statement for itself alone--connected to the previous topic or not.
In psychology, this is called free associating, saying the first thing that comes to mind. Each statement, indeed each perceived sensation, is allowed to strike the mind or heart of the receiver however it will. Whatever comes into awareness in response to the stimulus becomes a possible subject for comment. For example, suppose the previous comment of the subject of sky was: The sky has been unusually blue today. In man-talk one would be required to stick with the subject of the sky. Free-associating, however, blue may have struck the hearer more strongly than the subject of sky. In this case, she might respond, I started to wear my blue slacks today, but changed my mind when my hose didn't match.
Such spontaneous associations tend to frustrate man-talk. A man would be apt to reply, What's that got to do with the sky?, thinking that the woman has changed the subject without agreement. When talking with a woman, this procedure is not only acceptable, it is to be encouraged. The rule is, for men: do it. If you think of it during the conversation, say it. Give voice, screening only the most offensive of thoughts, to whatever comes to mind in the course of the talk. If you are telling a story, include what you may consider irrelevant information if it comes to mind while you are speaking.
If a woman says something which reminds you of a thought on a completely different topic, don't hesitate to say it. Though other men may take offense (That's not on the subject), you may be surprised to find that women not only understand such free associations, but actually enjoy them.
For women, the rule is reversed. Instead of freely saying whatever comes to your mind while talking to a man, learn to contain your inward reactions and more carefully weigh the words which you speak aloud. At first you may feel frustrated and severely limited. To your surprise, however, you may find that your conversations with men are greatly enhanced.
To your already embraced freedom to be verbally spontaneous, you will be adding the discipline of calculation. Let your capacity for free association in your mind continue to be operative, but go beyond If I think of it, it's to be said. Curtail the expression of your spontaneous thoughts and feelings as a compromise aimed at better communication with men.
Remember the previous rules as you weigh your words and decide which thoughts to give voice to: what is your point? How does it relate to the current topic of discussion? Specifically, you may discipline yourself to refrain from stating things you see, hear, think, or feel, when you do not know why you would be saying them, or how they connect with the current topic of conversation.
I think of these as sense reports, that is, things you sense while the talk is in progress. For example, while talking about the weather (Suppose he notes: It looks like it may rain today), you may observe that the grass is very green where you are standing. An accurate sense report at the time might be, This grass is an unusual shade of green. However, such a legitimate free-association is off the subject of the weather; the man will likely wonder what is your point in bringing up the grass at this time.
Unless you have a reason which you can explain, keep your observation about grass to yourself and say something else on the subject of the weather. Yes, I love warm days like today. If you want to speak about the grass, connect it with the subject of the weather. Seems like these warm days make the grass grow greener.
Sense reports include emotional reactions you may have in the course of the conversation. For instance, while he talks about a hunting trip you may have a feeling of disgust. While he speaks about women's clothing you may feel that he is getting angry. In woman-talk reporting on these emotional sensations is appropriate. I think killing innocent animals is disgusting.
Or, You seem to be angry about how we dress. In man-talk these statements of feelings are out of order. Men get distracted and often take offense. I feel like that is disgusting, may be your honest emotional reaction to his killing a deer, but the subject of the conversation at the time was hunting, not your feelings. If you change the subject without mutual agreement, you are breaking Rule 3.
If you report on your feeling that he is getting angry while he speaks, again, your honesty is no excuse for breaking Rule 3 (stick to the subject). This rule is: weigh your words with a man; restrict your delight in free association to conversation with a woman.
MAN: Thou shalt avoid conclusions with a woman; keep it open-ended.
WOMAN: Thou shalt risk closure with a man; resist keeping all options open.
Men aim at conclusions when they talk. They not only try to make points, they point their points at some resolution of the topic--the point of it all. From specific data, they move toward generalizations, principles, rules, summary statements. Closure is the goal.
In this process they must draw lines across reality--including some of the data, omitting other facts. Either/or is their way of thinking. Either it is this or that, but not both. Eliminating certain options is their way of arriving at one specific choice, the conclusion of the matter.
Although women's way of talking is just the opposite--they prefer to delay conclusions until all the data is in, until everything has been considered--a woman wishing to converse with a man is advised to adapt his mode temporarily. Men, likewise, in order to keep talking with a woman instead of having an argument or driving her away, are advised to drop their own natural mode and speak in her way for awhile.
For women this means taking the chance of drawing conversational lines instead of insisting on drawing circles all the time. Naturally you want to include everything before you decide. You don't like to purchase clothing at the first store you shop in. You want to go to all the shops and see everything before you have to decide. In like manner, you will want to look at all the items (ideas) in a conversational store before you agree on a conclusion. You want your circle of thinking to include everything.
Okay with other women; but when talking with men, try to draw some lines as quickly as possible. Take the chance of leaving out some data in order to reach a conclusion. Try to agree on a rule instead of focusing on all the exceptions. Of course you will be able to think of something which doesn't fit. Bite your tongue and look for things which do fit instead.
For instance, if a man says, Birds fly, you may recall that ostriches don't--an exception to the rule. Naturally you will want to include this data also by saying, Not all birds fly. Resist. Remember this rule. Risk drawing a line, even if certain data must be ignored. If a man says, Let's leave at three o'clock, you are likely to think, I may not be ready at that time. Naturally you will want to include this data and keep your options open about leaving time. Even so, with a man, take the chance on closure. Try for a particular time. Instead of, I may not be ready, say, Let's try for 3:30.
This rule doesn't mean that you should simply agree with everything a man says. In fact, Rule 8 is to never agree; but more about that later. For now, the rule is about closure, and striving for it. With a man, resist your urge to draw circles that include everything, to always be thinking of the exceptions which certainly exist for every rule. Instead, try to talk your way toward an agreeable conclusion.
Men, your part of the rule is different. In order to get together in conversation with a woman, resist your urge to rush toward conclusions. Of course you like drawing lines. You want to know the truth, to arrive at the answer. You don't need to go to very store in town before you buy a pair of shoes. You don't even have to see every shoe in any store. You are content to ask the clerk about what you want.
Likewise in conversation, you don't have to note every possible exception before you reach a general conclusion. Of course she may not be ready at three o'clock. Also, you may have a flat tire on the way to meet her--or the world may end at 2:30. Still, you want to pin a time down, to reach a conclusion even if all the data is not yet in.
Resist this urge with women. If you catch yourself drawing a line (Will you or won't you?) try to erase it quickly. If she says, Let's go shopping, don't ask, Which store? If she says, Let's go this afternoon, don't ask, What time? Do the same thing in conversation when no travel is required. Resist your habit of drawing conclusions, making rules, seeking principles, looking for the answer. Instead, keep the conversation open-ended. Look for the exceptions more than for the rules. When tempted to draw a line (this or that), think of drawing a circle instead. Why not both/and? Sure, most birds fly, but try to think of those which don't.
Talk inclusively rather than divisively. Let your statements be tentative instead of dogmatic. Instead of throwing down conversational gauntlets, open your mental arms to whatever she says. Work at including every observation, idea, or thought. Avoid excluding any data, no matter how irrelevant or trivial it may seem to you at the time.
You may be surprised at how the conversation changes!
MAN: Thou shalt lay down sense and pick up on feelings with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt hold thy feelings and stick to sense with a man.
Men, naturally, are more attentive to sense-making and less alert to feelings. Women, in contrast, are more aware of emotions and have less attachment to logical thought. Men tend to focus on the objective facts; women, on subjective feelings. Men, consequently, are more impersonal in their talk; they focus on the dictionary meaning of words and the logic of ideas. Women, more personal when they speak, focus on the emotional impact of words and the relationship between those who are speaking. More about this later when we consider ways of talking. For now, only the difference need be noted in order to understand this fifth rule.
The point of the rule is to move past gendered ways of talking, in order to make room for the mode of the other. We must compromise in order to get together.
For men this means to add the dimension of emotions to their natural attention to sense-making in conversation with women. Without abandoning reason, include feelings as a significant element in the verbal encounter. Don't limit the conversation to logic or being reasonable. Include the non-sensible as well as the sensible. When a man automatically excludes emotions from the conversation, he undercuts most all talk with women who automatically include them.
Because logic and feelings are of different orders, they often appear to be in conflict. This rule, for a man, is to lay aside his learned way--that everything said must be logical and make sense, whenever it comes into conflict with the emotions of the moment. He is, instead, to shift his focus from the meaning of words to the feelings of the woman, as well as his own.
Specifically, this will include: paying attention to a woman's emotions, whatever is being said. This requires becoming emotionally sensitive as well as logically sharp. In order to do this a man will have to acknowledge his own feelings and be alert to them, as well as to hers, while the conversation is in progress. Emotional awareness of others comes more through the eyes than the ears. In order to be attuned to a woman's emotions a man will have to remain visually alert to her face, expressions, and body language, as well as to the words he hears.
At the same time, he will, in following this rule, have to be open to his feeling responses during the conversation. These will often be his best guide to understanding her feelings as well as his own.
...lay down sense doesn't mean abandon it altogether; rather logic is to be taken off the throne, worshipped as though sacred, and made the sole guide for speaking. It is to be put in its proper place--that is, as an equal rather than a god. ...pick up feelings means, first, to become alert to them, consciously attentive to the woman's and your own. Then, it means to allow feelings into the conversation. Let the woman speak of her feelings without saying, Now don't go getting emotional with me, or in any way judging emotions to be unacceptable in the conversation.
Because emotions often show no connection with reasoning, they may appear to be unreasonable. Men tend to bow out when this is true. If they follow Rule 5, they hang in instead. Even if an emotion seems to be totally irrelevant and completely unreasonable, give it appropriate respect in the conversation. Often an emotion will be non-verbal rather than stated. Tears, for example, rather than I'm frustrated (angry or sad), demand that a man not following this rule rush for the Kleenex box. Such emotional expressions are completely acceptable for the man who follows Rule 5--no Kleenex required.
Also his own feelings, in addition to his thoughts, are regularly brought into the conversation. He will say more I feels and less I thinks. As his emotions arise in the course of the conversation, he will freely express them. I feel afraid that you don't like me. I feel frustrated about losing this argument. I feel angry about your not listening to me. I feel elated when you accept me.
The woman's half of this rule will lead her in the opposite direction (so that hopefully they can meet in the middle). To her already healthy capacity for bringing emotions into the light, she will learn to add more reasoning. When her feelings threaten to blind her thinking, she will learn to contain them and stick to sense-making at the time.
Following this rule does not mean that she will cease to be emotional, only that she will hold, rather than express, all feelings. What she ways will include more attention to logic and less expression of emotion. Her focus will shift from the feelings of the man to the meaning of what he is saying. To her natural tendency to be subjective about speech, which requires emotional sensitivity, she will seek a balance with an objective attention to the sense of words spoken.
For example, if a man begins to sound angry while he is talking, a woman's natural inclination is to forget what he is saying and focus on the emotion which is emerging. In following this rule she will contain such emotional awareness and continue to focus on the meaning of his words. She will try to follow his logic although she is feeling threatened by his emotions--which may even be unaware to him. Women commonly know more about how a man is feeling than he does. If they keep this rule, they will also keep this knowledge to themselves, continuing to converse with thoughts.
Go for the sense (what he means by his words), even if his emotions are powerful and obvious; try to understand him literally (his meanings), rather than switching to his emotional level. At the same time, hold (keep to yourself) your own feelings which arise during the talk. For instance, as a woman, inclined to nurture, you may feel compelled to smooth things out, to calm him down if he gets angry, to sympathize with feelings he does not even recognize yet. Don't. Avoid trying to help him (mother him), at least at first. In the long run you will be more helpful by trying to understand what he is saying than by reading his emotional mind and trying to make him face it.
When you try to understand his sense of things, rather than shift to the emotional level, you will likely have to ask more questions. Much man-talk is incomprehensible to women. Instead of pretending to understand, nodding your head and acting as though you are not confused by his statements, stop him and ask: What do you mean by that? I heard your words, but I don't understand what you mean. Can you tell me what that word means; I know I've heard it before, but I'm not sure I understand it. Will you explain yourself further?
Women, often, are fearful about revealing the fact that they do not understand what men mean. Instead, they tend to shift to emotions, or pretend to be good listeners when their actual minds are far away. Men, though they seldom tell women, usually recognize when a woman is not with them, that is, is only pretending to understand. They would much rather have her ask, even about the most mundane of matters, than to have her leave them mentally.
Men love to explain their reasoning. Even if it is irrelevant to you as a woman, get involved in his processes of sense-making, even as you would like for him to be involved in your feelings. Also, include your reasoning processes aloud.
Women are apt to arrive at their conclusions intuitively or more quickly than a man can follow. Slow down your thinking and tell a man how you happened to arrive at your conclusion. Show connections. He will be much more inclined to continue a conversation with you if you let him follow your train of thinking.
Remember Rule 3: Stick to a track he can follow. Even if your conclusions are actually arrived at intuitively and therefore speedily, try to translate the process into the slower realm of reason whenever you can. Make a sense path he can follow whenever possible.
In this sense-making process, be attentive to your inclination to draw circles, including all, rather than lines, which exclude certain information. Remember Rule 4, about not keeping all mental options open. If you insist on including all data when the connection with the current subject is not apparent, you will predictably lose his attention. Remember, he needs to know the connection so he can follow you logically.
With women you can say whatever comes to your mind (see Rule 3), but with men the law of logic precludes that option. Since men try to follow this law, you must also attempt to do so when you want to talk with men. For instance, if you think, I wonder where the children are, in the midst of a conversation about politics, logic will not allow you to drop this in without making a connection. Even though you wonder, keep the thought to yourself until the subject is changed. If you wish to change the subject to children, note that you are doing so. Excuse me, but something you said reminded me of children and my mind has been distracted from politics to wondering where they are just now. Changing subjects is certainly in order; but the rules of reason require that you stay on track or note that you are switching tracks.
While a man is learning to add more I feels in his conversation, a woman following her half of this rule will begin to add more I thinks. She will tell more of what she thinks, less of how she feels. Remaining emotionally aware, she will give voice to her ideas; then be willing to back them up with reason.
Rule 5 might also be stated as:
Thou shalt accept a woman's feelings;
Thou shalt understand a man's thinking.
Thou shalt tell a woman more about how you feel, less of what you think;
Thou shalt tell a man more about what you think, less of how you feel.
Thou shalt share thy feelings with a woman;
Thou shalt share thy thinking with a man.
MAN: Thou shalt be silent about sex and verbal about security with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt be silent about security and let sex into the light with a man.
When all the other rules are being carefully followed, any subject is acceptable in a man-woman conversation. Traditionally, men talk about sports and business; women, about children and home. With attention to the rules, however, either gender can converse positively on the traditional turf of the other. Two subjects though are especially dangerous for each gender--sex and security.
Sex is meant here to include the act of sexual intercourse plus everything else which is obviously related to the physical event--passion, going to bed, the clearest words for sex, sexual jokes, and talking dirty. Security is meant to stand for everything related to long term commitments--promises, contracts, deep emotional attachments, romance, love, marriage, and talk about forever.
Men, with good biological reason, are far more interested in sex than they are in security. Women, equally guided by their genes, value security even more than the temporary excitement of sex. Diamonds are a girl's best friend. Both subjects, of course, interest both genders, but with inverse proportions. Furthermore, there are inherent threats to each gender in their subject of lessor concern. Men, promiscuous by nature, find long term commitments threatening to their sexual interests. Women, responsible for pregnancy and child rearing, have good reason to be far more careful about sex.
These facts underlie Rule 6. When either gender is closely in tune with their deeper natures, or in a personal state of uncertainty at the time, these highly personal subjects can be particularly dangerous. Each gender is advised either to avoid or to approach the subjects with extreme caution.
To play it safe, men should keep direct references to sex out of their conversations with women. Unless a woman is in an unusually secure position at the time, she is apt to experience a degree of tension which is bound to interfere with good talk (and even the possibility of good sex later).
In practice this means to avoid talk about sex activity--the four letter words, sexy jokes, doing it, and, of course, obvious direct invitations such as, Do you want to have sex? Even when a man's conscious agenda includes the possibility of going to bed with a woman, he will be wiser to avoid talking dirty.
Instead, both for conversational as well as sexual purposes, men following this rule will focus their talk on the various elements of security. Words about romance and love, for example, are far more likely to be hearable by a woman than talk about sex. Extended time together, home, children, the future, emotions, attachments, faithfulness--any subject which relates to a woman's deep need for security is more pragmatic than the subject of sex. Honesty, of course, is required. A man must speak truthfully on things related to security, or his lies will undercut the validity of the conversation.
For a woman, the rule is reversed. If she is willing to compromise in order to meet a man conversationally, she will respect the likelihood of his being threatened by the subject of security and delighted by the subject of sex. Consequently, a woman is advised to soft-petal her deep interest in romance and forever. Recognizing that her own interest in love is more than likely paralleled by his interest in making love, she will, instead, talk more about sex and less about matters related to security.
If sexual intercourse is one of the possibilities within their relationship, she will find their social intercourse greatly enhanced if she is willing to converse about the second subject as well, especially to initiate such talk. Instead of talking about promises and love, she will more likely catch his interest in talking about passion and sex.
Even if going to bed is not an option, a woman's willingness to talk about sex with a man (all too rare in most men's experience) will tend to stimulate lively conversation. Paradoxically, following this rule of avoiding talk about security (Will you love me in the morning--or forever?), in favor of being verbal about sexuality, increases a woman's chances of the security she may more deeply desire.
The rule, though, whatever the future may hold, is apt to enhance any immediate conversation when either person is able to follow it.
MAN: Thou shalt be positive about femininity, or silent, with a woman.
WOMAN: Thou shalt be positive about masculinity, or silent, with a man.
Beyond the subjects of sex and security, the realities of our gender identities are perhaps the most precious and personal of all arenas for conversation. A male's manhood, a female's womanhood--these crucial components of who we are, become vastly important when elevated to realm of talk. We may converse for days, even years, without ever speaking about these personal topics; but if we do, how we do so becomes critically relevant.
The rule is: be positive about the gender identity of each other. Men, affirm the femininity of the woman to whom you speak; women, confirm masculinity whenever you talk in the presence of men. If you can't, remain silent on the subject. Men: don't, for sake of conversational integrity, risk putting down on women in general or certainly the femininity of the woman in your presence. Women: don't discount men in their presence; never undercut the masculinity of any man you care to talk to.
With your own gender, say what you will. Man-talk commonly involves projected negativity about women, that is, sharing the strains and pains men experience in trying to live with women. Women, we say (in private if we are wise), you can't life with them and you can't live without them.
Woman-talk, likewise, is often filled with the woes of trying to get along (to put up) with men. In male-dominated society, females understandably project their frustration in angry verbal tirades centering on how men are. When wise, however, they follow this rule and restrict such discussions to the presence of other women only.
To be positive about gender means to affirm rather than negate the natural attributes of each gender. Manhood is characterized, for instance, by sexuality, overt power, and success. Masculinity, therefore, is threatened by assaults on sexual potency, physical or mental strength, and ability to perform. I admire your strength affirms masculinity; You are so weak is a threat to manhood. You did well is positive; You failed undercuts something which is crucial to masculinity.
Womanhood is noted, among much more, for nurturing, covert power (beauty), and softness. Femininity is naturally threatened when verbal attacks are leveled against any of these qualities in a women. I admire your concern affirms femininity; You don't care is a threat to womanhood. You are beautiful is positive; You are hard undercuts an essential element of femininity.
Applying this rule, a man will be careful not to speak disparagingly about women in general and especially about the femininity of the women he is with. Few women can hear a man's negativity (threats about women) as confessional; most often they take them personally, which, of course interferes with the conversation.
Men, likewise, can rarely hear women criticize masculinity in general, let alone their own manhood, without experiencing personal threat. The wise man or woman will follow Rule 7 and be positive about the opposite gender, or else avoid the subject.
MAN: Thou shalt never argue with a woman; agree quickly with something she has said.
Thou shalt talk cooperatively, not competitively.
WOMAN: Thou shalt not agree with a man, unless you truly do; argue with him reasonably.
Thou shalt add fair competition to your kind cooperation.
Men are competitive by nature, including their talking. They love to compete with words as well as weapons. Women, conversely, are cooperative by nature. Peace is their virtue, not war--with weapons or words. When things quieten down, men are inclined to stir something up--to start an argument. When arguing starts, women are inclined to stop the conversation if they can't bring peace to the talk.
These converse stances inevitably present difficulty in talk between men and women. As soon as the initial glow of speaking to each other wears off, we tend to fall back into our native ways--men to compete, women to cooperate--which puts us at odds with one another. This rule is about bridging this gap. Men following it learn to contain their urge to compete when they are talking with a woman. Their verbal weapons are kept in the arsenal; the language of peace is practiced. Women, willing to compromise, do the opposite; to their skills at peacemaking, they embrace their own capacities for competing. They learn to enjoy the game of verbal jousting.
In practice, this means: men, never argue with a woman; agree quickly with something she has said. If she says four things, three of which you disagree with, respond to the fourth. If you slip into an argument with a woman, she'll win every time. She is not bound by man's rules and therefore has unfair advantages.
For example, words have no inherent meanings for women. They are free to say one thing and mean another. A woman can say right, and mean left, and still have her meaning count. Men lack this freedom.
Nor are women bound by men's rules about fighting fair. Verbally speaking, a woman can hit below the belt, or go for the jugular without personal qualms. She can, for instance, change the subject at any point, or even switch from logic to emotion (See later section on rules for arguing). Men are easily defeated when woman argue by their own rules, that is, without rules.
Also, a woman is free to stop at any time during an argument, to "give up" without losing. If you're going to get hostile, I'm not going to talk about it. Since no man has this option of giving up without losing, woman always holds the verbal trump card.
For these and other reasons, a man is foolish to get into an argument with a woman. Even if he wins the argument itself he is apt to pay in the relationship. Women tend to withdraw emotionally, certainly sexually, when they have been verbally defeated. Since men usually value intimacy with a woman over winning, the loss of a woman's favor is apt to mean more than the pleasure of winning an argument (at least in the long run).
Arguments with woman may be avoided if a man can contain his urge to make points. This valid procedure with other men, namely, stating and attempting to prove points, commonly backfires with women. Their different mode of talking does not include this typical male activity of mental jousting. Consequently, when a man attempts to inject his own fighting mode over the peace-making mode of a woman, she naturally resists.
Making a point includes stating an opinion as though it were a fact, then backing it up with supporting data--proving it to be correct. The entire procedure is designed, like jousting, to let one man triumph (verbally) over another. Woman-talk, with other principles operative, does not include such point-making--fighting with words.
To talk, of course, is to state opinions; that part of point-making cannot be avoided. However, when a man follows this rule, he carefully leaves his opinions as just that--his opinions. He does not declare them as The Truth. Nor does he attempt to force them--by means of so-called reasonable proof--onto a woman. This second phase of point-making, which is critically important with other men, is completely non-productive with women. In fact, it is usually counter-productive; the more effectively a man proves his point with a woman (that which allows him to win with other men), the more likely he is to destroy the conversation with a woman. If he wins, he loses.
If a woman asks for more information (Why do you say that?), a man may then give some supporting data, but even that with care, lest he sound as though he is trying to prove his point. Women are very sensitive to verbal, or any other type, force. In order to remain in conversation with a woman, a man fares better in understating his opinions rather than overstating them. Rarely will the wiser man try to prove anything to a woman.
Women, on the other hand, fare better with men in the long run when they argue rather than pretending to agree. At first glance it may appear that men just want to be agreed with. The smiling, dumb-blond, who nods yes to whatever a man says, may seem to be more favored than the argumentative woman. This, however, is because of sexual reasons. Man soon tires of a woman he can't talk to--and this includes arguing with. Perhaps Billy Joel's song line, I just want someone I can talk to, is a bit exaggerated. We males do generally want more than just talk. However, talk matters to us, and women who want to relate to men in more than sexual ways will do well to learn to argue with men.
Perhaps the rule could be more clearly stated as: Don't agree with a man unless you truly do. Don't pretend to agree when, in fact, you don't. Don't humor him, or agree with everything he says. He may be initially fooled, even conned temporarily, by a good act of listening and accepting whatever he says. Soon, though, he is likely to see through the act. Honest disagreement will mean more to him in the long run than will dishonest agreement.
Nor should you accept what he says, nicely, as you would a babbling child, when you don't understand. This is dishonest acceptance; you will lose in the long run, even if he doesn't catch on. Better to clarify. Ask him what he means. Tell him you don't understand, but would like to. Men usually enjoy explaining anything they know. Even if your lack of understanding calls him away from the stated subject, he will take more kindly to your honest ignorance than to motherly pretensions.
Nor does the rule mean to just argue for the sake of arguing, as in trying to pick a fight. The point is not to ignore real agreements, but rather to make full room for true disagreements--arguments as they are commonly called. In contrast with many women, most men love a good argument. Fighting, including verbally, is not inherently bad as it is commonly viewed by women. The feminine focus on peace makes it difficult to understand a male's perception of a good argument.
From a woman's standpoint, all fighting is likely to be judged as bad. Arguing, just one more form of fighting, is hence to be avoided. To understand this difference a woman may recognize at least two relevant factors: first, men are genetically inclined to compete--to strive to win, and this means to fight to win. Just as women enjoy cooperating rather than competing, so men enjoy competitive events. Whether with weapons or words, men find pleasure in vying for supremacy.
Secondly, another fact which women commonly ignore is that male fighting is different from female fighting. Males fight primarily for supremacy--for the principle or point, not to kill the opponent. Though it looks vicious from the outside--indeed blood may be drawn, male fighters seldom hit below the belt or go for the jugular. That is, they do only what is necessary to establish supremacy. Women often think, erroneously, They're going to kill each other. Seldom does this happen.
In fact, men tend to have great respect for a worthy opponent. They want to win over him, and may talk of killing, but their energies are given to getting the best of the enemy, thereby proving themselves. Men are more likely to kill a female who rejects them than a male who confronts them. Female fighting, though avoided if at all possible, seldom has these boundaries. Cat fighting, as women do it, is unlike a good dog fight. It aims to kill.
Once a man establishes supremacy, the fight is over; his fierce opponent the moment before may again become his best friend. Females rarely have this experience. Winning or losing tend to be forever for women. Recognizing the fun element for men, plus the non-fatal nature of their attempts to win, may ease a woman's mind somewhat, as she considers following this rule by jumping into a good argument.
Emphasis, however, must be placed on good. A good argument, for a man, involves a disagreement which proceeds according to a firm set of rules. Though seldom written, these rules belong to the common-knowledge category for most males. Learned early, they are so well accepted as to be consciously forgotten by many men. Even so, for an argument to be good, it must follow these unwritten rules.
Just to argue with a man, as women are often inclined to do, is not enough to meet this eighth rule. Unless it is done by his standards, the rule will backfire. Better for a woman to pretend to agree than to argue unfairly (not by his rules) with a man. If she goes by woman's rules, where almost anything goes, certainly she will be best advised to avoid arguing.
What are these unwritten rules? How does a man's arena for arguing differ from a woman's? First, the rules of reason apply. See the later section on reason for an explanation of these rules. These principles about sense-making, different from female rules for peace-keeping, all apply, yet with specific applications in arguing.
A first major guideline is: Keep your comments in the realm of reasonable rather than emotional. Stick carefully to sense-making with everything you say. Nothing is less acceptable in a good argument than non-sense--that is, logically inconsistent statements. Whatever you say, make sense. Remember, draw lines; don't make circles; speak either/or, not both/and. Don't say, for example, The temperature is right, but this room is cold. That is a logically inconsistent sentence. Either the temperature is wrong or the room is not cold. It's either/or, not both/and. Even though any other woman may understand and accept such an unreasonable statement, few men will.
Reasonable rather than emotional doesn't mean that you shouldn't feel. Emotions are a major element in good fighting or arguing. The adrenalin flow is needed to produce the energy required.
Emotions, however, are to be felt rather than used as a weapon in the argument. Feel whatever you do, but restrict your talk to that which is reasonable. For example, don't use tears as a weapon or excuse to become unreasonable. Even though your emotions are powerful with a man, contain them if you wish to argue well.
Nor should you resort to emotions to support a point. Remember, only objective data is counted in reasoning. But I feel like it is true has no weight whatsoever. I don't like (a feeling) what you said is totally irrelevant to a reasonable argument. You may, in fact, feel that it is untrue; your intuition can be invaluable in arguing--but never as a basis for proving a point. Nor must you like what he says. But your dislike is your personal feeling, not a valid reason to use in supporting your point.
Another common female error in arguing with men is to use emotional sensitivity as an excuse for unfair fighting. A women, attuned to emotions, is apt to pick up on a man's aggressive feelings, even before he does. She may, in turn, use this information unfairly by denying him the right to feel aggressive while arguing. I'm not going to talk to you if you're going to get hostile. This places a man in a real double-bind. When he senses an argument arising, a man is apt to feel his competitive appetite whetted. He begins to feel assertive, which he enjoys--to perk up and get prepared to give his best arguments. Women commonly perceive this aggressiveness as hostility and become habit-bound to stop it before it arises.
In woman-talk this smoothing-out procedure is functional; in man-talk it becomes destructive. In order to participate in a man's good argument a woman must learn to allow aggressive feelings without becoming threatened by the emotions themselves. Whether in herself or him, she must learn to accept feelings without using them as a threat or as a rationalization for abandoning the argument--which is to say, the man, at the time.
Nor should she use her freedom to walk away from an argument for any other reason, without conceding loss of the argument. According to man's rules, one may concede at any time, but, barring unusual circumstances, one may not simply stop in the middle of an argument. Women, with less instinct to win, coupled with their inclination to peace, can more easily drop an argument without any sense of personal loss. Indeed, these factors, as noted previously, give women an unfair advantage in power. Well have it your way, if you must, followed by walking away, can be a passive-aggressive form of winning, which is unfair according to man's rules. A wiser woman, wishing to remain in conversation with a man, will refrain from using such a tactic.
The rule about reason, also noted in Rule 3 above: stick to the subject, becomes especially relevant in arguing with a man. Woman's freedom to make statements with no apparent connection to the subject under discussion may tempt her to use this as an unfair tactic in arguing with a man. Remember, just because you happen to think of a point during an argument does not justify bringing it up at the time, unless you can show its relevancy to the topic at hand.
At lunch today a male friend asked me what I was writing about. When I answered, arguing with a woman, he replied, I've given up on arguing with a woman; they'll either win unfairly or else they'll cut you off. You can't win. The second part of his reasoning--recriminations after the argument is over, particularly cutting the man off, sexually or emotionally, are all too familiar to most men. Like my friend, they become gun-shy of even engaging in a good argument. Cognizant of this risk, women wishing to hold the door open to future arguments with a man will be careful to contain any ill feelings afterward, rather than making a man pay for verbal victories.
Another rule for male arguments requires that some acknowledgement be made, both of points accepted during the argument, and, of the eventual success of either person. When a point is made, even if you disagree, this rule requires that you convey your acceptance before proceeding with your disagreement or contrary point. For example: I hear what you are saying. Or, I understand that your opinion is .... Your point, as I understand, is ... Or, the acknowledgment may simply be made by a nod of the head, indicating that you have heard. This rule is broken when one interrupts and rushes on to a contrary point before the other person finishes speaking, or when one appears not to have heard or understood but continues anyway.
At the end of an argument, if the reasoning or data of the other has prevailed over you own, his success is to be noted by you. Simply dropping the subject without such apparent recognition of who won is to leave the argument uncompleted. Well, I thought my opinion was correct, but your reasoning has convinced me that I was wrong. Or, I certainly hate to admit it, but I was in error in my thinking. Or, You have introduced me to a point of view which makes more sense than my own. Or, simply, O.K.; you win.
At this point of acknowledged defeat, no further humiliation is required in male arguments. Supremacy has been established; the victor is satisfied. The loser of the argument need suffer no loss of face if he or she has fought fairly, been defeated, and admitted the defeat. The bonding between the two is strengthened, even if one has lost.
A good argument is a positive event in a relationship with a man. Unfair fighting is, of course, to be avoided, but fortunate is the man who finds a woman who is able to keep Rule 8--or a woman who finds a man equally able to abide by the male half of the rule.
BASIS FOR TALK
Before we focus on talk itself--the saying of words, some understanding of the basis for speaking may be helpful. Talk is the fourth step in a larger process which begins with Perception (first), followed by Reaction (second), and Thinking (third). The entire process which culminates in talk may be pictured like this:
4. Talk (speaking)
3. Thought (conscious)
2. Reaction (unconscious)
1. Perception (sensing)
Although our subject is number 4 only, we may understand more clearly if we are aware of its prerequisites and how they effect talk itself. Men and women respond differently at every level.
For clarification: steps 1-3 are pre-verbal. They occur before anything is actually spoken. Although we may, in conversation, ignore them and be attentive to words only, still they are the essential basis for everything which we say. Without Perception, Reaction, and Thought, there could be no talk.
Perception (#1) refers to the brain's reception of stimulation--primarily through the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Talk begins with stimuli--a message reaching the brain. Such stimulation may come either from without or from within the skin. We may, for example, hear a bird sing (without) or our stomach gurgle (within). We may feel a tree or a pain in the neck. Stimuli may also come from memory, that is, stored prior perceptions. When I recall the smell of my first grade school room, perception occurs, just as it would if I were to walk into that room again.
Step 2 in the speech process is Reaction--that is, automatic response, similar to knee-jerk movements. Before any conscious thinking (step 3) occurs, we react sub- or un-consciously, that is, on the basis of prior experience, either instinctive or learned. For example, if I feel fire, I instinctively react, even without conscious thought. If I see a nude female, I react automatically. These reactions may or may not be in my conscious awareness, but they occur whenever perception takes place. Even if the perception is a memory, as in a dream, I react on a level below conscious thinking.
Thinking, step 3, involves the addition of conscious response to unconscious reaction. My Reaction (step 2) to the Perception of pain (step 1) will be to withdraw or avoid it. But with the addition of Thinking (step 3), I may decide to remain in the dentist's chair. Weighing the alternatives, which is the essential element of conscious thinking, I decide to endure some temporary pain rather than risk my teeth decaying.
Thinking is what we do with our reactions before we translate them into actions--or, our current subject, into speech. These first three steps occur almost instantaneously, before anything is done or said. We perceive, react, and think, in the twinkling of an eye. Then, we may or may not speak, depending on what we think, but in either case, talk--held in or spoken--is the culmination of these three steps. Talk, in the final analysis, cannot be understood apart from the steps which underlie it.
The point relevant to our subject--man/woman talk, is that we tend to be different on each level. Our obviously different modes of talking grow out of our different ways of Perceiving, Reacting, and Thinking. If we grasp our differences on the more elemental levels, our speech modes will become easier to understand.
To begin with, men tend to focus on different perceptions than do women. Both genders share, of course, the same sense receptors. As humans, both men and women of course, see, hear, etc.; but the focus of our shared ways of perceiving tends to be different. Men tend to focus on objects-in-space, women on space-surrounding-objects. Men more often perceive things-themselves; women, the context of the things. For example, men walking into a room for the first time are more likely to look at certain objects which attract them, while women will tend to focus on the feel of the whole room--its colors, shapes, and the arrangement of things--before they focus on objects.
We might say that women tend to get the big picture first, men, the small picture. If a man likes a chair in a room, he will ignore (is he recognizes at all) that the colors don't match the surroundings. Even if a woman likes a chair, she will be alert to the color scheme of the room. In selecting a picture for the wall, a man will focus on the subject of the scene (the small picture) while a woman looks to see how it will fit into the room. The nature of the frame and the colors of the painting may be more relevant to her than the subject of the picture.
It is as though men have telephoto (or macro) lens and women, wide angle lens. With their camera eyes, men zero-in on specific objects, leaving everything else out of focus, while women, with great peripheral vision and extended depth of field, bring everything into focus at once.
Men perceive points; women focus on pictures. Men focus sharply on specific things. Women, more diffused, take in the larger picture. These differences in perception reflect clearly in speech as we will amplify later. For now, note that men listen to the point of the speaker, while women tend to listen to--that is, take in the whole speaker. What he is wearing may receive more of a woman's attention than what he is saying. While men are focused on the specific meaning of words, women, more diffused in their perceptions, are attentive to emotions as well as words, the non-verbal picture along with the verbal statements. While men focus on dictionary definitions, women listen for much more than literal meanings of words used.
Next, we tend to react differently. Before we reach the level of conscious thinking, men and women automatically react to perceived stimuli in distinguishable ways. Men react from their heads, women from their hearts--that is, men respond mentally, women emotionally. A man's first reaction to what he perceives is with thinking, a woman's, with feeling.
Suppose a man and woman see a kitten which has been run over in the street. The man's reaction will likely be from his head--What was the kitten doing in the street? Who let it out of the house? (Or other such thoughts). The woman's reaction will more often be emotional, from her heart--Poor kitty. Let's stop and see if we can help it. (Or other such emotional reactions).
In the colloquial sense of the phrases, men come from their heads, women come from their hearts. Come from implies a deeper truth, namely, that they were there to begin with. If a man comes from his head, he must have been there first. This is, in fact, true. Men tend to identify themselves, who-they-are, with their minds or heads, while women think of themselves more in terms of their feelings or hearts.
A man's thinking--his ideas, notions, reasons--is more personal to him than are his feelings. Conversely, a woman's feelings are more personal than her thoughts. Because of this difference in self-identification, men can be more casual about feelings. A man's emotions are less personal to him. Women, on the other hand, can be more casual about ideas; feelings, however, are a different matter, far more personal than mere thinking.
With these differing sources of personal identification, the differing ways we react to stimuli become predictable. When they are not understand, men wonder Why are women so emotional? Why don't they use their heads more? Women, coming from their hearts, easily understand people being emotional. They wonder, though, Why are men so cold-hearted? Why don't they feel more?
Man's mode of reacting from his head may be thought of as objective, while woman's heart reactions are subjective. Men tend to react objectively, women, subjectively. As noted in step 1, men perceive objects-in-space; to these objects, they tend to react objectively or from the mind. Women, perceiving the space-around-objects or larger picture (step 1), tend to react subjectively or from the heart.
Literally, these descriptive words are inaccurate; men are not actually more objective, nor are women more subjective. Men are just as subjective as women, women as objective as men. Yet the words can be useful to distinguish these two modes of reaction. The nature of thought as distinguished from feeling does make the former seem more objective, the latter, more subjective.
Perhaps the words abstract and concrete would be more accurate. Abstract comes from two Latin words: abs = away; trahera = draw. Hence the word means to draw away. This is man's mode of reacting. He becomes abstract (or objective), that is, he draws away. He looks at things, as though from afar.
Woman, in contrast, becomes concrete. Concrete also comes from two Latin words: com = together; cresere = grow. Hence the meaning: to grow together. Woman's mode of reacting is to concretize or pull things together. She looks at things concretely (or subjectively).
Men react abstractly to the objects they have perceived in step 1. They think about them. Women react concretely to the larger picture perceived in step 1. They feel about it. Men automatically abstract or take things apart in their heads; women automatically concrete, or pull things together in their hearts.
To note that we react differently does not mean that the modes are not shared in time. Men also feel, just as women also think. Men have hearts; women have heads. The point here is only that we tend to react with one before the other. Men react by thinking first, feeling later; women react by feeling first, thinking later. With men, it's first head, then heart; woman's gut level reaction is from her heart. Later she uses her head.
Men react objectively before they become subjective; women react subjectively before becoming objective. Men abstract before getting concrete; women, vice versa.
As these words, thinking and feeling are colloquially understood and made synonymous with reasonable and emotional, we may say that men react reasonably; women react emotionally. The reverse is not true. These special meanings of the words thinking and feeling will be amplified later when we deal with the level of conscious thought. For now we only note that men and women unconsciously and automatically react to what they perceive, both inwardly and outwardly, in differing ways.
Because of this, men tend to be judged as unfeeling, and women as unreasonable. In the literal sense of these words, this is inaccurate. Men are not unfeeling; nor are women unreasonable. But on the reaction level, men tend to come from their heads, women, from their hearts. Thinking comes first for a man; feeling is second; but feelings matter more to women, while thinking is secondary.
Gender reactions, before conscious thought, are also distinguishable in other ways. Men react competitively, women, cooperatively. From the lowest biological level of reproduction to the highest social levels, males tend to compete, females to cooperate. Sperm, in order to survive, must win over one another. Competition is the name of their survival game. Only one (except in rare cases of multiple births) will survive through union with an ovum. Ova, on the other hand survive through cooperation. There is no competition for them. Only through cooperation with one of the multitudes of sperm available will an ovum end up human.
The same reactions are evident for the human beings which emerge in society. Boys choose guns and fight with one another. Girls choose dolls and play house together. Later, in games and business, men automatically compete with each other. Women, less interested in trophies than in relationships, automatically cooperate with one another. They head for peace and harmony, not war and winning.
Men, like the sperm which precede them, aim at coming out on top, being #1, The Boss. Women, reflective of the mode of the ovum, aim at empathy, getting together, being one big happy family. Trophies are relatively empty for them; relating with the other players is more important. They want win-win situations. Men rarely understand this, since their genes incline them to react competitively. With men, everything is win or lose.
At step 2, on the reaction level, men and women come from different places. Men competitively react on the basis of objective or abstract thought. Women cooperatively react on the basis of subjective or concrete feelings. Before conscious thinking enters the picture, men are striving to win, to become King of the Mountain, while women are striving to establish Peace in the Valley.
King Arthur to Queen Guenevere (after an argument):
"What are you thinking? I don't understand you. But no matter, Merlin told me once: Never be too disturbed if you don't understand what a woman is thinking. They don't do it often."
Mrs. Lockhorns to Mr. Lockhorns (while putting on her make-up):
"The average woman would rather have beauty than brains because the average man can see better than he can think!"
Both men and women think. Yet our ways of thinking are so different that we rarely come to understand the mode of each other. More commonly, like King Arthur and Mrs. Lockhorns, we become discouraged about understanding and, in the end, put down on the thinking of our opposite genders.
Our differing ways of thinking, like our ways of reacting (step 2), may be characterized with the symbols, head and heart. Men use their heads; women follow their hearts--that is, men think in a mode which is more identified with reason or logic while women think in a manner more associated with emotion or feeling. A man, for example, is more likely to say, "I think it is going to rain," while a woman might voice the same thought as, "I feel like it is going to rain."
Unfortunately social judgments limit the usefulness of the symbols, head and heart. Being reasonable (using one's head), is commonly judged as better than being unreasonable (using one's heart). In our male dominated society, we honor reason, but tend to put down on intuition which is considered to be illogical. Why can't you be reasonable? is a familiar male judgment of the way women think.
In fact, the process of thinking itself has been so long identified with the male mode that woman's way of thinking is often seen as emotional literally. Merlin's message to King Arthur certainly implied that women don't think as much as men. Men may erroneously believe that women substitute feeling for thinking in the literal senses of these words.
In a parallel error, because men tend to react from their heads--that is, with reason rather than emotion, women may also falsely conclude that men think but don't feel as much as women. Both these ideas--that women feel rather than think, and that men think rather than feel--cloud our understanding of the thinking process itself, especially the differing ways we do it.
The metaphors, head and heart, may be useful for labeling our distinguishable modes, but if the associated words, reasoning and feeling, are taken to imply that women are unreasonable and men don't feel, then the metaphors have been pushed beyond my intended meanings. I suspect that the use of heart and emotion to characterize the female mode of thinking has occurred because males had already cornered the market on thought words. The feeling words have probably been chosen by default, as the best second choice.
Pascal may have been dealing with this unfortunate misunderstanding when he noted that the heart has reasons the mind knows not of. Perhaps he was reacting against the common judgment that female thinking is unreasonable. However the use of the metaphors has emerged, my point here is that they are to be taken as metaphors only, not literally. The mental activity of females, commonly called feeling and associated with the heart rather than the head, is actually but a different type of thinking--one not limited by the laws of logic.
For distinguishing the two modes we may use the name feeling rather than thinking, but another error is made if we identify this feeling with literal emotions rather than intellect. Intellectual activity of women is different from that of men, but it is still intellectual rather than actual feeling. Conversely, if we take man's type of thinking to be unemotional we make a further error. Their so-called reasonable way of thinking with their heads may also be highly emotional.
With rapidly emerging data on brain functioning, in which the differing activities of the two halves of the brain are being charted, the left and right hemispheres may prove to be a more accurate way of describing these differing types of thinking. Male thinking appears to rely more on the activity of the left hemisphere, while female thinking seems to emerge from the right half of the brain. While research is continuing, the left and right brains, taken metaphorically, may be better ways of naming the male and female modes of thinking. Instead of saying that men use their heads and women their hearts, we will likely be more accurate and also avoid the above noted pitfalls if we say that men are left-brain thinkers and women are right-brain thinkers. Perhaps then we will be less tempted to think of women as feelers who don't think, or men as thinkers who don't feel.
Accepting our problem with language and social judgments, how can we distinguish these two modes of thinking? What is the meaning of the metaphors, head and heart? What is the difference between the intellectually activity called reasoning and that called feeling? How is left-brained thinking different from right-brained thinking?
Head or left-brained thinking majors on analyzing. Heart or right-brained thinking is primarily synthesizing. Men analyze; women synthesize. Men sort; women lump. Men discriminate, drawing mental lines; women collectivize, erasing mental lines, pulling things together. Men think in terms of either/or; women think of both/and. While men are thinking in terms of separating and analyzing, women are thinking of uniting and synthesizing.
Recalling the earlier steps in the process--Perceiving and Reacting: men, we noted, tend to perceive objects-in-space, entities, things, or points--the small picture; while women note the larger picture--space-around-objects, patterns rather than points. Next, men tend to react from their heads, competitively, while women react from their hearts, cooperatively. Men get objective and abstract, while women become subjective and concrete.
Now, in step 3, these earlier phases tend to take mental shapes. Objects or points perceived in step 1 are, at this conscious level, analyzed by competitive males. Men, as soon as they begin to think, start to objectively analyze the data they have perceived. They try to understand, to make sense or figure out what they have seen or heard.
Women, with their right-brained mode, begin, after a perception, to subjectively synthesize all their data. They try to accept everything in the space-around-objects, to incorporate or harmonize what they have perceived.
When this mysterious world is perceived and reacted to, men immediately attempt to solve the mystery, to get everything into the light where it can be analyzed and figured out. Women, thinking differently, respond to the mystery in an entirely different manner. Instead of resolving the puzzle, they try to accept and live with it as it is, bringing the various pieces into a synthesized harmony.
POINTS AND PATTERNS
The contrasting processes may be summarized and further broken down as follows: man's conscious analysis is moving toward the best summary point or explanation. The process may be called reasoning or logic. Woman's conscious synthesis is moving toward the smoothest possible pattern. Her's might be called intuition or feeling. He has little interest in patterns--how things appear together (look at how he dresses when women aren't around); she has little interest in finding points or conclusions, but is continually concerned with how things fit together (see how she dresses even when going to the grocery store).
HOW MEN THINK
1. Abstracts (Sorts)
Man's left-brained mode, reasoning, may be compared to building a mental pyramid. At the first level of thinking--the base of the pyramid, he gathers the objects, that is, the data he has abstractly perceived. He sees as much as he can. He objectively gathers as many facts as possible. He is collecting the stones from which his mental pyramid will be constructed, the objects (facts, information, data).
Once a subject has been perceived he begins looking for everything he knows (has previously learned) about this particular topic. As in his initial perception (objects-in-space), he attempts to sort out any further mental objects (facts) possibly related. At this first level he is objectively breaking things down into small parts which he can mentally manage. He is taking things apart and reducing them to their elements so he can move to the next step in reasoning--building his mental pyramid.
At level two, analyzing or breaking things down into component parts, phases into deduction or relating them to one another. After gathering as much data as possible, he begins to compare each piece with every other piece. He takes the separate parts he has seen and begins to weigh one against the other. How do they go together? He compares his pieces of data with each other to see how they add up. Objectively he begins to reason, to try to make sense of the diverse pieces of information he has perceived. How does this part of the puzzle fit with that part?
He uses his memory to look for cause, to recall what might lead up to what he perceives. He asks why? What makes this? Where do the parts come from? He uses his imagination to look toward the future. What will be the effect of what I perceive? Cause and effect, why and what, are the basic elements in this phase of the sense-making process.
Somehow the parts must be fitted, the puzzle must be explained, the mystery solved. This middle phase of mental pyramid building may be characterized as excluding or eliminating the parts which seem not to fit or to be unrelated to the puzzle. Data is being weighted for its relevancy to the mystery at hand. That which relates is kept; that which does not is eliminated. Either/or is the mode here. Either it fits, or it does not. Either it relates, or it does not. If it does, keep it in mind; if not, discard it.
In this weighing-for-relevancy phase, the blocks are being selected for the decreasing size of the emerging pyramid. Like stacking blocks, each succeeding row must have fewer blocks (facts) than the one before. The man's mind is struggling toward the higher levels of the pyramid, the peak of which is the conclusion.
Finally, nearing this peak or point, all previous facts (sense perceptions or ideas) are being phased into one logical conclusion. Logic only means that the facts selected and kept must fit together in a consistent manner. Conclusion is from Latin: com = together or close; claudere = to shut. Hence, to shut up closely. Man, in his process of reasoning or logic, is drawing his data to a concise point. He is attempting to shut it up closely, to come to a conclusion.
In phase one he separates parts from the whole. He looks for objects-in-space (facts) which may be relevant to the mystery before him. He gathers data. Then in phase two he begins to sort out his facts, to put two and two together. He discriminates, draws lines, looks for differences--then begins to eliminate that which seems less relevant or unfitting in favor of that which seems to rationally fit. These remaining facts are stacked as higher levels of the mental pyramid, progressing toward the top.
Finally, nearing the peak of the mental construction, he adds up all his facts. Two and two become four. The pieces of the puzzle which were compared in phase two are now fitted together in conclusion. Using weight as a metaphor, we may say that he weighs one thing against another, then arrives at an answer. Based on the facts I have weighed, the answer is...
HOW WOMEN THINK
Woman's mode of right-brained thinking is entirely different. Thinking it is, rather than literal feeling, but analytic, like male thinking, it is not. While man is busy building pyramids, woman is equally active establishing patterns of wholeness.
Her mode of thinking may be visualized as:
1. Concretes (Lumps)
At first, following her perception of space-around-objects, that is, the whole picture rather than the parts, and then her feeling reaction (step 2) from her heart, woman begins conscious thinking (step 3) by expanding her attention to the entire subject at hand. She, from her subjective and concrete reactions, begins to look for the larger whole, to grasp every possible stimuli, to feel and include everything perceived.
While man is taking things apart and reducing them to elements, she (#1 above) is equally active in pulling things together, making wholes, and elevating them to compounds. While he is sorting things out, she is lumping them together. As he begins to focus on objects-in-space (more ideas or mental objects), she becomes more diffuse about the space-around-objects (ideas beyond the current subject). While he zooms in with his telephoto lens, she widens the focus of her mental lens, taking in even more than before.
Before harmonizing, her ultimate goal, can be achieved, she has no choice but to include everything possible in her overall pattern. Any missing element would disrupt the overall harmony. Everything must be taken into account. Even if it has no apparent connection, some possible but unseen relationship may make it the crucial factor in the final pattern.
Comparing these modes of initial thinking to a shopping trip in a mall, the male mode is to find the desired objects (say, clothing) in the quickest possible way. Ask the clerk where it is (focus in on the objects).
The female mode, in contrast, is to find every possibly related object (article of clothing) before anything else is done. She can't ask the clerk because she hasn't seen everything yet. To use a clerk for focusing in on some particular article would interfere with her necessary act of further diffusion before any acceptable decision could be possible. She must see everything first, just as in thinking she must see all factors before proceeding to the next phase of her process of patterning.
Comparing thinking to walking into a room, this phase of further diffusion or seeing all is like getting the feel of the room, recognizing its ambience, absorbing its atmosphere. While male thinking is zeroing in on specifics, female thinking is expanding awareness of the generalities. Later on she may consider, for example, the subject of a particular painting. At first, however, the colors and framing, the larger picture, is more relevant to her mode of thinking.
Next, at phase two, after every possible item of mental clothing has been seen, she begins the active process of synthesizing. Intuition is the way it is done, in contrast with his reasoning. While man is engaging in objective analysis of specific objects (assembling his building blocks before erecting his pyramid), woman is busy with her subjective synthesizing process--pulling all factors toward some harmonious whole.
Intuition, from Latin: in = toward, and tueri = look, means to look in or toward oneself. Man's mode of looking out at the external data, thinking about it, is paralleled by woman's mode of looking inward, intuiting about her perceptions. While man is abstracting (drawing away), woman is concreting (pulling together). He looks out to weigh his facts; she looks in to register her impressions. What is her feeling response to what she has perceived? What does it elicit from within herself? What is her intuitive reaction, her gut-level response?
To the deep, unconscious reservoir of all past experiences, she opens herself for a message. The intuitive mind (right brain) may be compared to a computer which has been programmed since birth (and perhaps before) by all the data of prior perceptions and experiences (including, possibly, those from previous generations which have been genetically encoded).
At this phase of thinking, the brain computer begins scanning its data bank to compare the new input with the previous information. Whereas the analytical left brain systematically adds up the conscious facts like an old-fashioned adding machine, the intuitive right brain, woman's mode, instantaneously computes on the basis of prior programming.
Man's mode of reasoning, called logic, is like walking on a train track, stepping on every cross tie; or like counting numbers--1,2,3,4,5,... Every step is done systematically, orderly, one following another in logical sequence.
Woman's mode of intuiting is more like a bouncing ping pong ball inside a balloon. First it bounces off one side, hits an opposite side, then caroms at a different angle. There is no sequence or order. His way is systematic and predictable; her's is random and unpredictable.
In our shopping metaphor, man systematically goes for the item he wants in the most convenient shop in the most orderly fashion (getting a clerk's help). If the item is not found, he does the same in the next available shop. Woman, differently, shops in a random manner, first one shop, then another; back to the first, then off to a third. Clerks are, of course, avoided because they interfere with the random process by requiring that a woman focus in before she is ready.
At this point the shopping metaphor breaks down. Whereas man's way of thinking is always goal-oriented--shopping in order to purchase a particular item--woman's way is seldom focused on a single goal. She often shops just for the fun of shopping, something a man rarely does.
Likewise with her thinking. Unlike man on his train track of thought, focused on some distant destination, she is more often on a mental merry-go-round--enjoying the ride, but going nowhere in particular. Like shopping, she may think just for the sake of thinking--that is, without trying to reach some goal such as solving a problem, finding an answer, or making sense of something, as males inevitably do. In the mysterious world of thought, she may simply walk around encountering mysteries with no necessity for resolution. Few men ever seem to master this mode of thinking.
Literally speaking, the concept of goal-orientation may also be applied to female thinking if we place harmonious patterning in the category of goals. Women, in their thought process, are generally moving toward the inclusive, harmonious union of all diverse data. We could say that harmonizing--smoothing things out, beautifying, fitting everything together--is a goal. Yet it is without the urgency or necessity noted in male-type thinking. Shopping for the sake of shopping may be a gathering of diverse information about styles, colors, availability, which-shop-has-what, etc. In that long range sense, it too may be called goal-oriented. Seldom, however, is the goal as pressing or immediate with female thinking as with the way men think.
When decisions must be made for pragmatic reasons--for instance, finding an outfit for a particular occasion, the contrasting processes may again be noted. Man's slow process of reasoning--adding up the facts which lead to a logical conclusion based on conscious data--is in sharp contrast with woman's speedy way of drawing conclusions. While he is plugging in numbers to his ancient adding machine, laboriously moving toward a sum, her computerized right brain is scanning its data bank (her unconscious mind) in a random-search, lightening-fast manner. While he is drawing struggling toward conclusions, she instantaneously reports on her intuitive process.
While he fumbles with words: Based on the facts I have carefully weighed, my conclusion is..., she quickly reports, The answer is... He is apt to say, "I think the reasonable solution is..." She, more likely, will state, "I feel like the answer is...." He deducts on the basis of parts considered; she reports on what she intuitively knows.
For example, suppose a man and a woman face the choice of wearing blue and green together. The man will analytically think about it--that is, gather his facts first. One bit of data might be an old rule: Blue and green don't go together. Armed with this data, he will then proceed to analyze or add up his facts. Fact one: here is a pair of green socks and a pair of blue pants. Fact two: rule, blue and green don't go together. Now at stage three of male thinking, he concludes logically, adding up fact one and fact two: blue and green are here, but blue and green don't go together. Therefore (conclusion) I won't wear these socks with these pants.
A woman faced with a similar situation of perceiving a green blouse and a blue skirt, would think in an entirely different manner. Instead of analytically (left brain) thinking, she would feel about the situation--that is, begin to synthesize. She would respond (right brain) to seeing the colors together from inside herself, from her heart, we might say, rather than trying to think of facts and rules.
Her feeling-type of thinking might go like this: How do I like these particular colors together? How do they look to me? How do I feel about them? Instead of concluding logically, based on facts and rules, she would report intuitively, based on impressions or feelings. While he is taking time to think about his choice, she is rapidly feeling about her's. Yes, they will work, or, No, they won't.
Note that her process is: first, she concretes or brings these particular shades of green and blue together. She looks at them. Then she intuits or begins to synthesize. She feels about how they strike her. Does she like them together or not? Finally, she reports: They won't go together. If asked to explain why, as men must do, she may lamely reply, Well, they just don't work. She has no logical reasons, since her mode of thinking requires none. She has intuited her answer, not reasoned it out. No logic or rule was necessary. Her impression or answer came to her.
Meanwhile, his process was first to abstract, to draw away and consciously think about the colors and any rules which might apply. Then he began to analyze by comparing the colors with his rules about them. Finally he concluded reasonably: Since blue and green don't go together, I won't wear these blue socks with these green pants.
Note he did not concrete (put them together) and intuit (register his feelings or impressions about them). Instead, he reasoned. If asked how he felt about the colors, he might lamely reply: What do you mean feel about them? The rule is... No feeling or intuiting was required. His choice was reasoned out.
To summarize: man's mode of thinking is like working an old-style adding machine into which the numbers are systematically punched (2+2+5+11); punch, punch, punch, punch; pull lever. Woman's mode is like a new style computer; touch a button and the answer appears. If man's type of thinking is done well, all the facts are gathered and carefully weighed. Feelings are avoided. It is a slow, labored, and difficult process. Woman's, in contrast, is almost instantaneous. The answer comes. Reactions are translated quickly via feelings (right brain thinking) into impressions. Logic is irrelevant. Either she likes it or she doesn't; the colors will go together or they won't. It's as simple as that.
His conclusions can be explained--that is, supported by facts and data. He has reasons for his answer, since that is how he reached it. She, however, having arrived by a completely different process, cannot explain her choice logically. She just knows. No reasons are immediately available because they were not consciously utilized in her decision.
If pressed to explain, as men often do, she may create some reasons after the fact. She may rationalize or come up with logical points. They were not, however, used in her decision. She doesn't truly know how or why her answer came, nor does she personally need to know. Men require reasons, making sense; women do not--unless a man demands them.
Man labors mentally to get from perception to conclusion, taking time. Woman jumps from perception to reporting, quickly. If pressed for reasons, she then laboriously moves to rationalizing, sorting out some possible logic. Man, if asked, simply returns to his previous analysis to report on what he has already done in his conscious mind. Intuition has been excluded from his process; reason had no place in hers. If pressed for his feelings, he would laboriously feelionize (I coin a word to compare with rationalize). That is, man would work to come up with some possible emotions to give an answer to the question. Actually, they weren't present in his awareness before the question, just as her reasons were not to her.
On the surface, as things appear casually, man is liberal and open-minded, while woman is conservative and prejudiced. He is looking for additional facts; she already has her mind made up. He is subject to being swayed by new evidence; she has no need or desire for more information. Because he is searching for additional data on which to base his decision, man often appears indecisive and unsure of himself.
She, in contrast, with no other outside facts required, may appear decisive, opinionated and self-confident. Initially, in the process of his thinking, the man appears ignorant--he doesn't know what to do. The woman, in contrast, appears omniscient. Instantaneously, she has the answers.
For instance, in our previous example of a clothing choice, the man can't make up his mind about which clothes to wear. How can he decide whether the green and blue go together? She, however, is immediately decisive, even appearing to be prejudiced. Well, of course they don't (or do) go together, she decrees omnisciently, with no reasons required.
On first glance, the male mode of thinking makes the man look indecisive. He can't make up his mind about what to wear. The woman appears omniscient, making godly conclusions speedily without relying on logic or reason. He asks, Are these colors OK? She answers, Of course, can't you see? Of course he cannot see; he is caught up in analytical thinking.
Beneath the surface, however, beyond appearances, a different process is in operation. While the man appears indecisive as he searches for facts on which to base his decision, he is actually moving toward closure. His mode of thought is toward wrapping things up, putting them in a mental box, and tying them with a rational bow. She, in contrast, is not drawing conclusions; she is making an observation. While he moves toward an overall closure, she is keeping all options open. Her initial, decisive judgment, which gave her the appearance of self-confidence, is not supported by specific data.
As he goes for conclusion (close-shutting), she goes for in-clusion (making even more room available). In our example, he is looking for a conclusive rule about all blues and greens. Will they match or won't they? She, however, keeps all doors open. "This blue and this green don't go together--don't ask me why--but another green might go with this blue." He wants an overall principle; she deals only with specific and temporary closures.
His mental goal is either/or; her's is both/and. He thinks: Either blue and green go together, or they don't. She thinks: Sometimes they do; sometimes they don't. It all depends. Either/or versus both/and: conclusion (forceful shutting-out) versus inclusion (diligent keeping-in). Once he decides, the choice is behind him. Even after she is completely dressed, she is still open to changing her impressions and then her clothing.
PRINCIPLES & SITUATIONS
Men look for the rule;
women, for exceptions.
Men say "Even so..."
Women say "Yes, but..."
The extended results of these differing modes of thinking are that men tend to make principles, rules, laws--generalities which apply to all situations, whereas women following the opposite mode cannot. The inclusiveness of woman's way (both/and) requires that she deal with each specific situation individually. No rule, for instance about blue and green, will satisfy her way of thinking; the blue and green of each situation must be intuited each time.
In man's pyramid building mode, he goes from specifics to generalities. Specific bits of data are gathered and weighed in an effort to arrive at one general conclusion which takes all the specifics into account. He strives for a summary rule which will cover all situations. The nature of intuition, woman's right brained way of thinking, requires that she think in an opposite manner. She, in contrast, tends to think from generalities to specifics, reversing the construction of the pyramid.
Because her mode requires including rather than excluding, given a generality, she begins immediately to look for exceptions, that which might have been left out. If someone says, for example, The sky is blue (a generality), she is apt to think, I've seen the sky when it was orange, even black (exceptions). If someone says, This room would look good painted yellow, her mind is likely to move to include other colors also. I think green would work well.
Whereas man's way of thinking is more difficult at first, given his necessity of collecting facts, at last it becomes easier. Once a principle or rule--the peak of the pyramid--has been established in any area of thought, later decisions can simply use the rule without thinking through specific situations again. If a man has established the rule that green and blue don't go together, then he can easily decide not to wear green socks with blue pants.
Woman's way, though easier at first--she simply looks to see if they match and the decision comes to her--later becomes harder. She can never relax and let a rule decide for her. Each situation is different, with new factors. Each blue and green have many shades and hues. Constantly she must be facing decisions, always as though it were the first time. Man may envy her immediate knowledge (Those colors won't work together); she may be jealous of his long-range simple rules.
Each mode leads to its predictable difficulties. While man is moving toward his conclusions, his indecisiveness is expanded by his necessary search for more facts. He can't exclude any available outside data. While he is adding up, all the numbers must be taken in. Every available piece must be fitted into the puzzle. All possible exceptions must be considered as he arrives at a rule.
Woman, however, having already arrived in computer-like fashion at her immediate intuitive decision, is not looking for more data. Her mind is already made up. She can't include any other outside facts. She is not looking for more data. In the beginning he can't exclude any outside facts; she need not include outside facts. He need not include inside intuitions (I like this blue) because they are not his basis for deciding. She can't exclude any intuitions because they are the source of her decisions.
But if they go on, if the man does conclude, and the woman opens her mind, the opposite result follows. Man gets trapped in his conclusions, while women gets trapped in her options. Once he concludes and establishes a rule, then he can no longer include any exceptions which don't fit (such as the blues and greens which do match). The law is the law; there are no exceptions. Once a woman starts including, entertaining all available options, she can't exclude any possibility. He can't open his mind; she can't make up hers. He gets lost in his mental prisons; she in her freedoms.
He then can't let go of his principles, his prior conclusions. He becomes rule-bound, rigid and unbendable in his thinking. She, in contrast, can't then discriminate. Caught up in her freedom, she becomes naive, a sucker, totally flexible. He can't accept anything but his rules; she can't conclude and understand anything. He becomes certain and godly, as she appeared to be at the beginning. She becomes confused and scared, as he appeared at first.
In an overall sense, he gets theory-oriented, philosophical: What's the principle here? She gets practice-oriented, non-philosophical: Who is going to wash the dishes? He ends up being very theoretical but totally impractical (absent-minded professor). She ends up as the practical wife who is totally without principles. He is principled but impractical; she is practical, but unprincipled. He is free in his mind but bound in life: she has freedom in life but is bound in her mind. He wants freedom in life--to know how to let go; she wants rules for her mind--to know how to decide.
Fortunately, individual men and women rarely reach these stereotypical extremes in thought modes. Even so, entrapment along the way to these final positions can become extremely problematic in conversing.
Both men and women talk; that much we have in common. Yet our ways of talking are distinctively different. There is man-talk and woman-talk, and the difference is more than subjects. True: men talk more about sports; women, about children. But even when we share common subjects, our ways of conversing are not the same.
Our differing ways of perceiving, reacting, and thinking--all of which occur in the privacy of our separate minds--are compounded when we begin to talk together. Separable in theory and on paper, these first three prerequisites of talk become intricately intertwined and indistinguishable in conversation itself.
When we open our mouths to speak, each of them must occur simultaneously. The one-two-three orderly process of perceiving-reacting-thinking suddenly becomes chaotic. While reacting to one word, we will also be perceiving other words; at the same time, talk requires that we be thinking about the first word as well as all the ensuing words, plus deciding which of a multitude of inward reactions we will choose to give voice to.
It's a wonder we ever get together in talking to those of our own genders. When we add the additional differences between sexes, the wonder of cross-gender conversation--men and women talking together--is magnificent, should it ever occur.
Other conversational differences begin before we even open our mouths to talk. We also come together with differing purposes in talking. Our attitudes about speech are not the same. Before we get specific, where our purposes often intertwine, let us note these larger generalities about man-talk and woman-talk.
Man-talk, most often, is purposive--that is, used for some purpose other than the talk itself. Words, for men, are tools to be used in achieving some particular goal. Men most often talk in order to accomplish a purpose beyond the talk itself.
Woman-talk, on the other hand, is more often event-oriented, for-itself-alone. It is not nearly so purposive or goal oriented as man-talk. Women can talk just for the fun of it, something men rarely do. Whereas man-talk is for something, woman-talk, often, is for nothing--that is, not aimed at getting something beyond the immediate event of talking. Man-talk has a goal in mind; woman-talk can be going nowhere.
Consequently, women can just talk. Men rarely just chat. Women can converse when they have nothing in particular to say. When men don't have anything to say (no goal to accomplish), they are generally silent. Women, in reverse, may be most talkative precisely when they don't have anything to say (aren't trying to get something). Conversely, when men have something to say, they speak up; when women have something to say, they often become shy or silent.
For example, observe two men eating breakfast in a restaurant. Unless they have some reason to talk, they are apt to read the newspaper or remain silent. Two women, however, will rarely choose to read a paper in the presence of one another. Able to enjoy talk for itself-alone, they converse, even if, as a man might think, they have nothing to talk about.
When men don't understand this difference they are often judgmental about such non-purposive talking. Privately, they put-down on women for just chattering all the time. Women, on the other hand, not understanding man's purposive mode of talking, may become judgmental of men who won't just talk to me. They may take a man's reading a newspaper in their presence as a personal affront. Why can't you talk instead of hiding behind the paper? Each projects their own mode, resulting in misunderstanding the other.
Just as gender purposes in talk are different, so with gender silences. In general, a man's silence is just silence, whereas a woman's silence means something. When a man doesn't talk it likely means he has nothing purposeful to say; when a woman doesn't talk she is more apt to be hiding something.
These differing attitudes toward talking itself are further reflected in our different valuing of conversation. A man, no doubt, wrote the proverb: Silence is golden. A woman would more likely have written (if they were inclined to philosophize and make proverbs as men are): Conversation is golden.
Women are commonly exasperated with males who refuse to sit down and have a good talk. Men become equally frustrated with women who just want to talk. Men talk when it is necessary or functional for their purposes, but more often they would rather get on with it.
TELLING VERSUS TALKING
Men tell; women talk.
Men rarely talk;
Women rarely speak.
Men tell without talking;
Women talk without telling.
To tell is to orate or deliver a speech. To talk is to converse or share oneself. The above noted differences in purpose are further reflected in primary distinctions in the way we speak--all this before we come to the content of a conversation.
Because men are purposive in their speaking, they literally use words in quest of some goal beyond the conversation itself. The literal meaning of conversing--that is, versing-with or sharing-verses, is more applicable to woman-talk. Men, more often, are telling--that is, using speech (speech-making, story or joke telling, delivering monologues). Women, conversely are more likely to be conversing--sharing themselves when they speak.
Because purposes are best achieved with forethought and planning, man-talk tends to be contrived or thought-out ahead of time. Because sharing or talking for the fun of it is best done spontaneously (fun is hard to plan), woman-talk is rarely planned ahead. Men tend to think before they speak; women more often talk off the top of their heads,--that is, voice themselves spontaneously without forethought.
When these opposite ways of talking are not understood, men complain: She won't think before she speaks. Women complain: He won't say what he is feeling; you have to pull it out of him.
Men construct conversation; women free-associate, saying the first thing that comes to mind. Men think the first thing that comes to mind, but following the previously described process of thinking (pyramid building), what they speak is more likely to be the last thing: I conclude that... If her comment is her immediate reaction, his is more likely to be his studied response. If she speaks off the top of her head, he speaks from the bottom of his mind.
Consequently, men develop lines--artfully arranged words, designed to achieve a goal--which they deliver of tell. Women seldom have lines. They more often speak spontaneously from their hearts, not contrived from their heads. When women project their own mode of speaking, imagining that men talk the same as they do (from their hearts), they believe what they hear.
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to a woman's heart is through her ear. She is much more vulnerable to a line than is a man. If he says, I love you, she tends to believe him. Knowing how he uses words, a man suspiciously weighs a woman's words. Yes, you say you love me, but when can we go to bed? She, in contrast, is vulnerable to aptly named sweet nothings--words which may or may not be backed by actions.
Men privately laugh about women who fall for lines. Women may laugh about men who fall for meals. The laughter of each testifies to the different ways language is used by men and women. She, accustomed to sharing herself through words, takes them personally; he, accustomed to using words, takes them skeptically.
With much practice at purposive communication men also become better speech and joke tellers. Like their pyramid-type thinking, their orations are built toward a conclusion or climax, getting to the point of the pyramid, reaching the punch line. Oration, to be successful, requires this. Women, better at talking (the process of extended verbal encounter), are less skilled in purposive communication. Their speeches wander, seeming to have no point. So many factors or descriptions are included that the goal (if there was one) is forgotten. The joke fails because the punch line is often forgotten or told out of sequence.
Men, for the same reasons, tend to be poor conversationalists. Pushing a point or pressing for clarity, essential elements in their personal mode, invites defensiveness, not smooth conversing. Disagreement, essential in their way of thinking, is disruptive to the flow of woman-type conversation. The acceptance of the viewpoint of the other, essential in woman-talk, is contrary to their way. Naturally, he disagrees; naturally, she agrees (more about this following a discussion of logic).
OBJECTIVE VERSUS SUBJECTIVE
Objectives are best achieved with objective speech. Sharing is best done with subjective talk. Out of the previously discussed different ways of reacting, and in line with our differing purposes, man-talk is predictably more abstract and objective, while woman-talk tends to be concrete and subjective. Men tend to tell about things with words; women, to share themselves through words.
Subjective talk tends to get in the way of achieving goals; objective speech interferes with personal sharing. Consequently, men are more detached from their words, women more attached to their's. Because they know their words are tools, men perceive a distinction between themselves and their speech. Women, revealing themselves through talking, are closer to being their words. Woman-talk is designed to reveal the speaker; man-talk is more likely to conceal than to reveal the man himself.
Men use words to achieve;
Women use words to reveal.
Men use words to keep apart;
Women use words to get together.
POWER VERSUS PLEASURE
Man-power is verbal;
Woman power is non-verbal.
In their quests, men use words for power. They accomplish things verbally. Women, more concerned with sharing through words than accomplishing things with words, associate words with pleasure. As noted, they talk for the fun of it. Their means of power are primarily non-verbal. When power gets to be the issue, women shut up.
Just as men react competitively and women, cooperatively, to perceived reality (see Perception, above), so we react the same ways when we talk. Man-talk, like man-living, is naturally focused on winning. Woman-talk, conversely, is a cooperative endeavor--a process which requires getting along well. Winning is not only irrelevant, it is destructive from a woman's point of view.
Quite the opposite with men. Man's genetic inclination to succeed, which begins at the sperm level, is nowhere more evident than when he opens his mouth in conversation. From beginning to end, he is striving to get the best of his conversational opponents, to come out on top (to make and prove his point, to establish his own ideas over those of others). Just as he plays athletic games to win, so he plays conversational games. A good conversation to a man is inherently competitive, even with the closest of friends or lovers. The best conversation is, of course, one in which he wins.
Not so with women. Their conversation is cooperative. Politely they take turns and listen to what each other says, valuing every conversational offering equally. Carefully they avoid abrasive or disruptive comments. If one appears, they ignore, over-look, or smooth it over. She didn't mean to be offensive, they think or say.
Men find this type of inoffensive conversation boring. If things get too smooth, they stir things up. Abrasiveness is not ignored; it is sought after. Whereas women, being cooperative, look for comments to agree with, men competitively look for points with which to disagree.
At their peaks, good male conversations become fiercely competitive, even war-like--with shouting, arguing, disagreeing, attacking the points of the other speakers. In sharp contrast, good woman-talk is peaceful. If threats arise, olive branches are immediately offered. If someone insists on injecting a contradictory point, rather than arguing with it--as a man delightedly will, a woman, even is she disagrees, is apt to say, Well, have it your way; let's not argue about it.
BUILDING VERSUS STROKING
Man-talk is like an ideological construction project. Woman-talk is like verbal caressing. When men talk they are building up to something beyond the conversation itself. When women talk, they have little interest in construction; they enjoy the self expression and emotional stroking which words may bring.
Just as a man's thought process is from abstraction to conclusion, from specific points toward a general summary, so is his talk (see Pyramid Building in previous section). After a subject has been selected, a man begins collecting his data, getting his facts into the open. What do I know about this subject? is his internal question. In conversation each man brings out his own differing data, his knowledge about the subject. The process of conversation, like his way of thinking, begins with each man tossing out his ideas (building blocks).
Next they are weighed one against the other. Through analyzing the relevant data, credible facts are kept and irrelevant or unprovable data is eliminated. This phase of comparing facts, attempting to find what is truthful and eliminate that which is false, often appears to be combative. Just as his inward thought process is like a jousting between ideas, each fighting the other for supremacy, so a conversation between men may look like a verbal battle. They bring each fact to bear on the other, jousting with ideas. They argue and debate about the subject, challenging facts, attempting to discredit ideas.
During this phase of male conversations, each man may appear as a killer, attacking what the other says. Instead of building, they seem to be destroying. In a sense, this is so; they are trying to establish what is correct, to destroy what is in error. The final peak of the pyramid, the summary of the conversation (verbal battle), is to arrive at one polished point, the logical conclusion of the subject, the summary right answer to the question.
Women's conversations, when men are absent, are entirely different. Stroking is more descriptive than building; certainly more so than fighting. Words are being used, not to construct a pyramid or anything else, but to caress--to stroke and be stroked. If men are thinking together (arguing) through words, women are feeling together (touching) with words. Just as men react from their heads and women from their hearts, so we speak from the same places.
Words and ideas, symbols from the head, are everything in man's conversation. They are the material for the pyramid. Feelings and impressions, messages from the heart, are primary in woman's conversation. For man, feelings are irrelevant to conversation. For woman, feelings are everything; words are only secondary--just vehicles for conveying feelings. Men speak and hear words and ideas, ignoring feelings; women say words, but are actually speaking and hearing feelings with relatively little attention to the words or ideas themselves.
Women's ears are attuned not to the logic of ideas, but to the emotional message of words. A man's ears prick up when he hears a good idea; a woman's, when she hears a strong feeling revealed in some word, facial expression, or tone of voice. Man-talk is based on confronting--giving and taking ideas. Woman-talk is based on sharing--taking turns stroking with words. Logic and sense-making (to be discussed next) are vital for man-talk, but relatively irrelevant and even distracting to woman-talk.
POINTS VERSUS PICTURES
Words and ideas--the more clearly defined the better--are the central tools in man's verbal construction projects. In order to build or win--or both, he needs well-shaped building blocks (ideas) or sharp points for making his point.
On the other hand, stories, descriptions--pictures painted with words, are far more effective than ideas in conveying feelings. Verbal pictures are warm; ideas are cold. Sharp ideas, which work best in building logical conclusions, are notably ineffective for communicating emotions. Consequently, woman-talk, based on emotions rather than reason, is best done with verbal pictures.
While men in the parlor are discussing ideas (arguing, from a woman's point of view), women in the kitchen are sharing stories, giving graphic accounts of what has happened--who said what to whom. Men do tell stories; they paint verbal pictures--but only to make a point. If a story is told, it must have a point, in their mode of talking.
Women's stories, on the other hand, need have no point. They can be invaluable offerings to the overall process of sharing, stroking, and cooperating--for themselves alone. Just as beautiful paintings can have inherent value for their beauty alone (no meaning required), so beautiful verbal pictures are entirely acceptable in woman-talk. No point required.
Woman-talk, like soap operas, thrives on a random collection of beautifully told slices of life. No moral, conclusion, or point is necessary. The pictures, especially if emotional, are more than sufficient within themselves. Men, when trapped in their own mode of talking, have difficulty with soap opera type conversations. They want to know what is the point of this story? Why are you telling this to me? A woman's I just thought it was a good story is inadequate for inclusion is man-talk.
To compare these contrasting ways of talking: Men, seeing objects, make points and relate one to another. Women, seeing space-around-objects (the context or larger picture), paint pictures and include all points within the picture. For example, If a man states a point (one object in the entire context), a woman is apt to note another point, that is, to observe something else in the picture. Yes, but... she says, accepting the point he has made, but noting other points also. For a harmonious picture, all points must be included.
To his stated reason (his point) she might respond, There could be another reason. To his considered thought she might reply, Did you also consider that... If a man states a rule (as a point), a woman will predictably note the exceptions. Man: Blue and green don't go together. Woman: Yes, but sometimes they do.
A man who doesn't understand woman's mode of seeing and including everything in the picture often misunderstands her inclusive efforts as being argumentative or a refusal to hear his points. Not necessarily so. She may hear and accept his point, even without acknowledgement, but still try to include all possible exceptions because of her own mode of perceiving and speaking.
Conversely, if a woman describes a scene or event, including a wealth of descriptive data (essential to good story telling), a man is apt to ask, What is the point? Tell me what you are getting at and I will try to listen. Will you hurry and make the connection, he is apt to think, even if he politely doesn't say so.
Because man's logical way of talking (see next section) requires that points be connected to the subject, if a man thinks of something else while making a point--something with no apparent connection--he refrains from saying it. This tends to frustrate woman because she thinks he is leaving out data.
On the other hand, if a woman thinks of something else while in the midst of a story or point, she freely states it. Even if the connection is not apparent to her, she either assumes some possible connection not yet known to her, or else finds none necessary. For instance, if in the middle of an account, or even a sentence, she observes a dark cloud, she can freely inject the fact: It looks like rain. This tends to frustrate men because they see no apparent connection between the rain and the present subject of conversation.
Men look for the rule;
Women look for the exception.
To a man's rule,
a women says "Yes, but..."
To a woman's exception,
a man says "Even so..."
LOGIC VERSUS INTUITION
Just as men react from their heads (left brain) and think in a logical manner, while women react from their hearts (right brain) and think in an intuitive manner, so our ways of talking follow the same patterns. Men talk logically; women talk intuitively. Colloquially speaking, man-talk is based on reason, woman-talk on feeling. Men, as it were, converse from their left brains; women, from their right.
Reason, the basis for left-brained, man-talk, involves collecting and sorting experiential data about reality into a logical and orderly arrangement--making sense about things. Facts (sense-data) are gathered and compared with one another. One fact is weighed against another in a process of adding things up, that is, fitting them together in a compatible rather than conflicting way.
For example, suppose a man has $25 (Fact #1) and looks at a shirt he wants (Fact #2) which costs $40 (Fact #3). Reason is the process of adding up these three facts in an orderly and compatible manner. Fact #1 and Fact #2 are in different categories and don't conflict. Having $25 and finding a desirable shirt are compatible bits of data. Fact #3, however, is in conflict with Fact #1. They don't add up. One can't buy a #40 shirt if he only has $25.
The process of reason leads to the conclusion--making sense of the data at hand--that he cannot purchase the shirt (Fact #4). Reason or logic is the left-brained mental process of entertaining the available facts, comparing them with each other, eliminating ones which don't fit, and finally arriving at a logical conclusion.
Although few real situations can be limited to only 3 or 4 facts, the process of reasoning--the fundamental basis of man-talk, remains essentially the same. This primary process, in its more complicated expressions, is the sub-structure on which man-talk is based. Men place supreme value on this mental event of sense-making. Their sense-of-themselves, who they essentially are, is tied in with this left-brained activity. Predictably, it appears throughout their talk. Reasoning, we might say, is sacred to a man. They worship at the throne of making sense.
Intuition or feelings, on the other hand, the fundamental basis for woman-talk, are entirely secular to men. Although a feeling is one more fact (in the above example, he liked the shirt, Fact #2), it has no special weight for a man. Making sense is what finally matters; a feeling is only one more fact to be considered.
In comparing these two modes of talking, one based on reasoning, the other on intuition, we may note the differing rules for each:
RULES FOR REASONING
Rule 1: ALL FACTS MUST BE
Other rules about the process of reasoning are these: all available facts must be considered. No data which is known can be omitted in the weighing process. For example, Facts #1 and #3 above--he had $25 and the price of the shirt was $40, were necessarily taken into account in the reasoning process. Had either been excluded, and only Fact #2 (he wanted the shirt) taken into account, then he might have purchased the shirt. This, however, would have been unreasonable. A fundamental rule about reasoning is that available data must be considered and weighed in the process. If any known fact is excluded in reaching a conclusion, the sacred event of sense-making has been violated. Whatever the end might be, it was not based on reason.
Rule 2: FACTS MUST BE RELATED TO THE SUBJECT
A second rule is that facts must relate in some recognizable way in order to be included in the reasoning process. All data is required to be relevant to the situation at hand before it will be considered. For example, other facts in our shirt-buying illustration were: Fact #4--the day was Tuesday; Fact #5--it was raining outside; Fact #6--his wife also liked the shirt. Each of these additional bits of data were correct; however, none of them were recognizably related to the immediate process.
The facts: that it was raining while he was looking at the shirt, or that it was Tuesday, were irrelevant to the issue at hand. These facts may have been essential in reasoning about how to get to the car after shopping, or what to do on Tuesday evening, yet were not logically connected with the reasoning about a purchase. Therefore they would, by this rule, be excluded from consideration in the reasoning process. The sixth Fact (his wife also liked the shirt), was tangentially related. It might therefore have been taken into account. However, the facts about money would reasonably have overridden this additional data also.
Once a subject is established in man-talk, any additional comments must be related to this subject. Casual observations on other topics are not allowed until the previous subject has been disposed of. Anyone who speaks must be making some point related to the subject at hand. If the connection is not obvious, it is the responsibility of the speaker to show how his fact relates to the current topic. Stick to the subject, is a rule in man-talk. A point is necessary.
Quickly men ask, What's that got to do with what we are talking about? Unless the speaker can satisfactorily explain the connection, his comment will be ignored. Topics may be changed, of course, but only by common consent. I want to change the subject, a man may say, before introducing a different topic. Otherwise, he breaks the rule of relevancy.
Rule 3: FACTS MUST BE VERIFIABLE
Another rule about reasoning is that facts must be verifiable, that is, subject to support or proof by a source other than the one who presents them. In reasoning, because I said so is not enough to allow a possible fact into consideration. It must be recognized by some common authority. Suppose, for instance, I use the word crumpet and you are unfamiliar with it. I might state, as a fact, that a crumpet is a short trumpet, which we both recognize to be a horn.
Before such a fact is admissible in the reasoning process, it must be subject to verification by some outside source. My saying it is so does not qualify the information as admissible data. Even if I add that I feel like it means a short trumpet, still we must go to the dictionary (an outside authority) and establish my so-called fact before in can be included in our reasoning together. The dictionary will, of course, note that a crumpet is a small round cake, and has no connection with the musical instrument called trumpet. My fact would then, by this rule of reasoning, be excluded from the reasoning process.
Or to take a tangible example: suppose I state as a fact that Texas is larger than Alaska, in my reasoning about which is the largest state. Before this data is acceptable in the sense-making process, I must be able to prove my opinion by some outside source. Perhaps we will get a map and observe the relative sizes, or look up their respective areas in an encyclopedia. Only then would such a bit of data be acceptable, by this rule, in a reasonable process. In this example, it would have to be excluded as a fact, since the map and encyclopedia would not support my opinion.
We may note also that neither sincerity of belief, honesty of opinion, certainty of feeling, or any other subjective data are acceptable in the rules of reasoning to make a point admissible in a court of sense-making. Objective verification is the only acceptable support for data being taken as fact in man-talk.
Rule 4: ALL VERIFIABLE FACTS
MUST BE INCLUDED
Another rule is that verifiable data, no matter how distasteful or discordant, must be included. Reasoning makes no allowance for ignoring any available facts. Our shirt-buying man, for instance, might have wanted to exclude Fact #1 (he only had $25), in making a reasonable purchase. According to this rule about logic, he could not have done so. If a fact is known, there is no excuse for leaving it out of the reasoning process.
Rule 5: ALL DATA MUST FIT
Once the data is collected, verified, and included, the second phase of the reasoning process begins. Then it is analyzed, weighted, and fitted together. Here it is checked for relevancy. Does it apply to the subject at hand? If not, it is laid aside or excluded from the immediate process. Analysis is like working a jig saw puzzle after all the pieces have been turned over and found to be relevant to the puzzle being worked. One piece is compared with another, searching for an appropriate fit.
Rule 6: THE AIM IS CLOSURE
Reasoning, by definition, aims at a logical conclusion. The process of reasonable talk may be pictured like the previously discussed mode of male thinking, namely, stacking blocks or building a pyramid.
If each building block represents one fact or piece of data, the process begins at #1, collecting the facts related to the current subject. In a conversation this involves each person telling what he knows, or saying what he thinks, about the subject.
Next, the phase of analyzing begins. The various facts assembled are weighed against each other; relevant data is kept and irrelevant facts discarded. The style is either/or. The male premise is that things are one way or another--either/or, but not both. Either you will or you won't; a matter is either right or wrong; a point is either correct or erroneous.
Finally, in step three, the facts are added up, fitted together, and one final conclusion or summarizing point--the top of the pyramid, is reached.
This conclusion, the supremacy of the most reasonable idea, is the aim of man-talk. Man-talk begins with gathering facts; then, proceeding according to these rules of reason, aims at closure. The goal is the final and most logical summary of the data presented.
Since the facts are being gathered by two or more persons in the conversation, each is vying for the supremacy of his particular bits of data. Although the rules of reason are being followed, the mode of the process is competition. Man-talk is like a verbal battle with each participant fighting to make his own idea come out on top as the most logical conclusion.
Men joust with ideas, competing to win, all within the framework of the rules of logic. At any given point in such a conversation, each participant may appear as a mental killer, attacking whatever the other says. Any data presented is carefully scrutinized for accuracy, relevancy, and proof. Nothing is accepted at face value.
This competitive battle of minds may appear deadly to an outside observer. Men attack the ideas of each other just as fighters attack each other physically. They raise their voices, posture in war-like fashion, argue, and belittle the points of the opponents--which every other participant is.
Nothing said is sacred or accepted just because it is said. Vague points must be clarified; uncertain data must be supported; relevancy must be established. Any idea not meeting the criteria of reason is discarded, no matter how personal it is to the presenter.
The overall process may be described as focusing in on the truth, as best it can be determined, trying to separate error from accuracy, fact from fancy, getting things into the light. Less relevant or supportable facts are discarded in favor of those more logical or weighty. Although each person is vying to win with his particular viewpoints, the overall quest for truth through the process of reason is the final goal. The fighting may appear vicious, yet, in good man-talk, it is done fairly, according to the rules of reason. There is no hitting below the verbal belt or going for the jugular. The aim is not to destroy the opponent, but to have the most logical idea prevail.
Although man-talk sometimes degenerates to mere personal fighting in which truth becomes irrelevant, in good man-talk the supremacy of logical truth, no matter who presents it, is the final goal. The competing mode is secondary to the quest for the best answer. Men want to win personally, but they want truth to prevail, even if it means their own ideas are defeated. They would rather lose personally and arrive at a correct conclusion than to win with an erroneous idea--at least when they engage in good man-talk.
The goal of closure or conclusion is more than a general aim; it is a relative necessity in man-talk. Once a topic is raised, some reasonable conclusion of the matter is dictated by man's mode. Just as reason requires sticking to the subject, so it requires staying with the subject to its end. Dropping a subject before it is resolved is unacceptable in man-talk.
Rule 7: FEELINGS DON'T COUNT
Men often become very heated or emotional when they talk. They may raise their voices and lash out at one another. Even so, the process of reasoning does not include emotions as legitimate data. Only sense-making counts.
No matter how emotional a man may become, his feelings are irrelevant to his conversational mode. A logical idea, with or without feeling, must be included; a powerful feeling, without relevant reasoning, is not counted. No matter how strongly a man feels about what he is saying, only the logical presentation of his data is weighted in the conversation.
RULES FOR INTUITION
For sake of comparison, I will apply man's mode of reasoning to woman's way of intuiting and give comparable rules. This, of course, is tongue-in-cheek, since intuition, by nature of itself does not follow rules. Only man's way is logical and orderly, thereby lending itself to rule-making. Intuition is inherently chaotic. For comparison, though, here are the rules for woman's rule-less way of conversing:
Rule 1: "FEELINGS" ARE SUPREME;
REASONS DON'T COUNT
The word feelings is in quotes to imply more then emotions only. Emotions count also, in contrast to their exclusion in man's mode, yet in woman-talk the word feeling is used for right-brained or intuitive impressions. A man's data are his objective facts; a woman's data are her subjective feelings.
Intuitive data comes from within rather than without. It may also be called an impression, gut-feeling, sense of things, of feeling in my bones. Referring to intuitive or feeling data, one may say, I just have this certain feeling that we should go right instead of left. Sometimes intuition is called ESP--Extra Sensory Perception.
Psychologically speaking, intuition operates primarily from the unconscious mind rather than conscious awareness of a person. Because the unconscious mind is beyond our conscious sense of ourselves, data from it seems to come to us, rather than being rationally conceived. I don't know where this comes from, but I have the distinct impression that the answer is... This is typical of intuitive knowledge.
Such intuitive data may or may not appear logical to the left brain or reasoning mode. In either case conscious reasons are irrelevant to the feelings which form the basis of woman's mode of conversation. Feels right takes precedence over makes sense.
Whereas men are sensitive to words and ideas which don't make sense to them, women are equally alert to any disruptive feelings which appear in the course of the conversation. Such feelings may either be revealed directly in the words expressed, or in the body language of the speaker--facial expressions, tone of voice, body movements, etc. In either case, woman's attention is drawn to these emotional signs rather than to the logic of the ideas presented.
If a woman observes, for example, that a man is becoming angry while he is talking, this feeling becomes more important than the topic of conversation. I feel like you're getting upset, she may say, interrupting the focus on facts or ideas.
Rule 2: FACTS ARE IRRELEVANT
Facts are objective pieces of verifiable data, truths which exist independent of the observer. For example, if the sun is shining, that is a fact. California is west of Nevada; two and two make four. Such facts, which form the core and substance of man-talk, are relatively irrelevant in woman-talk. Observations, feelings, events, personal experiences--these form the fabric which replaces facts when women converse.
Women give voice, in talking, to what they have seen, heard, felt, thought, remembered, or otherwise experienced, regardless of whether it makes sense or is factual. Personal honesty is the prime consideration; if it is true for the speaker, that is sufficient criteria for inclusion in conversation.
For example, on a sunny morning, a woman can acceptably voice to other women, I feel like it's going to be a bad day. If she is perceived as honest, other women hear and accept such a comment. Men would wonder, what's your data?, since the facts (sunny day) don't support the statement.
Facts are also acceptable in woman-talk, but only when they support or add to the clarity of the personal experience being related. Otherwise, they are cold and irrelevant.
Even facts about word definitions are irrelevant in woman-talk. For example, a woman conveying her feeling of frustration at losing her way might say, I turned to the right, while at the same time gesturing with her left hand. In woman-talk, where the focus is on the feeling of frustration, the conflict between pointing to the left while saying right would be ignored. Not so in man-talk. With his attention to words, not feelings, a man would interrupt and say, I thought you said you turned to the right. For her, word use is incidental to emotional meanings. In woman-talk, one easily overlooks the questionable word while remaining attentive to the feeling--to stroking the speaker. Man-talk, intent on building a proper pyramid, would require correcting the word--was it right or left?--before he could proceed.
The same is true with ideas built from words. The logic of an idea--its rational consistency--is less important than its emotional message in woman-talk. Sense-making is secondary to stroking. Logic, however, is crucial in man-talk. No proper conclusion can be based on illogical ideas.
For example, a woman, voicing her mixed feelings about competing with males in the business world might say: Women are competitive, but they don't compete. In woman-talk, listeners would be intent on hearing her mixed feelings about having to compete. Men, however, would be distracted by her apparently contradictory idea. In their mode of either/or, one is either competitive or not, but not both/and. Logically, if women are competitive, then they compete. Or, if they don't compete, then they are not competitive. You can't, logically, have it both ways.
Just as man-talk is disrupted by an imprecisely defined or misused word, so an idea which doesn't make sense to him interferes with a man's reasoning process. Before proceeding in the above example, a man would have to understand what she meant by the idea (competitive but don't compete). Her feelings would be secondary to his sense-making about the idea.
Rule 3: ANY HONEST EXPRESSION
CONNECTION IS NOT REQUIRED
Man's rule requiring that facts must also be obviously connected to the accepted topic of conversation does not apply to woman-talk. Although women may naturally focus on a particular topic, it never becomes sacred, excluding other subjects which may arise with no apparent reason. Whatever one happens to honestly think or feel during the course of a conversation becomes an acceptable offering in the talk. Connection to the previous topic is not required.
For example, in the course of talking about a particular political candidate, a woman might casually note, I think it may rain today. Men, following their rule of required connection, get upset. What does that have to do with this candidate?, they wonder. In woman-talk, where order is unnecessary, such an honest thought is entirely acceptable. No obvious connection required.
Rule 4: TOPIC CHANGE
Not only are unconnected statements acceptable, complete changes of topic are respected without explanation in woman-talk. If a woman feels like changing the general topic of conversation at any point, other women respect this inherent right.
If, for instance, a group of women are discussing the faults of husbands and one woman remembers that she has been looking for a recipe for grilling chicken, she might acceptably inject, without explanation, Does anyone know a good way to grill chicken breasts?
Although such a switch would be considered manipulative and unacceptable in man-talk, woman's rule of anything goes at anytime, would easily allow this change without question.
Rule 5: SELF AUTHORITY IS
VERIFICATION IS UNNECESSARY
Women respect the subjectivity of each other. They may or may not believe what the other says, but in conversation they respect whatever another says without the necessity of outside verification. How do you know that?, men ask. Women seldom do so; if someone says something, they accept it at face value, at least in the conversation, without asking for proof.
Even if the words or ideas don't make sense to them, women assume that they do for the speaker, whom they accept as self-authoritative. Suppose, for instance, a woman says, My second child is really smart. Even if a woman listener knows that the child is failing in school, she does not question the validity of the statement. She assumes that the speaker means something other than grades in school.
The same authority is granted in defining words themselves. Whereas men, requiring verification, look to the dictionary for the meaning of words, expecting others to do also, women grant each person the right to define words as they will. Words have no set definitions in woman-talk. They have whatever meaning the particular speaker, whose self-authority is respected, desires them to have.
For example, if a woman refers to a green dress as brown and other women see that it is brown, they accept the speaker's right to call it green if she will. They know what she means. A man, going by his rules, would challenge: But the dress is brown (green refers to a specific color). The woman, if she went by her own rules, might reply. Why be so picky? You know which dress I meant.
Rule 6: DATA CAN BE IGNORED
Contrary to man's rule, woman-talk grants to each speaker the right to overlook any undesirable data. If, for any reason (or no reason), a woman chooses to ignore something another person has said, this is completely acceptable according to this rule. The requirement of reason, that facts have to be considered (Rule 1), does not exist in woman-talk. Perhaps she didn't like what the other person said, disagreed with the statement, took personal offense, or simply didn't want to think about it at the time--whatever her reasoning, a woman is easily able to overlook any point being made by another conversant.
Suppose, for instance, someone makes a slurring comment about a person. Whereas men, by their rule, are required to note and respond to the data, women are not. They have permission, by their rule, to simply overlook whatever they choose not to focus on.
Rule 7: DATA CAN BE
CONSISTENCY IS NOT REQUIRED
Whereas reason, man's way, requires internal consistency and the fitting of all ideas presented, with women, data can be contradictory and still acceptable. Conflicting facts are simply viewed as another person's opinion. No rectification is necessary. With men, statements, like pieces in a picture puzzle, must fit in or be excluded. Woman's rule is different; any statement is acceptable whether it fits or not.
For example, if one woman says, It takes 20 minutes to cook a hard boiled egg, but another woman has found she can do so in 12 minutes, there is no need for an argument, according to woman's rules. It's simply a difference of opinion. Men, conversely, would have to disagree in order to establish the facts. Does it take 20 minutes or 12 minutes? This inconsistent data would require rectification before the conversation could proceed. Women would consider such an argument as ridiculous. Their rule places no such constrictions on conversation.
Rule 8: THE AIM IS OPENNESS;
CLOSURE IS TO BE AVOIDED
Just as women are inclined to draw circles instead of lines--to include rather than exclude, to say both/and rather than either/or, so their conversation is aimed at openness or inclusion. Women try to keep conversation, as well as other options, open-ended. They avoid closure--summation, summary, or conclusions. Man's efforts at conversational pyramid-building are paralleled by woman's attempts to avoid structuring of any kind.
As noted earlier, pyramid-building consists of gathering facts or points--specific data--which are to be used as building blocks in moving toward the generalization or conclusion--the peak of the pyramid. Man's rule is to move from specifics toward generalities, excluding irrelevant or inconsistent facts along the way. Woman's rule is the opposite. Although her aim of open-endedness literally means going nowhere, in contrast with man's way of pointedness, she appears to be moving in reverse--that is, from generalities to specifics.
If, for instance, a man attempts to make a specific point in his overall process of moving toward the conclusion (generality), woman's rule requires her to thwart his endeavor as soon as possible. If he is, figuratively speaking, drawing lines in the dust (attempting to be either/or), she is diligently involved in erasing them in the interest of drawing circles which include every point (being both/and).
It is as though she were building an upside down pyramid, moving from any generality (point) to the broad base collection of specifics. Man, by his rule, engages in the orderly process of going from specifics to generalities, from facts to conclusions. Woman, by her rule, chaotically goes from generalities to specifics. Man, in his attempt to exclude less-relevant data, says, Even so... Woman, bound to include all, says, Yes, but...
For example, suppose a man makes the generalization, "Children tend to be irresponsible." A woman, abiding by her rule, is apt to erase the generalization by noting specific exceptions. "Yes, but my first child is more responsible than my husband." To which the man, if he keeps his rule, may reply: "Even so, most children would rather play than do their chores (attempting to support his initial generalization)."
Or, if a man seeing a dark cloud on the horizon makes the generalization, Looks like rain today, a woman, true to her rule of specifics, may say, Yes, but the sun is still shining. While he tries to pin things down, aiming at closure, she attempts to keep all the facts in the open, avoiding conclusions. Men often erroneously see a woman's way as merely being argumentative or avoiding hearing what he is saying. More likely she is simply conversing by a different rule.
Since her aim is openness rather than closure, a woman can stop at any time in the midst of a conversation. Just as she can, abiding by female rules, ignore a point or change the subject freely, so she can end a conversation whenever she pleases.
If, for instance, a men begins to get argumentative in the course of proving his point, a woman may freely say, Well, let's just drop the subject if you're going to get angry about it. A man, trapped by his own rules, never has this option. If he insists on moving toward closure, as his rules require, she may finally keep her options open by granting his conclusion without accepting it. You can believe that if you want, but it's just one person's opinion.
The word converse, broken down, is con--verse. Con is from a Latin word meaning with or sharing. Thus, conversing literally means with-verses or sharing versions. The second part of the word, verse is also from Latin--versari, meaning to live, occupy, or dwell. Verse or version then, refers to one's living or dwelling, where-one-is-coming-from, we might say.
Putting the two parts together, con-versation literally refers to sharing our versions of life, telling our own stories to one another--together. In con-versing, we reveal and share our verses, our poems. We bring our separate versions of life and mix them together. Literally, we share-ourselves. We be our separate selves with each other, verbally.
Con, meaning with or shared, implies that conversation is more like dialogue than monologue. Dialogue (from Greek dia = between + logos = speech) means shared-speech. Monologue, in contrast (mono = single), refers to one person giving a speech. Conversation is more than a monologue or speech delivered in the presence of another person--as when one person talks and the other listens. Even mutual monologues, when two people take turns delivering their different speeches, do not measure up to the definition of conversation.
Sharing-verses implies two things: that someone is listening, and that both are intertwining or mixing their separate versions of life. This is more than merely taking turns, politely, delivering monologues, or even confessing one's deepest secrets to an unseen priest in a confessional booth. In therapy, immensely personal life-versions may be revealed. But even there, sharing is rare.
Conversation then, in the fullest sense of the word, combines the best of confession and therapy, religion and psychology, in an ordinary event between any two persons who take the awesome chance of sharing their honest and personal versions of life together.
When (or if) a man and woman risk bridging the huge gap between talking and conversing, then truly wondrous things happen. The selfhood of each is confirmed in the event of sharing with another. Such conversation within the bounds of our own genders--man to man, woman to woman--is wonderful; but when the diversities of our distinctive sexual orientations are actually brought together and shared...Wow! A man and a woman truly conversing, though extremely rare, is ... is ..., to borrow a cliche, totally awesome.
Till now, this book has been about talking--understanding the different ways in which men and women talk, plus some rules about how we might learn to talk more effectively with each other. Now we turn to the more difficult and challenging--plus rewarding--prospects of actually conversing with each other.
In con-versation, as distinguished from merely talking with each other, a man's version of life is brought into the verbal light with a woman's version of life--and each is shared. The man shares the woman's version, the woman shares the man's version. This is different from just talking, when the two modes of verbalizing are mixed together in pragmatic rather than conflicting ways. In talking, we go beyond the battle of the sexes; we stop warring and establish a practical form of social intercourse. We learn to get along, verbally, with each other. In conversing, we move into the realm of spirit. When we begin to share-our-verses, to bring the poems-of-our-hearts to each other, we open the door to being-together on a level beyond words only. We move from tolerance to love.
How can we make this huge leap?
Three things seem necessary: understanding, respect, and compromise. First, before we can begin to bridge the gender gap, some understanding of our actual differences can be useful. It is difficult to accept and move beyond that which we don't yet fully see. Understanding, of course, doesn't change anything; yet seeing can certainly be useful in charting the courses of change. If, in our mind's eye, we can get a clearer understanding of the different places each gender comes from, then we may more easily face the next two requirements. The previous sections have aimed at such understanding.
Respect comes next. Once we begin to see our distinctive ways of perceiving, reacting, thinking--and consequently, talking, we must then learn to respect these native differences. Insight may help, but understanding alone can never bridge the gap between the genders. Instead of respecting our differences, most commonly we feel self-righteous about our own ways. We think our own way is best or right; we look down on the way of the opposite gender. Men judge women for just chit-chatting and not making sense while women judge men for always wanting to argue and not feeling.
The fact is, both our separate ways of talking are valid and useful in certain circumstances. Man-talk is better for some things; woman-talk, for others. The solution to our verbal wars does not lie in the supremacy of one over the other, but in an artful mixing of the two. If either side wins the war--if man-talk prevails and women learn to talk like men, or vice versa--then we will both lose. In a valid peace, both ways must be represented. And this requires respect for each.
Before we can truly come together in conversation, we must learn to respect the legitimacy of both ways. Until men stop trying to get women to talk like men, or women cease their efforts to force men to use woman-talk, we will never learn to con-verse--in the deeper sense of this word.
Furthermore, we must also include respect--neither worship nor judgment--of our own gender's ways of talking. In these days of liberation many men disparage and judge the highly competitive forms of man-talk which are native to our gender. Many women also put down on kitchen-talk, admiring instead the parlor-talk of men. Respect requires more than merely switching to the mode of our opposite gender. We must also respect the way of our own gender.
Then comes compromise. Once we begin to understand the truly different ways we have of talking, and to respect the separate places we come from, then we face the third challenge. Conversation also requires compromise.
Unfortunately compromise has gotten a bad name in our society. A good person should avoid compromising. Taken to mean: abandoning one's integrity for sake of another, the conclusion is valid. Better not to talk with the opposite sex than to lose oneself in the process. But the word compromise comes from two Latin words which literally mean with promise. This is the sense of the word meant here. One is to bring his own way of talking, and venture into the conversational mode of the other, temporarily, with the promise or hope of meeting more honestly.
Compromise, in this sense, means accepting your own way of talking but reaching out to include the way of the other as well. Without abandoning where you come from, you build a bridge toward the other person. Instead of fighting for supremacy, insisting on your own natural way of talking for you both, you make room for peace-making rather than warring, cooperating rather than competing as to which mode will prevail.
When each person has a private agenda of requiring that the other abandon their natural way of talking before he or she will converse, this battle of modes always undercuts any extended conversation. Every conversation is shifted into a battle of the sexes whenever a difference occurs.
Remember, neither mode of speaking is better or worse than the other; they are simply different. Men, given our genetic structures and social training are naturally more inclined to use one; women, the other. But as long as we insist on judging the mode of the other, making our own sacred while condemning theirs, we toss an uncrossable roadblock on the path of good talk. Recognizing our differences, we would more wisely cease to condemn the way which is not our own, stop trying to make the other person be like us, and learn to compromise.
In compromise of this sort you are not to give up your own way of talking permanently (as though that were possible). You are simply to go beyond it temporarily as a compromise. You suspend something which matters to you with promise of experiencing a type of communication which may be even more valuable in the long run.
In reality, there is room for both ways of talking. With compromise, we mix and match; we bring both ways together in one conversation, creatively combining the two into one artistic verbal dialogue. Harmoniously we share our verses together, making one beautiful song of our man/woman conversation.
BRIDGING THE GENDER GAP
HOW TO COMPROMISE
With some understanding of the different ways men and women talk, we are ready to approach the gender gap directly. Once we develop a respect for our differences and face the necessity for compromise, we are ready to begin the process. If you are at this point, here are some guidelines.
1. STOP FIGHTING MODES
Positive compromise is impossible until we lay down our verbal arms. The first step in bridging the gender gaps in conversation is to cease warring. The conversational battles, though they may be fun in themselves, especially for men, almost always prevent con-versing with women. We can fight or converse, either one, but not usually both. Before we cross the gap, we must lay down our weapons.
As noted previously, respect for the mode of the other is necessary. A man must stop judging a woman's way of talking before true con-versation can begin. A woman who wishes to converse with a man must first abandon her judgments of man-talk. Remember, neither way of talking is better or worse, right or wrong; each is simply different. Reasonable talk is not the same as feeling talk, yet not better. Intuitive talk is certainly not the same as logical talk. Still, it is not superior.
To stop fighting modes means two things: stop attacking the mode of the other, and stop defending your own way. Attacking and defending, the major procedures in war, are both inappropriate in the sharing which lies at the heart of good conversation. For example, suppose a woman starts to bring feelings into a conversation--as she inevitably will when she begins to get more personal. I just feel like it's not a good idea.
Since feelings are contrary to the rules of reason, a man's first inclination may be to start a fight: Now you're getting illogical, or, So what if you feel that way? This is an attack, a way of beginning a battle, no matter what his intentions are. If conversation is to proceed, a man must refrain from such judgments.
Or suppose the woman is the one interested in con-versing rather than fighting. Her inclination to defend herself, Well I am trying to be reasonable, is only another way to participate in the war. Just as he must stop attacking, if he cares about conversing, so she must cease defending if she wishes to prevent the battle. Defense only invites further attack.
Or, to take an opposite example: suppose a woman is talking about her feelings and a man makes a logical statement: for instance, It doesn't make any sense to me that you would feel that way. The woman might switch the conversation into fighting by attacking his return to his native mode: Why do you always have to be so logical? He, in turn, may further the fight by defending (the second element in war): Well, I was just trying to understand what you meant.
Whether we attack or defend, we are inviting a fight. The first rule in conversation across the gender gap is: Don't. Don't attack the other person's use of her or his own natural mode, and don't defend yourself for using yours. You can't, of course, control what the other person does, but it always takes two to fight. Even though invited to do verbal battle by an attack or defense from the other person, you can stop the war at its beginning by not doing your part. If attacked, don't get defensive; if your partner gets defensive, avoid attacking them for doing so.
Lay judgments aside if you wish to converse. Your way is neither better or worse; nor is their's. Both are simply different. Avoid the temptation to fight rather than talk. The gender challenges in this first rule are also predictably different. Males, inclined to compete, are more likely to start fights, which, for them may be playful rather than serious.
Females, inclined to cooperate, are more likely to insist on peace by defending themselves. Unfortunately the battle of the sexes emerges unwittingly as each tries to enforce their own native mode--his for competition, her's for cooperation. Whether we are fighting for war or fighting for peace (man's way or woman's), a fight is still a fight--and a roadblock on the path toward conversation.
Rule one, again, is stop fighting modes. Instead of insisting on your own way, be it competitive or cooperative, lay down your verbal weapons. If it is to be a con-versation, you must make room for both ways. Don't attack. Don't defend. Move past fighting toward sharing.
2. START EXPANDING YOUR MODE
Instead of being a Johnny-one-note who can only speak man-talk or woman-talk, begin to expand your verbal territory. Branch out into the mode of your opposite gender. If you are male, add some of the female arts to your own repertoire; if you are female, begin to expand your mode to include certain of the traditionally male forms of speech. Compromise will be very difficult until you actually have more options than your own native mode.
Expanding is not the same as abandoning. You will be adding to, not taking away or even leaving your own natural way of talking. By venturing into the mode of the other, you increase your choices. Learning woman-talk won't make you less of a man, only more of a person. A woman who learns man-talk doesn't abandon her femininity. She increases her humanity.
The eight tongue-in-cheek rules for man/woman talk given in the beginning were each based on this possibility. In order to follow either of these rules, you will have to be able to go beyond your own native way of talking. For example, in Rule 2 (Men: draw verbal pictures; Women: make verbal points), each will have to expand their own normal way in order to follow the rule.
Following are some specific suggestions for learning to expand your natural mode of speaking. Begin by clarifying your understanding of the opposite mode. Review the sections on how we talk. Mental grasping (understanding) is not the same as learning, but it can be an invaluable first step. Once you have the way of your opposite gender more clearly in mind, select your own place for beginning to practice. Here are some specifics you may wish to consider:
MEN: Practice saying how you feel in addition to what you think. Make a place for emotions in conversation with women. While talking, be attentive to your own feelings also. Although they are generally out of place in man-talk, they are not when you talk with a woman. Remember, feeling-talk is woman's natural mode. If you learn to talk feelings, instead of simply acting them out, as men usually do, you will find talking to a woman to be much easier.
WOMEN: Practice saying what you think in addition to what you feel. To your honor of emotions, add greater respect for words and meanings as well. Already you are sensitive to emotional innuendoes; start paying more attention to verbal nuances also. Your own ideas, though less relevant in woman-talk, may provide invaluable openings for conversation with men. Probably you will feel uncertain about your ideas, tending to hide rather than reveal them plainly.
Remember, men like to talk ideas rather than feelings. Even though they tend to be judgmental about emotions, they can be more tolerant about an honest attempt to state a meaning. Even if your information is limited, practice sticking to the realm of ideas without slipping back into feelings. When you do so, talking with a man will become much more natural.
MEN: Even when talking ideas, give more attention to feelings than to sense-making, especially your own aggressive emotions. When men talk to one another they easily become heated and assertive. Normally these aggressive feelings are translated into verbal competition. With women, this can be dangerous and defeating, since women tend to be more attentive to your anger than to your ideas.
When you sense your adrenalin rising, in preparation for a good fight, pay more attention to your emotions than to the ideas you are preparing to fight for. Certainly the woman will. Temporarily abandon your impulse to win while you confront your emotions first. Perhaps you will bring them into the conversation. I find myself getting heated up about what you said.
WOMEN: Even while having your natural feelings, give more attention to the sense of the ideas you are expressing or hearing than to the emotions which surround them. Normally, in woman-talk, ideas are secondary to feelings. Practice reversing this order with men. When you find yourself getting angry, avoid the temptation to change the subject while he calms down.
Instead, discipline yourself to contain your urges toward peace-making while you make a special effort to remain attentive to the meanings of what is being said--the sense of the words rather than the feelings which propel them. Perhaps you will need to voice your feelings as a step toward going beyond them. I am feeling some threat at the harshness in your tone of voice, but let me repeat your idea to see if I understand what you mean.
3. START COMPROMISING
Now that you've stopped fighting and learned about the mode of the other, you are ready for positive compromise. Remember, com-promise means with promise. These moves are to be made, not as giving in (losing integrity), but as stepping stones which hold promise of greater sharing through conversation--more fun through talking together.
Such compromise involves give and take, bending a bit, venturing into the realm of the other without abandoning one's own way. Room is made for both modes of talking. One may temporarily lay his own way aside and venture into the mode of the other, or invite the other person to meet on his own ground. In compromising, a man may temporarily leave reasoning and speak intuitively; or, while remaining reasonable himself, he may listen openly to a woman's feeling-talk.
A woman who chances the promise of such openness may move, for a time, into the dimensions of logic and sense-making with a man as they both do man-talk. Or, she may quietly suspend her own feeling mode, containing it for a moment, while she listens attentively to a man as he speaks in his native tongue.
Each gives up a part of his or her own way in order to make room for the way of the other. In so doing, man-talk is enhanced by the addition of woman-talk, and vice versa. Each gives up less in order to get more. The fight--the verbal battle of the sexes in which each selfishly insists on their own way of talking--becomes a dance, an intimate, rhythmical swaying back and forth together.
From these 45 degree positions each is ready to begin the dance. If the man leads with a sense-making comment from his own mode (These dark clouds may bring afternoon rain.), the woman may either follow his lead with another reasonable statement (Yes, the weather man predicted showers.).
Or, if she senses him to be flexible, she may speak from her own mode, inviting him to follow her lead (I feel depressed when the sky gets dark like this.). If he, in a spirit of compromise, is willing to follow, he may leave the realm of facts and ideas (man's way) and venture into feelings himself (This seems strange to me, but I am more likely to feel comforted when it rains).
She might now continue further with woman-talk (My mother would never let me play outside when it looked like rain.), or she might return to man-talk (What is the name of those clouds?). If he knew, the man might answer her question, giving even more information about cloud formations. Or, if willing, he might compromise by returning to woman-talk (I'm not sure what they are called, but they remind me of the fun I often had as a child when I could walk barefoot in the mud after a rain).
Note that in this series of exchanges, each person is flexible about their own mode. He begins with a fact, but does not insist on keeping the conversation factual. She responds with feeling, but is willing to listen to more facts (her question indicates this). He acknowledges her willingness (doesn't know the name) but returns to her mode by remembering feelings.
This practice of give and take, moving freely from one mode to the other--conversational dancing, is the art of positive compromise which replaces the more traditional fights or avoidances of talking between men and women.
If we are able to bridge the gender gap in conversation, even a bit, we increase the possibility of love in relationship. Would that we might all be so lucky.
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