Thag Jones (now a member of the blogroll) posted this week on the lesson that sometimes women just need to stop talking their man’s ear off.
Women always want to talk talk talk. Men get tired of talking. I think they wouldn’t mind listening so much if we didn’t expect them to talk as much as we do, so long as what they’re listening to isn’t a barrage of what they’re doing wrong or general complaining about everything – or endlessly dissecting “the relationship”.
There’s no need to try to see into every dark corner of each other’s imaginations or to pick the relationship to pieces like it’s a frog in biology class. There’s no need to ascertain every motivation for everything. It’s nice to have some deep conversations once in a while, but these shouldn’t just consist of what’s wrong, like the psychotherapy industry wants us to do. I wonder how many couples actually take the time to sit in silence in each other’s presence, without distractions, just for a little while.
Women, everyone would be a lot happier if half the time we just kept our thoughts to ourselves. Of course I understand the impulse to share every inane thought, but it’s just not necessary. Relationships need room to breathe – like any living thing – and too much communication (heh heh) can stifle the life out of the thing. Sometimes it’s better not to know; not everything needs to be shared.
I admit I am a strange one when it comes to conversation. I am a classic deep introvert who loses energy talking to new people (at parties I’ve been known to abscond to the restroom for a few minutes simply to recharge my social batteries). However, I can talk all day if we’re discussing a topic I am interested in. And I’ve organized my life so that most of my friends are intelligent, curious people like me, so I spend most of my talking time discussing subjects of interest, and my friends can’t believe I’m an introvert because I’m always talking nonstop. (Cf. my voluminous comments on blogs I read.)
Background on introversion: the outstanding Atlantic article Caring For Your Introvert. (Apropos of nothing: the author is gay and so his perception of introversion as a misunderstood social minority is probably deeply resonant for him.)
BE SOMEBODY PEOPLE CAN TALK TO
My own case is complicated by family background. My otherwise-affable mother is famous for interrogating people about the details of their lives, losing touch with social mores to get to the information she wanted to have. It became embarrassing when a guest or friend was subjected to it.
So I grew up with a conditioned aversion to asking other people about their lives. I’m also a classic venter: I’m open to discussing details about my life and times not because I want to hold the floor but because it calms me.
It took me a long time to realize that this combination unwittingly made me look like a conversational narcissist.
Enter a commenter at Thag’s thread:
An ex-gf of mine talked her way right out of my life.
Whenever we got together it was nothing but talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk talk about her problems, her opinions, her job, her interests, her concerns, her revelations, her stories her her her her her her her her her her her her her her her.
…Once I decided that our relationship had been entirely filled with talk about her, and that there was no room left in it for me, I concluded that I’d really be happier on my own. And I was.
Before I even knew what game was, I committed myself to working out these problems. Now if someone asks about me, I try to keep it to two sentences and turn the conversation back to them; if they ask a follow-up I get more loquacious, otherwise I turn the conversation back to them. I’ve learned to very carefully read when people are getting tired of me talking, want to add a comment, or want to change the subject, and I play to them.
It goes back to a key game concept: comfort. You want people to be comfortable talking to you, whether they are talking about themselves to you or hearing a fascinating story coming out of your mouth. Good conversational and listening skills build comfort in spades, and to go one step further it’s a subtle mark of social status and regard that people solicit your advice – to be the guy that everyone goes to to get your take on their problem.
There was a Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s friend’s boyfriend had a habit of not letting anybody get off the phone with him; no one wanted to call this woman because if he picked up, they’d be stuck yakking with him for 45 minutes. (Elaine ran a hairdryer to create the illusion she was in a car on a mobile phone, and when that didn’t chase him off she told him the car was running out of gas.)
VENTING AND SOLVING
One of the classic failure modes of male-female communication is a woman who just wants to vent for a few minutes about an issue, and a man trying to solve the problem on the spot. The man is trying to raise the energy level of the issue to get it resolved, but the woman wants to lower the energy level by getting the anxiety off her mind.
Men, it’s part of your relationship game to understand when your lady just wants to blow off some steam. When I feel it happening, I queue up all my empathic open-ended questions.
- “Tell me what happened.”
- “Aw, I’m sorry, how did that happen?”
- “Wow, what a bitch.”
- “Tell me more.”
- “How did that make you feel?”
- “I told you that woman was crazy!” (H/t: Chris Rock.)
When I think she’s had enough, and it’s just getting gratuitous, I “close” like the PUAs do by redirecting the conversation to a more “active” topic, like “what should we do about dinner” or “why don’t we go in the back and shag?” There’s a sweet spot when you have to lead her away from the discussion, or she’ll lose the relief of the venting and get pissed off about whatever is bothering her all over again.