Room To Breathe

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?”
  • “Reeeally…”
  • “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.

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27 Comments

Filed under beta guide, girl guide

27 responses to “Room To Breathe

  1. whiteboykrispy

    Ha yeah usually if you listen to her vent, nod every now and then, say “yeah that sucks” occasionally, she’ll get it all out. As long as it looks like you’re genuinely listening. She’ll be grateful you did.

    Then you segue into a better topic of conversation.

    If these kind of things happen too often and she’s constantly detailing minor dramas and rehashing even the most minor stressful parts of her day, a finger to her mouth and a “Shhh, let’s talk about something happier” followed by a kiss usually does the trick.

    It has been known to lead to some banging as well.

  2. Hey cool, a post about my post! Thanks! :)

    I’ve been known to abscond to the restroom for a few minutes simply to recharge my social batteries

    Ha ha! I do that! And I love that Atlantic article and have sent it to many people.

    I have to work to not talk too much if it’s something I’m interested in (not to monopolize the conversation – I am actually quite embarrassed if I notice myself doing that and quickly wrap up what I’m saying) and also to remember to ask people questions. The trouble is that a lot of the time what people talk about bores me, so I just don’t say much and probably appear rude. I really don’t mean to be; it just doesn’t occur to me until later that maybe I should have given more feedback. Which is related to the fact that I often don’t react much to what someone says because I need time to absorb it before I say something about it.

    As for relationships, I can be pretty talkative but usually it’ll be various rants and thoughts about things I’ve read, not “I’m upset because Mildred ignored me at the supermarket the other day….” I’ve asked my bf if I’m being a bore and he says he likes listening to me – he’s a man of few words, so it all works out. ;) Just don’t give me weed; then I really will talk too much.

    Anyway, you sound a lot like me with the conversation thing. I find most social interaction draining because most of it is pretty superficial and I’m just not that good at it. I’d rather hide in a book. I’m sure this is why you find a lot of introverts on blogs.

  3. Then again, people seem to find me easy to talk to… Sounds contradictory, I know. Recently a complete stranger talked to me and started telling me about the fact that she was having trouble trying to conceive. I guess I appear unintimidating or something. How would a complete stranger know I’m not just going to say something platitudinous but just listen? I’ve always been the person people come to with their problems too. Hmm… Now you’ve got me thinking and I already do that too much, lol.

  4. Stephenie Rowling

    Heh my husband knows I’m a chatter box. He has adapted quite a bit to it, to a point that when I’m a little more silent than usual he asks me if I’m okay (also if too much time passes without me kissing him I’m a kissing machine too).
    I also had learned to tone it down, when he was upset I tried to pry to let him to open up, but he rather be silent when he is upset, what he does likes is me touching him: hugging him, touching his head…that is what soothes him. So that is what I do, is all a matter of paying attention.
    I will say people should try to observe their partner and adjust, if he likes you talking good, but most men need their time of silence so is always wise to be silent for a while and let him be the one breaking it up if he wants to.

    I’m a extrovert, by the way, talking to people recharges my energies, but usually positive talk, negative people and whiners drawn me like I was running a marathon for three days or something.
    It doesn’t have to be personal talking to all of you for example, is really stimulating as is reading a book with characters I care about. So I can usually bury myself in books for weeks and then go to social gatherings the next week or just annoy you by commenting here, as long as there is a connection I’m good.

  5. Tim

    Where are you from, Stephanie?

  6. Stephenie Rowling

    I’m Dominican…why do you ask?

  7. Looking Glass

    I don’t really have the same issue with talking (I can talk anyone under a table), but I am more introverted than extroverted, so you’re not the only one that needs to close people out to recharge. You’re not alone!

    But, in the male/female contrast, my mother told me this one well. She came home from work one day venting about something. It was a fixable issue, so I simply interjected of how to fix it. She wasn’t too happy about that, but later that day she told me that I was doing it wrong. Her advice was: Give me hug, ask me what’s wrong, listen for a bit, THEN go and fix the issue. Has served me really well since she gave me that piece of advice.

    One piece of advice for conversations & one observation. Everyone has interesting stories, no matter who they are, you just have to find them. You don’t have to just “talk about the weather” in a social setting. People *always* have things they take great pride in and will love to talk about, it can just take some work to figure out what it is. (How you carry yourself when probing is the huge trick, as everyone has had someone “listen” to them without listening, so you have to get past that defense)

    The really funny thing about the currently building “functional relationship” sphere is that most don’t realize they’re advocating “trust building”, which is exactly how you interrogate someone. While we have a popular conception of interrogations as these violent affairs, but they’re actually demonstrations of trust building. (You talk to the Good Cop, not the Bad Cop, for instance) The only way you’re going to get “actionable” information from someone you have detained is for them to trust you. It’s the only way you can get at the truth. So to make an LTR work, you have to actually interrogate the other party, in the true sense of the word. (Cracking a “hardened” person is a separate and far more complex issue, so don’t take this point as leave to get mired in that topic)

    My one observation from talking to people over the year is this: it’s DAMN hard for a person to actually be boring, but there are some out there. 99% of the people you meet, including small children, have topics they’ll want to discuss, but it can just be a chore to bring them out of their bubble of not talking about it. But you can actually run into someone that’s made it their life’s work to be insanely boring. You’ll want to stop talking to these people very soon after you figure this out, though. The Boredom seems like it could be contagious.

  8. NMH

    I am a INTJ, and I think you will find a LOT of INTJ’s on sites like these. Why? (1) We are either betas/omegas who possibly want to get out of that category, (2) we can communicate well on the internet because we don’t have to make approaches and read people in person, which gets tiring.

    I think the major reason why I had anti-game was mostly because I was INTJ, and possibly had some characteristics of some very low level autism.

    When you ask an INTJ or some other Introverted personality to learn game, its like taking on an entirely different personality, which is intrinsically hard.

    My dad is a strong INTJ but was able to meet a social and very attractive woman (my mom, a high 7 in her day) because he had a good job and she needed his money for the things she wanted in life (security and family) . Now, with women as educated and as well-employed as men, INTJ’s can no longer get women out of dependency. We either have to learn game and become an entirely different person, or accept being alone.

    INTJ’s want to spend their time creating and driving the economy but we have to waste time learning game to mate. This really sucks.

  9. NMH, what about finding another introvert? You shouldn’t have to totally change your personality, but you can learn a few extrovert traits – if I can do it, so can you! (I think a lot of people these days are surprised to learn I’m an introvert, but it’s just that I’ve learned to compensate a bit). Or, you could always be that mysterious man of few words. Lots of women are suckers for that and project what ever they think they want onto you. Lots of decent women like the quieter ones anyway. To someone like me at least, those pea-cocking players look like total douche bags.

    FWIW, I’m INFJ and bf is INTP. It’s an interesting combination that can lead to some miscommunication, but I feel understood (and I assume so does he) more than with most people, who tend to be less introverted. I think we just find each other a relief from other people, lol. Introverts on the whole are less demanding too, I reckon.

  10. NMH

    Thag– I agree, I think for me (and possible other Introverts) Introverted women are the best for a good personality match–could be that the first letter in the four is better than the rest. I have been dating an ISFJ for two years and we get along pretty well; I think because both of us can understand where we are coming from. The relationship is not perfect and we may end up breaking up one day, but personality wise I have a good match. The problem with me and possibly other introverts as well is that the women that we are most strongly sexually attracted to are often not introverts, but I know the fate of men that fall into that trap.

    I have developed a few outgoing traits in conversation and activities but it is not easy. I can relate to Badgers comment about going to the rest room to recharge but in my case it’s an academic library. Really sexy stuff for hot women indeed.

    Anyway thanks for your remarks and suggestions.

  11. Tim

    I detected a slight accent in your writing.

  12. Bb

    I’m an ENTJ and BbMan is an INTJ. For us, it’s been a great match. I initially thought BbMan was conceited, because as smart and funny as he was, he barely spoke to anyone outside his chosen circle. Later on, I realized he was just an Introvert.

    BbMan gets completely drained at big parties and definitely needs to recharge. He also runs out of conversation quickly if it goes outside of his area of interests / expertise. After being together for as long as we have, I have a lot of new found respect for Introverts. They definitely aren’t lonely people who need to come out of their shells, just waiting for Extroverts to rescue them.

    @NMH hang in there. It can be a struggle. I like @Thag’s advice re a mysterious man of few words. Worked for BbMan — and Mr. Darcy.

  13. I like @Thag’s advice re a mysterious man of few words. Worked for BbMan — and Mr. Darcy.

    Also worked for Thag’s INTP. ;)

  14. Bb

    @Thag looking back, was always attracted to Introverts. I don’t think this is common, but perhaps opposites do attract. My parents were also opposite: Mom=E/Dad=I.

  15. I think in many cases opposites do attract – you want someone complimentary, not just like you. There are other ways the bf and I are quite opposite – almost ridiculously so actually, we look terrible on paper, no sane person would have matched us up for a date. And now that I have converted to Catholicism, it looks even worse!! Yet somehow, it just won’t die, and I think it’s mostly to do with the fact that we are very attracted to each other (I’d say physically speaking we’re more or less equal on the attractiveness scale and both pass for a good bit younger than we are) and neither of us is too demanding of the other and each knows when to leave the other alone.

    Either way, all relationships have those differences that require a fair bit of patience and understanding unless you marry your twin or something. Women especially tend to expect too much and have been brainwashed into thinking that marriage is about personal “fulfilment” in a way that it just isn’t. And then there’s the canned romance industry feeding into the lies about what love is… It’s relentless and poisonous.

  16. Bb

    Men, it’s part of your relationship game to understand when your lady just wants to blow off some steam.

    I’ve learned to signal this to BbMan. I preface these conversations with either “I just need to vent, and have you listen” or “can you help me with this problem?”

    We had to do the same thing re shopping. BbMan thinks shopping is “get in and get out, nobody gets hurt.” I think shopping is “oooh shiny object and —ooh other shiny object….” Now when we go to Target we establish whether it’s a in/out or wandering mission before we go in.

    It’s all about managing expectations.

  17. How to talk to women:

  18. “I’ve learned to signal this to BbMan. I preface these conversations with either “I just need to vent, and have you listen” or “can you help me with this problem?” ”

    Trouble is a lot of women think if they have to tell the man, it doesn’t count – that he should just read her mind.

    “We had to do the same thing re shopping. BbMan thinks shopping is “get in and get out, nobody gets hurt.” I think shopping is “oooh shiny object and —ooh other shiny object….” Now when we go to Target we establish whether it’s a in/out or wandering mission before we go in. ”

    You’ve just explained why convenience stores, marketed to men, are designed the way they are.

    Whenever I am doing “Brownian motion” (random-walk) shopping with a gf, I schedule window shopping at a place I want to go as well. Then we both get what we want.

    I don’t do clothes shopping expeditions though. Not because it threatens my manhood, but because if she asks “would this top look good on me?” I have to be honest and say “it would look better if you took the top off.” And then there’s not always a fitting room that fits both of us, we have to be super quiet, it can get messy ya know.

    “It’s all about managing expectations.”

    This is a huge problem for young women who have been taught the chemistry meme, and that it “just happens.” They think it kills the “romance” to discuss the expectations. A relationship is an organic living entity, it needs work and effort and boundaries. AND a problem for men who have been taught “it just happens” AND that “you just have to let her have her way.”

  19. Brendan

    “We had to do the same thing re shopping. BbMan thinks shopping is “get in and get out, nobody gets hurt.” I think shopping is “oooh shiny object and —ooh other shiny object….” Now when we go to Target we establish whether it’s a in/out or wandering mission before we go in. ”

    This is minor stuff. Hunter vs. Gatherer. It’s not a big deal, and couples who make a big deal of it are wasting chits on it, really.

  20. Stephenie Rowling

    “I detected a slight accent in your writing.”

    You mean that my grammar sucks? :) I know one of the many reasons I comment is to improve it, so feel free to correct me.

    “This is minor stuff. Hunter vs. Gatherer. It’s not a big deal, and couples who make a big deal of it are wasting chits on it, really.”

    I agree my husband was kind enough to go with me a couple of times and I’m not even a big shopper like some other friends I have that spent a whole day just shopping. But he looked so bored that frankly I didn’t like it, I don’t like people get bored when they are with me, so I asked a girlfriend to shop with me last time while he was playing Warhammer with his friends. We both have fun, so win win situation.

  21. Douglos

    Disagree that this is minor stuff. The actual application of the “stuff” might be minor (shopping, etc.) but the practical knowledge needed to recognize that things need to be communicated about is very important. IOW, small step in the very right direction.

  22. Tim

    I agree my husband was kind enough to go with me a couple of times and I’m not even a big shopper like some other friends I have that spent a whole day just shopping. But he looked so bored that frankly I didn’t like it, I don’t like people get bored when they are with me, so I asked a girlfriend to shop with me last time while he was playing Warhammer with his friends. We both have fun, so win win situation.

    I agree, and my husband has accompanied me a few times, but I’m not a big shopper like some of my friends who have spent an entire day just shopping. He looked so bored that frankly I didn’t like it; I don’t like people to become bored when they are with me. Last time I went shopping I asked a girlfriend to come with me so that he could play Warhammer with his friends. We both have fun, so it’s a win-win situation.

  23. Stephenie Rowling

    Heh Thanks Tim :D I really appreciate it *virtual hug*

  24. modernguy

    I’m convinced women bring men on shopping trips either to torture them or to show them off.

  25. Looking Glass

    As a guy, I view the shopping thing as more complex than we like to admit. Part of it is simply woman can bond with other woman over an activity like shopping, so it does get projected onto the man at times. Next, there is a level of “displaying value” to others by showing a man off. Can’t discount that aspect.

    There’s also a weird interplay of fitness test & expecting leadership. If we’re taking that most of the Alpha role in the relationship is defining “order” or establishing leadership, you end up in this situation where someone is making a lot of purchasing decisions that don’t necessarily need the man’s involvement. In clothes shopping in particular, a woman is looking for validation of her choices while still making her own independent choices, while setting up some of them as random fitness tests. And this is why men like to avoid shopping with women like the plague. No good can come of it.

    One of the weird things about reading in the Manosphere is that I think anthropologists are actually lazy hacks. They should have been documenting all of this ages ago and we should have a categorical understanding of why women drag men shopping! It’s easily one of the awkward things a woman can do a man that’s completely socially acceptable.

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