Saturday, March 28, 2009

Verbal Ping Pong: Clear and Effective Conversation in Relationships and Marriage

MUST READ: You’ll be shocked to find out how much your partner has tried to tell you when you thought she had nothing to say, and how much she thinks you’re not listening when you don’t drag it out of her.

This is going to be one of those articles that you probably should forward to your friends, because very few of them are going to have any clue that the world works this way and will thank you for sharing this with them. So, grab a cup of coffee or whatever your favorite libation happens to be and settle in for an awakening like none you’ve ever had (unless of course you’ve read "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage").

I probably have more female friends than most guys because of the nature of the kinds of work I’ve been attracted to in my life, especially this work, and it gives me a chance to observe female behavior on a fairly large scale without the potential emotional stress that can interfere with communication when you catch your partner having a bad day or in a foul mood. The things I notice I eventually put to the test with my wife and pass along to the support team to verify in their own lives, and once in a while, I stumble upon something that is just about Earth-shattering.

One such thing is the difference in how men and women convey information, especially historical information (“How was your day, Dear?” or “Tell me about your trip,”) to each other. Hopefully by now, you’ve read in my free “Break-Up Busting 101” report the excerpt from "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage" titled “Men State, Women Negotiate,” but if not I encourage you to do so before continuing, because what you are about to read takes that understanding up to an even higher level, one that could save you half or more of the ill feelings that your wife might ever feel toward you – yes, it’s really that big.

When a man has something to report, that’s what he does. He just spits it out and moves on. Women want to go through somewhat of a ping-pong exchange to convey the same message.

Consider the following scenario: A man comes home from an overnight business trip and his wife says, “Hi Honey! Welcome home! I missed you. How was your trip?”

He replies, “
It was good. The hotel was nice, the food was good, the meeting with the client went well and we got an even bigger order than I’d hoped for. I’m tired and hungry, so I’m going to unpack real quick and grab a shower and then I’m taking you out to dinner to celebrate.” And he leaves the room.

The odds are that at this moment, his wife is somewhere between feeling left out, angry, and hurt, all to varying degrees. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s turn the tables and see how the conversation would have gone if it were her who had just come home from the exact same trip, with the same experiences to relate to the husband, and he reacts as most men do:

She hits the door and says, “Hi Honey, I’m home!”

He comes strolling in and says, “I see you made it back in one piece. How was your trip?”

She says, “It was good. Really good.”

He says, “Well that’s great. Look, I’m hungry, so how about I take your luggage to the bedroom and we go get something to eat?”

What just happened? That depends on whose point of view you are considering. From his point of view, because he doesn’t realize that he needed to invite her to share more information, she had a good trip and is tired and not feeling talkative. WRONG ANSWER! In her mind, he just completely blew off her activities and accomplishments and was more interested in stuffing his face, and she’s even more upset than she was in the previous scenario. If this has happened much in the past, it’s just one more nail in the coffin of their relationship.

Because of the same brain structure issues disclosed in the “Men State, Women Negotiate” chapter of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," women also handle reporting in that same back-and-forth manner. Hence, when she starts to speak, she pauses to have you acknowledge what she has said and invite her to continue. Their stated reasons vary from wanting to test to see if you’re interested to being polite to “I don’t know, that’s just the way it is,” but it’s really that same biological, brain structure-dependent mechanism, and you’ll find that the “girlier” she is, the more prevalent the behavior.

How would this conversation have played out if it would have happened in her perfect world? Let’s look. First he comes home from the trip, she welcomes him as before, and he begins to answer her:

He says, “It was really good. I’m glad I went.”

She says, “How was the hotel?”

He says, “It was good. I enjoyed it.”

She says, “Was the bed comfortable?”

He says, “Yes, I slept well and had a great breakfast the next morning.”

She says, “And you meeting went well?”

He says, “Yes, very well. The client was pleased and placed a big order.”

She says, “Pleased with you or the proposal?”

He says, “Both, and so much so that this is worth celebrating!”

She says, “Oh my! Dinner out then?”

He says, “Yes, I’m starved, so I’m going to clean up and whisk you away to Scalini’s for Italian. How about that?”

She says, “That will be wonderful. I’ll be ready in a minute.”

As you can see, there really wasn’t much more information conveyed, but she feels good about it because it was more interactive. There was that social element of sharing so prevalent in the female communication style. The conversation would have been near-identical, again in her idea of a perfect world, if she had been the one on a trip, but there would have been a lot more information conveyed if he had dragged it out of her with the right questions:

He says, “How was the hotel?”

She says, “It was wonderful. The place was clean and the people were so nice.”

He says, “Really?”

She says, “Yes! And the sheets smelled so good I didn’t want to get out of bed. I meant to ask them what that scent was.

He says, “Was the bed comfortable?”

She says, “Yes, I slept well and felt great when I woke up.”

He says, “How was the food?”

She says, “Wonderful! I had a great breakfast of a Florentine omelet with juice and coffee. It was fabulous.”

He says, “That’s great. I didn’t know you liked spinach in an omelet.”

She says, “Oh yes, and the coffee was just the way I like it and the orange juice was fresh-squeezed for me at the table. I’ll definitely go back.”

He says, “And your meeting went well?”

She says, “Yes, very well. The client was pleased.”

He says, “Pleased with you or the proposal?”

She says, “Both, and placed a big order. He’s a very nice man too. He was very respectful and didn’t interrupt me once.

He says, “Well, that sounds like cause for celebration. Do you feel like going out?”

She says, “Yes, I’m starved!”

He says, “Well then, I’m going to clean up and whisk you away to Scalini’s for Italian. How about that?”

She says, “That would be wonderful, but it takes so long to get served there. Can we do Martin’s Steakhouse instead?”

He says, “Sure, I’ll be ready in a minute.”

So you see, any invitation to continue brings greater and greater levels of detail. At first, it may feel like you’re trying to pull dragon’s teeth to get her to spit it all out, but eventually you’ll both understand each other’s needs and tendencies and it will get easier for both of you. Also notice even though it’s her celebration, she makes no suggestion as to the venue, even though she obviously has an idea of where she wants to go. This gets back to the negotiation lesson that you should have learned in the excerpt from "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage."

One other thing that you will notice as you get used to this sort of parley is that she drops subtle clues for him to help him lead the conversation, such as mentioning that the sheets smelled good before addressing the most common of all issues with bedding and sleep, which is comfort. A woman will tend to hold off on the most important things until last and work their way up to them, where we tend to spit them out first and drop less-significant, parenthetical details after we’ve established the main point. Remember that women can go through a lot of tests to make sure you’re interested in the subject before they give you the real meat of the conversation.

So do you now see why she would have been upset with him in the first two examples? In the first, he left her no way to interact and indeed, cut her off by announcing that he was leaving the room when he was done speaking, and in the second, he appeared to her to assume that there was nothing more important than his appetite left to deal with, when in fact he just didn’t realize that he needed to invite her to tell him the rest of the story.

Now, think back over your life together to all the times that something like this might have happened, and then go tell your wife that you had no idea that it worked this way. Then tell her that you will be trying to make it more interactive for her and that she in turn needs to realize that especially when under stress, your natural tendency will be to be as brief as possible to make more time for either handling the situation or returning to normal after it’s passed, and that if she wants more information than what you provide, that she has a standing invitation to ask questions until the two of you get more in tune with each other’s tendencies and needs and can anticipate and get along better.

Gentlemen, as usual, it’s not rocket science; it’s just different from what you are accustomed to. She won’t expect you to do everything her way, but she’ll greatly appreciate you trying to meet her in the middle and you’ll find that your conversational skills and appeal to both sexes will improve as you do this, because you’ll learn how to better read people and know whether they have more to say before you change subjects or make them feel like they need to. Being liked is purely a function of giving people a reason to enjoy your company, and being a good conversationalist is one of the surest ways in the world to be wildly popular, especially with women.

There you have it. It’s long, and the examples may have even been a little boring because you’re not used to going through so much “ping-pong” to get a message across, but as you progress, you’ll also find that you learn things about your partner from those extra little details she provides that are indeed valuable, because they provide useful hints about her likes and dislikes, which in turn help in another of the most difficult of all human endeavors, choosing the perfect gift for your wife or girlfriend.

All of this and more, including the full scoop on how to communicate effectively with the women in your life, how to buy the perfect gift, and how to easily make her life so fun and exciting that she’s breaking fingernails trying to get you out of your clothes are some of what you’ll learn in "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," if and only if you go to, download your copy, and read and apply it. If I publish another thousand newsletters you still won’t see all the proven, critical information in this book that will allow you to make your relationship as good as it can get, so go ahead, do it now, because life is too short to waste it waiting for something good to happen when you can quickly, easily, and cheaply MAKE IT HAPPEN!

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!

David Cunningham

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