Friday, May 06, 2005

The Advisor

Sometimes, the advisor's pretty amazing

What does it mean when a woman asks, "What are you thinking about?" --W.G., Bowling Green, Ohio

She's looking for a pulse -- some acknowledgement and reassurance that the relationship is humming along. The question usually confuses guys. They figure if the relationship isn't working, one person will leave. They think, Does she want me to catalog my current random musings on baseball, (etc)? That will only piss her off. But if you respond with those old standbys "nothing" or "you," that doesn't satisfy her either. Men need to recognize that the exchange of seemingly mundane details is how women establish intimacy with their best female friends. She's approaching you in the same way. Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown who wrote the bestseller You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, says the best way to deal with this is for couples to acknowledge what's going on. The man should get in the habit of bringing up topics for discussion. The woman needs to reassure herself that, absent other signs that the relationship is suffering, the silence doesn't mean he's unhappy. Linda Vaden-Goad, a social psychologist at Western Connecticut State Univesity who has studied how couples use silence, says even if men are willing to share their thoughts, they are more comfortable with action than analysis. "Disclosure makes them feel vulnerable, and they're supposed to be strong," she says, "though some men in our studeis admitted to using silence as a strategy to maintain power because it keeps their partner guessing." Which is interesting but not something we want to talk about.

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