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January 23, 2007

Gab vs. Info

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A posting for da guyz only. It concerns one of the eternal questions: How do you manage your woman? Well, a subset of it, actually.

Namely: Given the female proclivity for nosing around people's feelings, for testing (and re-testing and re-re-testing) relationships, and for Just Generally Going On and On Until You Can't Stand It Any Longer About People and Feelings and What the Day Was Like and What Did She Mean By This and What Do You Suppose He Was Up To With That ... Well, given the female love for inane and endless relationship-babble, er, for insightful and in-depth exploration of inner experience, how do you get the information you need out of your woman?

After all, god knows that a woman's feelings can get hurt if and when her man is a little abrupt, and god knows that we dudes have an inborn penchant for wanting to cut to the chase. I laughed in recognition, for instance, when a commenter at Marginal Revolution (on a thread I can't locate any longer), discussing women and men and marriage, wrote something along the lines of "I've had to learn how to let her rake over her day at great length without interrupting too often or offering advice. She's had to learn that not every question I ask her is intended to elicit a long, self-involved monologue."

It can take a while to develop these relationship skills. My own interest in people's feelings and feeling-experiences is probably greater than that of most guys. Even so, by the time the five-minute mark has passed I'm ready to move on. Meanwhile, The Wife is just getting warmed up to her subject.

And those tender female feelings ... Sheesh. Place a request for some information and a woman is liable to respond by giving you a suspicious look and asking, "What do you mean? What are you up to? Why do you ask?" At a moment when all you really need to know is the location of the checkbook, you can find yourself plunged into Relationship-Exploration / Depth-Psychology Hell. And why is it that women seem to gain energy from such scenes? I can survive 'em myself, but just barely and not without shellshock. Afterwards I need a few hours of downtime to recuperate.

I wonder if my own info-eliciting techniques could use some tweaking. I've applied myself to the challenge and have managed to develop a few tricks that can serve. I might, for instance, go to the trouble of putting a lot of sugar-coating on an info-request. An example: "Honey, I love you dearly, you know that. Right now, though, what I need to do is find out where the checkbook is located. Can you give me that information in a direct and non-emotion-laden way that my inadequate male brain won't be overwhelmed by?"

That sometimes works. But when it doesn't -- when my candied info-request results in The Wife launching enthusiastically into a potentially-endless female monologue anyway -- I have to screw my courage up and take a different tack. Usually I'll look for a small opening and say either "Short version?" or "Info please?" Aware of the risks I'm running, I'm careful to use the query-tone.

These days, I'm pleased to say that I generally get away with it. It's taken a while, but I've managed to train The Wife -- adorable, beloved, and eternally enchanting, needless to say -- to put up with what she clearly considers to be my harshness, my crudeness, and my un-caringness. She'll give me a look of dismay, of course -- no escaping the hint that I'm a vast let-down as a husband, partner, and person, or the threat that there very well might be hell to pay sometime later in the day. But then she'll do her best to oblige with the sought-after info. Success!

Still, there must be better ways ...

So what's your preferred way to elicit information from your better half? Broads, eh? What do they have against the simple and direct sharing of information anyway?



UPDATE: Tyler links to a report indicating that wealth gives even more of a boost to women's sexual satisfaction than it does to men's. "Women find wealth to be extremely empowering," says wealth consultant Hannah Grove. "Wealth consultant"?

posted by Michael at January 23, 2007


I often preface my request for info with, "In 25 words or less..." Surprisingly, this works pretty well not only the wife but many other people who might otherwise be overdiscursive. It includes an optional second stop, too, since you can make a joke about being confused and restate the question if she starts to go long.

Posted by: robert on January 23, 2007 5:46 PM

I had the benefit of the fact that my wife's ancestry is from the south and mine is from the north. Once, after being hit with the alarming, "Sometime terrible has happened!" only to have to sit through about 10 tense minutes of lead-up and how-we-got-there exposition did I find out that nothing truly earth-shattering had occurred. So I said, when you start like that give me the freakin' punchline first so I don't stand here thinking somebody's died or the house is falling down.

Later, at a calmer time, I said to her that I think there are "northern versions" of stories and "southern versions". "Northern versions" are derived from a culture where two farmers are standing out in the snow talking over their fence. Brevity and information-richness are key so no one freezes to death. "Southern versions" are derived from sitting on the porch in the steaming heat where everyone has a mint julep and since they have the time, the journey (the story) is the point, not the destination. Heck, southern versions might not even arrive at the intended point.

She agreed with this observation, so I ventured a suggestion. Of course, if it is an emergency, I still need the punchline first (and she really does say, "OK, here's the punchline" when she starts one of these - which also clues me into the fact that it's bad). Otherwise, she's free to do the southern version, unless I specifically request the northern version ("Northern version, please."). I can't do it too often, but it does cut to the chase.

That's how I managed it.

Posted by: yahmdallah on January 23, 2007 6:30 PM

Google Omniscient Device sees all: link

Posted by: Ken Hirsch on January 24, 2007 8:22 AM

Yet another thread where I find myself an alien who has landed on a very strange planet. My own wife exhibits none of those supposed "female" traits, where I (too often) believe things need to be talked out. Three and half decades in we've managed a decent balance in which I can actually shut up for long periods of time and she's willing to offer more than a terse set of bullet points.

As for "northern" vs. "southern" .... I'm someone born in and returned to Maine, a lifelong New Englander. Have you guys ever heard any Maine "humah" like Bert & I? Essentially Maine humor depends on taking the longest, most convoluted route to get to the punchline.

Posted by: Chris White on January 24, 2007 10:35 AM

Well. . .at some risk, I can acknowledge that I have seen some of this behavior at close range. At home, we do sometimes wander off into Things That Happened to A Cousin of a Friend of Someone You've Never Even Met. Not to mention This Other Person Is So Idiotic, Dull, and Intolerable, But For Some Reason I Care About What They Think About Me. A Lot.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on January 25, 2007 10:21 AM

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