If we’re going to have a conversation, we need to understand how the opposite-gendered person across the table (or in the passenger seat) thinks. Bob Foulkes and Bridgette Boisvert tell us how to make it work with a few simple rules and some incisive observations about what men and women need. It’s simple, sort of.

How to talk to a man

By BOB FOULKES

Over the years every man gets some version of this quizzical statement from a woman he loves: “We don’t talk …. How do I know what you’re thinking if you don’t talk to me.” Such questions cause confusion, especially since the woman posing the question has known him for a long time and shared many intimacies.

It’s a trite and ready truism, men don’t talk much, or at least we don’t talk as much as women want; nor, I suspect, about matters they wish to discuss.

Let me turn the tables. The issue is not how we communicate with them; it is how they communicate with us. Men don’t have trouble talking to men. But women need a set of instructions on how to talk to a man, a sort of a manual, a playbook. So, boys, if the women in your life are saying;‘You never talk to me,” clip this out of your manual and give it to her.

Rules for successful conversation with men

  •  No direct eye contact. Men wilt under direct-face-to face conversation where eye contact is continuous and unavoidable. We immediately feel like we are being cross examined. We assume we are being accused of having done something wrong. We become fidgety, evasive and anxious. Our minds become blank; our short little memory becomes even shorter. Eye contact is too hot. If you want to have a real conversation with a man, sit beside him and avoid eye contact.
    You cannot talk to a man about serious issues from across a table. Talking across a table should be reserved for men negotiating the cost of a replacement muffler or the price of a new roof. It is a negotiation among equals. That’s why we invented sports — so we could talk to each other while watching the game. If you want to talk to a man take him to a game.
  • There must be an opportunity to suspend the conversation instantly when it becomes uncomfortable. Every conversation must be instantly interruptible — for a plausible reason. We must be able to change the subject of the conversation when we are getting uncomfortable; we need a reason to do so, beyond that fact that we are uncomfortable. That’s why sporting events and games are good. They are perfect for avoiding tough questions that make our palms sweaty — we simply jump up and start yelling at the ref or a player or another fan. We can thus cut the conversation off without being accused of avoiding it.
  • There must be a readily available physical exit. You should always choose your seat wisely when you want to chat with a man about important issues like feelings. Let him sit near the stairs or in the car passenger seat. If the conversation gets too scary, he just pulls the door handle, drops to the pavement and rolls away unhurt. A real man would prefer the pain of gravel rash to that of answering a direct question from a woman he loves. He will choose physical pain over emotional pain 10 out of 10 times. At a game, he can race away to get more beer, go to the john, buy you a cap or find some food. These are plausible reasons for him to remove himself from the scene. It’s the flight-or-fight thing — we’re civilized; we know we can’t fight so we run away.

Finally, even when you as a women have carefully followed these instructions, you know that most conversations will be disjointed, equivocated, and subject to great ranges of interpretation. We’re only trying to improve your chances. Emotionally satisfying conversations with men are rare. Consider it a process where, as the layers get peeled back, the true nature of the man emerges.

But you know all that already. It’s what makes you love us.

How to talk to a woman

By BRIDGETTE BOISVERT

Bob’s playbook is hilarious. And like all good humor, it contained a grain of truth or two. When the WisdomFishing.com editor asked me to write a response, I agreed — with some hesitation. I was confident that I could write about talking (since I spend most of my life talking) but not sure I could live up to Bob’s level of hilarity.

Let me start with a parable.

A guy who lived in California had a vacation house in Hawaii. He was walking along the beach and knocked over a bottle. Out came a genie who offered to grant him one wish. “Excellent” the guy said. “I wish for a bridge to be built across the Pacific Ocean from my house in California to Hawaii.” The genie thought for a moment went on a rant. “Do you know how expensive it would be to build a bridge all the way from here to Hawaii? The engineering, the environmental impact, the contingencies for tsunamis, etc. Your wish is a total nightmare. Come up with another one!”

The guy responded “Okay, I wish to understand women.” The genie replied: “How many lanes would you like on your bridge?”

There isn’t enough space here for a manifesto on how to understand women, but at least we can explore how to talk to women, since, unfortunately for you guys, dealing with women does actually involve talking.

Bob outlines three essential conditions for talking to a man: no eye contact, an opportunity to change the conversation instantly and physical escape route. Here’s the rub — if you want to talk to women, there are also three conditions: lots of direct and deep eye contact, an ability to stay the course even if the conversation is uncomfortable and physical intimacy.

Let’s talk. Oh, sure

Bob admonishes women to go to sporting events or drives in the car if they want to talk to a man. Good luck with that. Its so frustrating, because for all of us chicks who have been to sporting events, we know well that unless we are talking about the latest league statistics or the incredible play the last guy made, we better keep our mouths shut. In fact, I would suggest to all my girlfriends that you never attend a sporting event with a guy you like, unless you actually know something about the sport or are willing to spend a few weeks constantly watching ESPN to get up to speed.

Chats in the car are out of the question. Car rides are for singing loudly along with the radio to your favorite tune or immersing yourself in mapquest, not for deep conversations with your significant other. In a car you can’t even look at each other. Or at least the driver can’t gaze into the eyes of the passenger for any period of time.

Don’t talk until you can see the whites of their eyes

That brings us to our first condition for a good way to talk to women. The more eye contact the better. It is a way of communicating deeply without having to verbalize a thing. The windows to the soul can be so expressive. So rather than avoiding eye contact, you should maximize it. It is the very first rule of successful flirtation. Lots and lots of eye contact. At some point, you can even throw in how beautiful her eyes are. That is such a great way to compliment a woman without getting into forbidden waters like — hey — I love how you look in that tight sweater! By the way, if her eyes are unremarkable and you don’t wish to give a false compliment for fear of being seen as un-genuine, then check out her shoes. Chances are, she’s wearing a great pair of pumps that nobody has complimented lately. She will be pleased that you noticed, since she probably spent most of her last paycheck on them.

Keep talking when the going gets tough

Stay the course in the conversation, even if it gets uncomfortable to do so. Guys, trust me: 90 percent of you will bail out on a conversation the minute it seems to get a bit awkward. Somehow in guy world, this is acceptable behavior. But here on planet coed, you gotta be able to stick with the tough conversations. You gotta be able to ask things like “how are you coping with (fill in the blank)?” Or better still, you should try to share some of your deeper feelings and allow yourself to become (gasp) vulnerable to the woman you are talking to. If you show a more compassionate side of your personality, she will not think less of you, or think you are some kind of a sensitive wimp. Au contraire, guys who can open up are that much hotter. You don’t have to open up all the time or in every conversation, just once in a while to prove you can. And if you couple that with being a good listener when she opens up…

Body language doesn’t need translation

Bob wants a readily accessible physical escape route, whereas I am suggesting physical intimacy. Communicating isn’t just about words, its about body language. Holding your gal’s hand, or stroking her hair, or sitting close are all ways that can make the talking part go better. So much is said in a hug. Sometimes everything is said physically, even when no words are exchanged.

So, given all of our disagreements in how to communicate with each the opposite sex, you may think that Bob and I would never actually get along in real life. Ironically, nothing can be further from the truth. Even if I didn’t play by Bob’s manual in talking to him, we have managed to have a couple of great conversations over time. Okay, so our best conversation was in his car. So maybe he’s not all wrong after all.