Dare to Ask: Sir, may we have a word with you?
By Phillip Milano
I still don't understand why women talk so damn much! Most of the time,
they're talking about b- s-! Shoes, the mall, babies, clothes, makeup,
celebrities, etc. Why is it I never hear women talking about anything deep?
David, Woodbridge, N.J.
You mean as opposed to talking about sports, how drunk they got last weekend,
who they [had sex with] while drunk, and what tools or toys they're going to
A., 40, female, Missouri
If you choose to hang with bimbos, you're going to get blather about shoes
and celebrities. Go to a Mensa meeting, join a book club or sign into a chat
room about politics. ... Too many guys want little girls or subservient
Dot, female, California
Roughly half the members of yforum.com (note to readers: that's the Web site
that spawns much of the dialogue for this column) are women. So I would hardly
say women "never talk about anything deep." And if women talk as much as you
say, then they are bound to talk about things in-depth.
Carrie, 21, Houston
We tried to gab with a couple of well-known women who study how the sexes
communicate, but their female publicists prattled on and on to us about how they
were too busy working on new books (actually, they politely and quickly ditched
us by e-mail, but we're still silently sulking alone).
One, Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of
California San Francisco, wrote The Female Brain, which repeated the
oft-repeated claim that women average 20,000 words per day compared to men's
That idea was highly criticized for not being backed with hard science, and
other researchers have documented many studies, including at the University of
Arizona and Washington University in St. Louis, that show men talk as much or
more than women, depending on the situation.
What most experts seem to agree on is that there may be differences in why
men and women communicate, if not how much they communicate. It's the classic
idea that men reserve conversation to pass along knowledge and solutions, and
women use it more to be supportive and social, said Scott Haltzman, a Brown
University professor of psychiatry and author of The Secrets of Happily Married
Research supports that "when men are stressed, they tend to close themselves
off, while women tend to engage in more emotional connection," he said. "As
[researcher Deborah] Tannen says, women talk for rapport, men talk to report."
For women who complain their spouses don't listen, Haltzman suggests offering
dialogue as a "task" rather than to bond.
"In general, keep things short, particularly if it's something you want him
to help you with," he said. "If you want him to listen, speak in a way that he
understands, instead of trying to get him to morph into Hugh Grant."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his