Read an Excerpt
Talking and Listening
Why Men Don't Talk Much and Women Talk a Lot
We've known for thousands of years that men aren't great conversationalists, particularly when compared to women. Speech is not a major brain skill of men as it is with women. It operates mainly in a male's left brain and has no specific locations. MRI scans show that when a male speaks, the entire left hemisphere of his brain becomes active as it searches to find a center for speaking.
Men evolved as lunch-chasers, not communicators. The hunt was conducted with a series of body language signals and often the hunters would sit for hours silently watching for their prey. They didn't talk or bond. When modern men go fishing together, they can sit for hours and say little or nothing. They're having a great time enjoying each other's company, but they don't feel the need to express it in words. Yet if women were spending time together and not talking, it would be indicative of a major problem.
In women, speech is a specific area located primarily in the front left hemisphere, and in other smaller, specific areas in the right hemisphere. Having speech centers in both sides of the brain makes women good conversationalists. Because they have larger, specific areas that control speech, the rest of a woman's brain is available for other tasks, thus enabling her to do a number of different things at the same time. Women's clear-cut speech centers give them superiority of language and verbal dexterity.
Because women originally spent their days together with the other women and children in a group, they developed the ability to communicate successfully in order to maintain relationships.
The Basics of Listening
Typically, a woman can use an average of six listening expressions in a ten-second period to reflect, then feed back, the speaker's emotions. A woman reads the meaning of what is being said through voice intonation and the speaker's body language. This is exactly what a man needs to be able to do to capture a woman's attention--and keep her listening. Most men are daunted by the prospect of using facial feedback while listening, but it pays big dividends for the man who becomes proficient at it.
The biological objective of our ancestral male warrior when listening was to remain impassive, so as not to betray his emotions. This emotionless mask that men use while listening allows them to feel in control of the situation. It does not mean he isn't experiencing emotions; brain scans reveal that men feel emotion as strongly as women, but avoid showing it.
The Great Listening Test
The following questions can put your partner to the listening test. He or she can't fool you easily. Do they really listen to you or not? Do they really know your special likes and dislikes, or do they only pretend to? And what about you? Do you frequently expect too much of your partner and his speech ability or can you deal with his weaknesses? This quiz will bring the truth into the open.
If you are a man, take the test on pages 6-7. Women should fill in the questions on the next page. If you want to test yourselves the other way round as well, make sure you copy the questionnaires before completing them.
Answer the questions carefully and ask your partner to fill in his/her answers afterward--without having read your answers.
Your name ________________________
1. What upset you most this past week?
2. As a child, did you have a pet? If yes, what was it?
3. What happened in your last dream?
4. Which film moved you most during the past weeks or months, and why?
5. When is your best friend's birthday?
6. Do you believe in an afterlife?
7. Which of your partner's habits annoys you most?
8. How can your partner always make you happy?
9. Which book are you reading or have you finished recently?
10. Do you feel that your partner listens to you?
11. Are you and your problems in good hands with your partner?
12. Do you idolize anyone? If yes, who is it?
13. To which country would you most like to travel?
14. What New Year resolutions did you make last year?
15. Do you have principles? Name the three most important.
YOUR PARTNER'S TEST
Your name ________________________
1. What upset your partner most this past week?
2. As a child, did you partner have a pet? If yes, what was it?
3. What happened in your partner's last dream?
4. Which film moved your partner most during the past weeks or months? And why?
5. When is your partner's best friend's birthday?
6. Does your partner believe in an afterlife?
7. Which of your habits annoys your partner most?
8. How can you always make your partner happy?
9. Which book is your partner reading or has she/he finished recently?
10. Does your partner feel that you listen to her/him?
11. Does your partner think that she/he and his/her problems are in good hands with you?
12. Does your partner idolize anyone? If yes, who is it?
13.To which country would your partner most like to travel?
14. Which New Year resolutions did your partner make last year?
15. Does your partner have principles? Name her/his three most important.
Your Need to Talk
The building of relationships through talking is a priority in the brain-wiring of women. A woman can effortlessly speak an average of 6,000-8,000 words a day. She uses an additional 2,000-3,000 sounds, vocally, to communicate, as well as 8,000-10,000 gestures, facial expressions, head movements, and other body language signals. This gives her a daily maximum of over 20,000 communication "units" to relate her messages.
Contrast a woman's daily "chatter" to that of a man. He utters just 2,000-4,000 words and 1,000-2,000 vocal sounds, and makes a mere 2,000-3,000 body language signals. His daily average adds up to around 7,000 communication "units"--about one-third of the output of a woman.
How would you estimate your personal need to talk? Would you describe it as high or low? And does that correspond to the latest results of talk research? In the questions below, check the answers that you most agree with and you will find out. There are no right or wrong answers and the points allocated do not reflect "good" or "bad" results.
1. You are on a hiking tour with your partner. After four hours of ascent you reach the summit. What do you do?
a. You enjoy the view in silence and think to yourself that it was worth the effort. (0 points)
b. You walk around a bit, take a good look at everything, and then remark on the fantastic view. (3 points)
c. Because your partner is not standing close to you, you call someone on your cell phone to tell them about the fantastic view. If you can't reach anybody you send a text message. After all, you have to share your feeling of happiness with someone. (5 points)
2. You have a fondness for origami and are trying an extremely tricky model when your partner comes in and wants to tell you something. How do you react?
a. No problem. You continue to work while listening to your partner. (5 points)
b. You feel disturbed in your concentration and ask your partner to come back a bit later as you are nearly finished and do not want to interrupt your work right now. (0 points)
c. You take a break and talk to him/her. (3 points)
3. You think fishing is . . .
a. Wonderful! A useful activity where you don't have to talk and can think without interference for a while--even if you are with a whole group of people. (0 points)
b. Absolutely boring. You don't understand what fun there might be in sitting the whole day by a lake in deep silence, waiting for a fish to bite. (5 points)
c. It's OK from time to time. Especially when you feel you need rest and relaxation. But you could just as easily go to the movies with friends. (3 points)
4. How do you behave while solving a difficult mathematical task?
a. You mumble or talk to yourself all the time because this makes it easier for you to solve the problem. (5 points)
b. You focus on the problem in silence and concentrate fully on the solution. You hardly sense the world around you. (0 points)
c. You try for a while to figure it out. If you can't find the solution yourself you ask somebody for help. (3 points)
5. Do you find it unpleasant to be sitting with a group of people and to experience long periods of silence during the conversation?
a. No. (0 points)
b. That depends on the situation. Sometimes it can be wonderful, sometimes extremely depressing. (3 points)
c. Yes, because you always think something might be wrong. (5 points)
6. Your boss offers you a new field of work. You ask him for an hour to think about it and you:
a. immediately call your partner to discuss all the pros and cons. Perhaps you also talk to some of your colleagues if you are still uncertain. (5 points)
b. carefully think about the opportunity and ask somebody for advice, if you are stuck. (3 points)
c. switch on your answering machine, close the door to your office, and ask your colleagues not to disturb you for the next hour. Then you ponder the offer and weigh all possibilities carefully. (0 points)
7. When you are watching an exciting film on TV, you:
a. watch spellbound but don't have a problem with taking a brief phone call or having another conversation. (3 points)
b. concentrate fully on the film. You neither answer the phone nor talk to anybody, nor do you do any other tasks because you can't follow the plot properly and will be annoyed afterward. (0 points)
c. might read the paper, do various other tasks, make phone calls, or talk to somebody and still be able to follow the film's plot perfectly well. (5 points)
8. What do you consider is the point of talking?
a. It's essential in forming relationships and maintaining friendship. (5 points)
b. It's mainly to convey facts and information. (0 points)
c. That depends on the circumstances, but basically both of the aspects mentioned above. (3 points)
9. If something bothers you:
a. You will have to talk to somebody about it immediately, because otherwise the problem haunts you the whole day and you can't think of anything else. (5 points)
b. It depends on how much else you have to do and how serious the problem is. You either try to solve it on your own or you confide in somebody. (3 points)
c. You can easily put the matter out of your mind for some time until you can or want to think further about it. (0 points)
10. You are at your favorite Italian restaurant with your partner. Most of the evening is passed in silence. What do you think?
a. Depends on whether there was any disagreement beforehand. Sometimes you rather enjoy being silent together. (3 points)
b. Nothing much. You enjoy the food and your partner's company and give yourself up to your own thoughts. (0 points)
c. You're wondering whether your partner is angry with you or doesn't love you anymore. (5 points)
Evaluation: The Great Listening Test
Compare your answers to those of your partner and note how often they are . . .
a. matching b. similar c. contrary
For identical answers you get 5 points, for similar answers 3 points, and for contrary answers 0 points. Any unanswered questions are rated with 0 points.
Number of matching answers x 5 points =
Number of similar answers x 3 points =
Number of contrary answers x 0 points = 0
Total score =
You have an outstanding relationship. Your points show that you and your partner can not only talk but also listen well to each other. Good communication is the best basis for a long-standing relationship.
You do have the occasional problem in your communication but basically you have found a good way of talking and listening to each other. If both of you are content with your present state of affairs you don't have to change anything. Alternatively you could try and find a way to improve the situation.
Fewer than 45 points
Communication between you and your partner is not the best. You either have not known each other for long and have not become very familiar with each other yet or you should (re)read our first book Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps as soon as possible. It will teach you how to communicate effectively with your partner.
Evaluation: Your Need to Talk
Add your points and read the corresponding section below.
You are most likely a woman or a gay man, because your need to talk is great. Even at the end of a long day you have often not fulfilled your daily quota of communication "words" and therefore still have a lot to talk about. That's great if your partner feels the same way. If not, you should be careful not to expect too much of him and thus make him angry. When you begin speaking your unused words, he'll wonder why you won't be quiet and leave him in peace. He feels like he's been "nagged to death"! "All I want is a bit of peace and quiet!" he thinks. Show a little consideration. Remember he's a hunter. He's been chasing lunch all day. He just wants to gaze into the fire. But this doesn't mean that he's not interested in you or that something's wrong.
You are either a woman with a lower need to talk or a man who likes to talk more than most other men. Your need to talk is determined by your whole day and by what happened around you and this can vary from day to day.
As long as you can convey this to your partner and he or she knows how to handle it, it will be positive for your relationship.
In a relationship, partners need to discuss their different ways of communicating. Men need to understand that when a woman talks, she is not expecting him to respond with solutions; nor is she trying to drive him crazy by giving him all the details of what she intends to do that day. Women need to understand that when a man doesn't talk, that is not a cue for believing something is wrong.
Fewer than 15 points
You are most likely a man, because your need to talk is low. You don't want to talk about everything and everyone, but value moments of peace and silence when you don't have to think about anything.
From the Trade Paperback edition.