You no doubt have noticed that men tend to talk less than women. As her nurses care for my wife, Tina Su Cooper, I hear them conversing with her readily, more freely, and more superficially, than she and I do. On the telephone, her conversations with friends last much longer than mine.
Relationship advisers recommend to men that we talk more openly with our “significant others,” and with each other…and they may have a point. My advice to women who are hoping to have men fall in love, and stay in love, with them is: talk less, more meaningfully.
In my memoir, Ting and I, I wrote:
I married a quiet woman. It’s a blessing. “Talk is cheap” and “silence is golden.” Usually.
Why do some people talk so much? Some are nervous, filling the pauses with their noise. Some are so self-absorbed, they do not realize we are just not all that interested. Too much information, “TMI.” Often the patter is like that of the stage magician, designed to distract: Ignore what I’m doing; listen to what I am saying. As the man said when his wife caught him in bed with another woman: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
Manipulation is the goal of another type of talker, who argues, persuades, nudges, suggests, pleads, berates, wheedles, to name a few. Leave me alone!
Conversation is a form of exchange, a trade. If one party is lying or deceptive, he is exchanging counterfeit words for the honest words of the person he is talking to. In economics, Gresham’s Law, an economic principle, is that cheap money drives out dear; in other words, debased coins and currency tend to proliferate, while valuable coins and currency are withdrawn from circulation, hoarded. Similarly, lying becomes endemic. The honest people no longer want to tell what they are thinking. “Political correctness” drives out candor.
If we are to count to ten before speaking in anger, the quiet person is doing that already. If a soft response turns away anger, a quiet response is softer still.
Granted, virtues can be overdone, becoming vices. Too little talk could make us mysteries to one another. Misunderstandings may more easily arise. Sometimes we must speak up or ask others to do so. With a quiet person, we may not know what we are missing.
We are to look before we leap, think before we talk. Brevity is the soul of wit. There is already too much chatter in our lives.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a freelance writer, a retired scientist, the author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, published in September 2011 and available through amazon.com, outskirtspress.com, and bn.com.