Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Talking to Boys

Getting a man or a boy to talk to you about important issues can be hard. Moms sit down with sons, wives sit down with husbands, and somehow it just doesn't work. The woman is very frustrated, because when she sits down with another female, they seem to be able to get right to the heart of the matter, but those male creatures skitter off or get angry or tongue tied. "What," she wonders, "is wrong with him?"

Well, other than the sometimes reported* finding that, under PET scan, the female brain can be seen to access seven sites when she talks/thinks about feelings, and the male only two (which would make it easier for her to know what she is feeling, as well as talk about it), there is the issue of posture. When women sit down to talk about important things, we tend to sit face to face, looking into the other person's eyes.

But, what I learned in the 60s in my anthropology classes, but was never mentioned in my psychology classes, is that in no culture that we have reports on has this been true for men. Nor is it true for males of any species of mammal or bird or even fish. In nature, as in culture, when two males are face-to-face, what we have is aggression.

In human cultures, men go face-to-face with children, mostly when scolding them, and with women when courting them. So, for a man to sit face-to-face with his wife, or a boy with his mother, sends messages of wanting to either knock her head off or jump her bones. Neither a good ground for talking about how to get the budget to balance or what happened with that sweet girl he had the crush on.

So, how do you get those important discussions with a man? Well, you sit with him side-by-side. For a good primer on this, watch "The Hunt For Red October." There are, for all intents and purposes, no women in this film. It is a movie about men and by men. The postural body language is perfect. There are few moments in that film where the men are face-to-face. When Ryan comes onto the carrier, one of the senior officers doesn't trust him and you can tell because he faces him off. When the Americans enter the Russian submarine and don't know if Ryan was correct and these men want to defect and the Russians don't know if they have found safety or not, the two groups stand face-to-face. Until, by the way, Ryan asks for and then chokes on a cigarette -- allowing himself to be seen as harmless. The intimate moments of this film, are very different. When the Russian captain and his first officer are talking about what they want to do when they get to America, they are sitting facing the same direction. When Ryan and the Russian captain are talking about having gone fishing with their grandfathers as boys, they are standing facing the same direction.

It also helps to not put attention on the boy/man. Doing something with him allows talking to naturally occur and deeper subjects to arise. My mother does jigsaw puzzles with one of her great-grandsons. They talk about all of his hurts and dreams as they do.

Richard and I have had many a deep conversation while in the front seat of the car. As I drive him somewhere, I am amazed at the things that he spontaneously tells me. That activity and having the pressure of posture taken care of leads to confidences that might never arise over a cup of cocoa.

* and sometimes not found at all!

In A Nutshell follows.


kenju said...

"sends messages of wanting to either knock her head off or jump her bones."

And sometimes wants both at the same time! LOL

Joy Des Jardins said...

My son and I have some great conversations in the car too J. It's funny how you just get to know the best time and place where they will open up and be chatty about stuff they might not normally talk about.

Cherry said...

Eric and I have our best conversatons when we are in the car or on a hike. I always realized that those were the best times for us to really talk, but never thought posture was the reason.

Ginnie said...

My middle son was living with me for a year while he went through a very tough divorce...I always had a jig-saw puzzle going on the kitchen table and we would search for pieces and try to piece his life back together at thee same time. I doubt if we ever really "looked" at each other but lots of words and ideas were exchanged that way.

Gina said...

I have heard this before. It makes me feel better that during dinner, I am on the side of both my husband and son. Nobody facing off on each other!