Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sage advice: men are dogs (or chimps)

I have a lot of female friends (they probably outnumber my male friend by a factor of 3 or 4 to one). Many are former students who have hung around and still come to me for advice. As such, I often get to play the role of "big brother or "agony uncle", advising on relationships and whatever crisis they have at the moment. Now, although I am infamously blind and oblivious when it comes to my own personal relationships, I like to think that I've pretty perceptive about those of others. So here is same sage advice on men, for my female friends.

Men are simple. If you think they are complicated, you are over-thinking things. Sure we can be Machiavellian at times, but most of the time we're not. Stimulus - response, that's men for you. If you don't understand why a guy is acting certain way, chances our he really doesn't either. While some of us are very self-reflective, most aren't. A lot of our behavior boils down to basic drives. We're still basically chimpanzees, just sometimes more subtle and dress up our motivations more.

Firstly, if he doesn't call, if he doesn't get back in touch with you. He just isn't that interested in you. I assure you if he was interested, he would be in contact. Now there is a caveat - some guys may be very shy, they might be nervous that you don't feel the same way, that they might be rejected, because they don't know how you feel. I certainly need a 60' neon sign above a girl's head announcing her feelings before I'll act, otherwise I just assume they are just being friendly. So if you make it clear that you are interested, if he is, he will be in touch.

Of course he may get in touch not because he's particularly interested, but because he has nothing better to do, fancies getting some, and in lieu of anything better, you'll do in a pinch. To him you're just a convenient booty call. As I said above, we're chimpanzees. But he won't keep in contact. If he really likes you, as I said, he will keep in touch.

Don't, ever, ever, believe you can change a man. Mostly what you see is what you will always get. Now, that is not to say we cannot be trained out of bad habits, but fundemental change is nigh on impossible - a guy who's a bastard, will always be a bastard, a guy who's boring will always be boring.Think of us as dogs. You can train a dog to do many things with the appropriate techniques - clear unambiguous commands that are simple, and use positive reinforcement to get the message across. Eventually you'll get us to load the dishwasher the right way, or pick up our socks. Importantly ,we need to know why we have to do something - if we're told that by doing it will be more efficient and effective, or will lead to a positive result, we get it and will try to incorporate it into our general behavior. But doing something that seems illogical, or "because I said so" or even worse " if you loved me you'd do it", is unlikely to work.

Men fear failure and inadequacy. This is why nagging never works. You are telling him that he is doing something wrong, and therefore is inadequate, and instead of doing the right thing he's more likely to retreat into his "cave" with his tail between his legs. The more you nag, the worse it will get - and there will be a negative spiral. It's all about ego. If you tell him he looks really cool doing something, or that you are proud of him for a certain action, he will try to do that more frequently. If you tell him it disappoints you when he does something, he will get moody and sulky because in his mind you have said that he's a failure. If you want to destroy a relationship, belittle him, make him feel like he is not accomplishing what he could, imply that he is flawed, not providing for you, or is inadequate. As soon as you start on this path, it’s a helter-skelter to break up.

I’ll say again, it’s all about ego. Men want to feel that they are the alpha chimp, or at least high status in their own particular band of apes (it might be a group of friends, a club, the guys at the office), and that they are ‘good’ at many things. We’re generally not foolish enough to think that we are good at everything, but we certainly like to think we excel at something, even if it’s memorizing sports statistics or belching in tune.

Incidentally this is also, to some extent why men rarely ask for directions when in female company ... To admit that he does not understand the terrain, does not have intimate knowledge of his territory, does not know the most efficient way to find prey, is a failing as a chimpanzee.

Dogs are dogs, they can be trained, but they can't turn into cats. Same with men, they can be trained, but there are certain things they will never be able to do, because of basic biology. And that's what I'll be advising about in another post.

I hope that's useful. Now I just need someone to write a similar post to give me advice about the mysteries of my relationships with women ...

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