In a shopping mall, a few days ago, I overheard a conversation which inspired this week's column. After reading this column, my female readers will be better prepared to make better use of an aspect of male behavior and men will have better defenses.
This couple was engaged in a classic negotiation. The guy was admiring a beautiful two and one half horsepower, seven and one quarter inch circular saw in the power tool section at Sears. He was explaining how it was better than the one he had at home. "Its got ball bearings, baby. It'll cut through anything."
This was a critical point in the conversation! The wife could have blown it at this point by saying something negative, but she exhibited the skill of a seasoned diplomat when she simply asked, "Well, honey, its so expensive. What would you use it for?".
Some ladies may be missing opportunities because, in the darkness of ignorance, you have failed to take proper advantage of a characteristic of many men: we haven't grown out of our desire for something new to play with, every now and then. "The only difference between a man and a boy is the price of the toys." While this saying is not completely accurate, it certainly is true as it refers to the male need for playthings.
The Love Doctor is no different. The computer which I use to write this column started out as an expensive toy. I had it long before I decided to write this column. Actually, when I was trying to justify buying it, I used the children as an excuse. "You know, Boo, the kids would do better in school with a computer at home. As you will understand later, I don't think that my wife took my reason seriously, but I had convinced myself enough to plunk down over $1000 cash for a 286, 1meg, VGA Color PC with a 40 meg hard disk drive.
Most of us, men, try to justify ourselves when we are about to buy a toy. We will say something like, "but it burns less gas" (motorcycle) or "fish is good for our health" (boat) or vacations will be much cheaper (a camper), I can get records from friends (a tape deck), "the kids are growing up so fast" (a camera or camcorder) or "its starting to fall apart" (a new car) or maybe even "we can save on furniture and new cabinets (a table saw)
One characteristic of true manhood is a deep sense of responsibility. We don't ever want to seem irresponsible. As a result, a large percentage of us will convince ourselves that our new toy will benefit the family, business or household. This need to feel justified is a powerful force that can often be useful to those women who would like to increase the productivity of their men.
This brings me back to the conversation by the couple about the power saw. Lets analyze the moves in this intricate negotiation. The man made the first move when he expressed his admiration for the saw and explained the improvement over what he already had. At this point he hasn't any real need for the new saw, he just wants to play with a shiny new toy.
The woman then made a masterful move. Rather than treating his expression of desire like she treats those of the children ("You don't need that, maybe for Christmas!"), she opens negotiations with a question about a use for the saw. With this move she stimulated his desire, disabling his brain. I believe that she had already decided on a project for his "saw that can cut anything." (She records his words to use later, if necessary.)
On the other side, the guy's hope has risen. He is becoming excited about the prospect of bringing that TWO AND ONE HALF HORSEPOWER baby home, today! At this point, he has reverted to the kid that is in all of us. He can visualize that sucker zipping right through those two by fours, as the guys in the neighborhood stand around admiring its power and his skill at being able to get his wife to understand such an expensive tool.
The wife, not waiting for an answer, begins to focus the negotiation with a move that should qualify her for a Nobel Peace Prize. She adds, "Could you build a deck with that saw?"
Now, the husband is overcome with glee. His grin threatens to separate his chin from his face. "Yea baby, that's no problem with the right tools." He is in a trance, on cloud nine.
His wife moves in for the kill, "Now, honey, when are you going to have time to build a deck?" She stares him directly in the eyes, leaning back, arms folded. Her body language says, "It's on you, brother."
At this point, I wanted to jump in to save the poor man. He had not only agreed to build a deck, but he was about to commit himself to a deadline. I could read his poor crippled mind at work, desperate, less she change her mind, "... well, I could skip the fishing trip next Saturday and I'll bring the portable TV outside and I can still catch the game Sunday... What size deck you want, baby.?"
The deal was done. The guy had his new toy, and he could fool himself into believing that he bought it to build that deck his family wanted. By keeping her head and understanding this aspect of her man, this woman had arranged a cheerful commitment by her husband to give up a fishing trip and a football game to build her a deck.
Be forewarned ladies! Do not misunderstand the Love Doctor. This guy would have bought that saw anyway. The next time he used his old saw to cut a piece of wood, he would have had a problem, gotten frustrated and stomped to the store and bought the saw. The difference is that he would have been upset with his wife, because, after all, if it wasn't for her, he would have bought the damn thing when he saw it first time. Now he has to stop working and waste time going to the same store again. "If she didn't waste so much of my time, I might have time to build that deck."