Monday, October 6, 2014

Can Guys Go To Shopping with Women?

I have previously shared about why men have trouble in conversation in this blog here. I am going to continue to share some of the insights shared by Gary, Greg and Michael in their book "Men's Relational Toolbox" by continuing the fact-finding tool issue (which I shared here).

This will not be a news flash, but most men are notorious TV remote control addicts. Some of us can watch upwards of five or six programs at once by flipping channels with the remote and still have a general sense of what's happening in every one of them. Or as comedian Jerry Seinfield said, "Men don't want to know what's on television. They want to know what else is on television." On the other hand, women can feel practically nauseous having so many channels and programs coming into the room at one time. This is an example of the fact-finding tool in action.

Let's say, for instance, that a couple sits down to watch television. The first program they check out is an old Western movie. Right away they focus on different things. After one minute here's the scenario. (Same number/scenario, different thoughts!)


  1. Who is that woman, anyway?                   
  2. Is she someone's girlfriend or wife?           
  3. Does she have children?                            
  4. Why does the robber want her?                 
  5. Is he in love with her?                               
  1.  If I turn the channel now, I can get back to this in five minutes and find out if the woman lived.
  2. I think Sports Center is about to start.
  3. I wonder what the weather was like in Florida today?
  4. Is this the night the Crocodile Hunter reruns air on Animal Planet?
  5. Wasn't there a baseball game on one of the cable channels?

Can you see the problem here?

Most women will be caught in emotional aspects of the program while we men are, for the most part, content with knowing the facts. And in that light, most television programs contain too much emotional filler to our tastes. Only by flipping channels will we obtain the maximum amount of fact-finding in a given hour of TV viewing.

In a nutshell, most women want relational-type programs, whether it's Oprah or a Hallmark movie of the week. Most men, however, are looking for information - who won the game, who scored the goal, who rescued the woman in the Western. Some women who don't particularly like sports say they become interested in a television game if they can feel connected to a player's life. Once they feel emotionally bonded to a player, they enjoy the game. 

The differences in the television-viewing habits of men and women are just one example of the man's fact-finding tool at work. But there are others, and some of them can do great damage to relationships. According to our surveys, here are some examples of what women think of men who overuse their fact-finding tool within their relationships:

  • "He doesn't care about my feelings, just the facts."
  • "He does not hear my heart but jumps to conclusions."
  • "He interrupts me when I have something deep to say."
  • "He is narrow-minded and dogmatic, interested only in solving problems."
  • "As far as he's concerned, the sooner the conversation is over, the better."
Ouch! Do some of these comments ring true of you? If so, there's hope.

Most of us guys are simply not very interested in conversation that's not about facts. And this is painful for most women. It's one of the areas where problems can spring up in our relationships. It's also not very healthy for us men. It is always better for our mental and physical health if we can express our feelings. Help in doing that is on the way. If you don't already have the right tools to express your feelings, the Smalleys will show you several that will help you communicate better.

First, though, let's look more closely at the third internal tool that tends to affect how we communicate.


The take-charge tool is the ability to assess a situation and take control of it. As we've mentioned, this is a wonderful tool in the workplace. but most of the time this is the wrong tool for relationships. Take alook at how man's use of take-charge tool nearly ruined an afternoon at the mall.

Women see a shopping trip as a relaxing couple of hours to chat and catch up on the weeks' news. This might mean browsing through one shop after another to see what fashions are in style. Men, on the other hand, generally see the outing as a time to take charge and conquer. In other words, get in there, find what you want, buy it, and go home. 

Here is an example.

"I'm gong shopping," a woman tells her husband. "Wanna come?"

The man thinks about that for a moment. "Shopping for what?"

"I need a new purse."

"Your old purse is broken?" He blinks, certain she had used the purse the night before and also certain that it was in fine working condition. 

For a purse, that is.

"No, silly. It's not broken. It's just not. . ." she hesitates, searching for the right word. "It's not "me" anymore. I need a new one."

"You want a new one, you mean."

"Okay." She laughs and reaches for her husband's hand. "Wanna come with me?" She's thinking. This will be wonderful. Just the two of us strolling through the mall, spending time alone together, walking hand in hand. We'll laugh and catch up on things at work and maybe stop for coffee before we go home.

But he's thinking. We'll get the new purse and be home in time to watch the playoffs. Already he has the take-charge tool out of his internal toolbox.

"Okay," he says. "Let's go."

Fifteen minutes later they arrive at the mall, and he finds a front-row parking spot - which is the first step toward conquering the purse. Walking toward the mall entrance, the woman takes the man's hand.

"This'll be fun." She smiles.

He nods, distracted and leads her inside, where he says, "Where's the purse store?"

"Purse store?" She utters a short laugh. "There are no purse stores, exactly." She gestures toward the length of the mall. "Purses are sold at almost every store in the mall."

"Fine." He points at the nearest store. "Let's get one."

She looks hard at him as though he's speaking a foreing language. "We don't have to get the first purse we see, do we?"

And the man is thinking, Did I miss something? I thought she needed a purse. "What else do you need?" he asks.

His words are l ike thumbtacks poking holes in her heart. He's already casting a shadow of frustration on the date she'd imagined at the mall. "Well," she says, "I wanted to look around. I need a gift for a baby shower next week and then there's your mother's birthday and. . ."

"You didn't say anything about that" he say. He's doing his best to keep an even tone, but at this point he can sense he's losing the battle. He draws a steadying breath. "You said we were coming for a purse. You needed a purse."

He has the take-charge tool in full use now.

If the tears aren't already in her eyes by now, they're definitely forming. "Fine. Let's go," she says.

They start walking, only this time her arms are crossed, her steps quick and irritated. In very little time they arrived at a department store with a section of purses the size of a bookstore. Hundreds of purses in dozens of different textures, sizes and colors crowd the section. He is thinking. We've found it! The purse is as good as purchased!

And she's thinking. Fine, if he doesn't want to look around, at least I can take my time picking out a new purse.

They walk inside, and he watches her slowly make the round along the inside perimeter of the purse display. Irritated that she isn't finding anything, he comes alongside her, "Honey, what are you looking for?"

"Well, something comfortable. . ." She's thinking he's being downright awful. If he's in that kind of hurry to be done with their date together, then how much does he really enjoy being with her, anyway? If he really loved her, she's thinking, he'd want to walk slowly through the mall, holding hands and talking about whatever comes to mind.

Meanwhile, he's wondering what would she do without him. If it weren't for his role in the mission, she might never find a purse. "Okay, honey," he says, "let's narrow it down. . .comfortable, meaning what exactly?"

The search turns up nothing. Not a single one of the purses in the store is "comfortable" to his wife. But the man is not daunted. He's gone hunting before and knows that it often takes more than one effort to bag the prize catch. The same is probably true with a new purse. Besides, as long as they find something in the next forty minutes, he'll still make it home in time for the game.

Three stores later, it's become a contest, a challenge to find the ultimate prize - the perfect purse. The exact purse that will suit his wife's taste, wherever that purse may be. He's thinking, Whether the game starts without me or not, we will find that purse. That's his competitive-drive tool at work.

Anything short of driving home with the right purse would leave him with the same size pit in his stomach he got as a high-school boy when his team missed the state basketball playoffs by a single basket.

To come this close, to be surrounded by purses and miss the one his wife so deeply needs and desires is not even conceivable. So he urges her on to the next and last department store in the mall.

There it finally happens. The woman finds a smallish leather purse, tries it on, and smiles. "Well. . . it's comfortable."

The man's heart races. "It looks comfortable," he agrees. "Let's buy it."

Her eyes meet his hand and he can see she's surprised. "We can't just buy it like that. Let me look at it for a minute."

The man stares at the purse. To him it looks like a purse. In fact, it looks a lot like the old purse back at home. "What are we looking for? he asks.

She slips it over her shoulder. "Does it make me look fat?"

The man starts to say it's just a purse and how can a purse make a person look fat, but then he realizes that the game isn't played that way. In order to conquer the situation, he must give the proper answer. "No, not at all, dear." he assures her. "The purse makes you look very comfortable."

"Comfortable?" There is a cry in her voice. "I don't want to look comfortable. I want to feel comfortable."

Holding off his panic, the man swallows hard. "I mean, it makes you look thin, dear. Very thin."

"You think so?"


And with that - after more than an hour of seraching - she decides it's the right purse for her. She's thinking, I'm glad it took awhile longer.

This has been nice after all, spending extra time together having him help me find purse I want. How sweet is that, anyway?

His thoughts are focused on the yellow tag attached to the purse. It's on sale! That's like hitting a prize buck with a towering rack of horns. It's like catching the biggest fish of the day in the last minutes before turning in.

Walking out the mall minutes later, this man gladly offers to carry the bag. Why? Because he's feeling victorious. His heart is beating hard with thoughts of, We did it! We hunted down our trophy purse!

This shopping expedition is perfect illustration of the take-charge tool in action. There was a mission: finding a purse. And with some not-so-gentle prodding and "encouragement," he was able to get his wife to finally buy the purse she wanted. But at the same time, his take-charge, competitive attitude created conflict between his wife and him.

That is what happens when a man reaches into his internal toolbox and pulls out the tak-charge tool in his relationships.

to be continued...

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