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As seen on Chemistry.com’s Great Mate Debate:

The question posed to the panel: Why do men hate it when women ask, “What are you thinking…?”

My answer:

Sometimes it’s great to be the only guy on the panel.

This is not one of those times.

Because I have to admit, there’s definitely some hypocrisy being exhibited by men here.

We get annoyed when you expect us to read your mind, and we get pissed off when you ask us what we’re thinking. What’s a woman to do? Aren’t relationships all about communication?

Yes. Yes, they are. Which is why one of woman’s greatest challenges is to figure out how to talk to her guy.

A man could nail his foot to the floor when building a deck, or drive two hours off course before he asks for directions, but he’s usually going to do things his way, dammit! This general obstinacy and cluelessness is difficult to contend with if you’re his partner. Because while you’re just asking, “Um, where are we going?,” he’s hearing, “Stop telling me what to do!”

This leaves communicative women in quite a quandary. You want to feel connected; he just wants to be left alone until he’s ready to speak. Problem is that you’re not going to get a guy to speak until he’s ready to speak.

Which is why “What are you thinking right now?” is the worst of all questions. There’s no subtlety, no nuance, no attempt at even engaging him in a related topic to get him to open up.

As Linda Holmes, my co-author in Why You’re Still Single, makes an excellent point in a chapter called “My Ear Is Numb.” “Emotionally substantive conversations with men,” she said, “work best as low-pressure, straightforward, not necessarily linear events…While you have the right to ask a guy to sit down and have a conversation on your terms, you should also be willing to talk the way guys often talk with each other; that is, while doing other things.” She suggests that Nintendo and backyard hoops were both invented so that men could talk about their feelings. I would have to agree.

Put another way: A man can’t just go up to a woman and ask her to have sex. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to have sex; it’s that the approach is blunt and ungainly. The same issue arises with a direct question like “What are you thinking?” Women need to time to warm up in bed, men need time to warm up to discuss their innermost thoughts.

Approach your relationship discussions with subtlety and stealth, and you might both get what you want.

For a few smart women’s takes on this very same question, please click here.