Linda Papadopoulos book What Men Say, What Women Hear attempts to follow in the path of international best sellers like Why Men Love Bitches, and Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s enormously successful book He’s Just Not That Into You, by attempting to bridge the communication gap one conversation at a time (Papadopoulos, 2009). Papadopoulos however differs from other texts in that she attempts to use cognitive-behavioral therapy to analyze how faulty perceptions leads individuals of different genders to have erroneous emotional responses to their partners verbal and nonverbal communication (Bigelow, 2008).
Papadopoulos organizes her book from the courting phase to the marriage phase in a matter that aids the women in truly understanding what the men are saying. She begins by telling women to get away from the “all-or-nothing thinking” (2009: 10) mentality that essentially notes that if the male does not tell you he loves you, the relationship is over. While Papadopoulos brings up a valid point in her “all or nothing” phrasing, without previous knowledge at what she is getting at, her argument may have been lost in communication and essentially ignored by her readers.
Moving away from this concept of “all or nothing” Papadopoulos begins to spend a good majority of the book, stating that there will be arguments. She notes that during these arguments one must remember to balance their individual identity (through self-awareness) while continuously handling the togetherness of the relationship (2009). This links to what we referred to within the course as emotional fusion (J. Cringan, personal communication, Feb 26, 2009), in that she is basically asking the reader to question why they would think they would not have problems in their relationship (Schnarch, 1997).
Papadopoulos next brings up what we referred to as a bid between connection and control
As Papadopoulos’ book progresses out of the courting and honeymoon state of the relationship, she then brings up how not to fight during a heated discussion. In her chapter about in-laws, she notes that during an argument one “must avoid making attacks personal” (Papadopoulos, 2009: 106), furthermore she notes that one must be realistic during the argument and take time to analyze the conversation. Her concept of avoiding personal attacks, relates directly to what we noted as the ad hominem logical fallacy. Papadopoulos does a great job of teaching the reader to stop moving away from the actual argument by attacking the partner who advanced the conversation that made you uncomfortable, which is basically a text book example of the fallacy (Walton, 1987).
Within the same section of the text, Papadopoulos then demonstrates how I-statements are better at neutralizing an argument as opposed to simply blaming the person for one particular issue. Papadopoulos demonstrates that instead of making personal attacks like “you are being selfish […]” (2009: 106), you should start by stating “I think your […]”. While the concept of the I-statement is a good one, Papadopoulos’s reasoning behind them is rather lack luster in that she essentially states that you do not want to criticize the character, but rather criticize the behavior. This alone would be positive but it still insinuates blame which could be seen as a personal attack, Papadopoulos should shift her wording from “I think” to “I feel” in order to remain more neutral.
Towards the conclusion of her book Papadopoulos begins to illustrate how to communicate during a hard time (breakup), and how to positively provide good feedback. She provides a list of procedures that one should follow during a heated discussion that include things like: “own what you say, learn to empathize, be aware of your own thinking errors, be aware of your tone etc” (2009: 144). By providing a list like this Papadopoulos touches on a multitude of issues we covered within the course and nicely connects them to one another. First these concrete examples are directly rooted to what we termed as different forms of paralanguage, for example the issue of tone and resonance. Papadopoulos similar to our classroom discussion illustrates that one must be conscious of their paralanguage and that often these nonverbal leakages act like regulators during the conversation. By providing a list like this she makes it easy for the reader to effortlessly point out what errors they doing during the communication.
I found Dr. Papadopoulos’ book to be a great read, not only was it humorous but it provided great concrete example of how to communicate for all stages of a relationship (from courting to divorce). Papadopoulos writes in a manner that makes her examples of how to improve communication, understandable and relatable to the average reader, something I found refreshing. Furthermore she provides countless references from scholarly and academic articles that only manage to validate and confirm her concepts. In addition to this her examples from actual relationships, applied by clique techniques (Papadopoulos, 2009), leaves the reader believing that these techniques may actually work. While there is definitely space to improve and add more, particularly by adding more regulators during the argument stage or even better yet more fallacies that occur during arguments, her overall book provided some much needed clarity to some of the course concepts. I believe the book would be beneficial to people not only in search of relationships, but how to communicate in everyday life, therefore I would consider it a definite must read.