How to train a woman
By Maureen Dowd
New York Times
July 5, 2006

http://select.nytimes.com/2006/07/05/opinion/05dowd.html

Women may want to mold their men to be more obedient and less irksome, but
there are nagging questions about nagging:

Does it work? And can you do it while you're dating or should you wait until
you're married?

In "The Break-Up," Jennifer Aniston dumps her boyfriend because he not only
won't do the dishes, but he doesn't want to do the dishes. But in "Guys and
Dolls," Adelaide advises waiting because "you can't get alterations on a
dress you haven't bought."

Amy Sutherland struck a chord with her recent Times essay -- still high on
the most e-mailed list -- about how she successfully applied the techniques
of exotic animal trainers to change some annoying traits of her husband,
Scott. He became her guinea pig for methods she discovered as she researched
a book on trainers teaching hyenas to pirouette, baboons to skateboard and
elephants to paint.

"The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should
reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't," she wrote. "After all,
you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by
nagging."

She began using "approximations," which means rewarding the small steps
toward learning a whole new behavior. "With the baboon you first reward a
hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop," she wrote. "With Scott the
husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a
mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on
time for anything."

She also learned the concept of "incompatible behavior," training an animal
in a new behavior that would make the annoying behavior impossible. To keep
Scott from crowding her while she cooked, she set a bowl of chips and salsa
across the room.

Could it be that simple? And does it work the other way around -- can men
train women using exotic animal techniques?

Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist and the author of "Why We Love: The
Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love," speculated that it might be easier
for men to train women because "women are better at reading the emotions in
your voice, better at seeing things in their peripheral vision, better at
seeing in the dark. So just the man's tone of voice as opposed to even the
words could be rewarding."

Both sexes would be better off following the lead of animal trainers and
ignoring irritating bad behavior.

"Women are more verbal," she said. "But that doesn't mean that men aren't
manipulative. I think both sexes are busy manipulating each other. Women
will nag and men will tease. There's a kind of teasing that's just cloaked
nagging."

She observed that it may be hard for men to use compliments to alter female
behavior because women give and get so many polite or insincere compliments
from other women that they're immune to flattering words.

"Men and women tend to get intimacy differently," she explained. "Women get
intimacy from face-to-face contact. We do what we call the anchoring gaze.
It comes from millions of years of holding your baby in front of your face.
Men tend to get intimacy by doing things side by side, because for millions
of years they faced their enemy but sat side by side with their friends.

"If I were a man rewarding a woman, I'd do it in the format women find
intimate, which is face to face. I'd go straight up to her, while she was
doing the dishes, I'd turn her around face to face, and I'd say: 'Thanks so
much for being on time last night. It meant a lot to me.' " (You might also
tell her that you will not only finish the dishes, but that you want to
finish the dishes.)

Training your mate may be essential in an era when everybody is more
connected and yet less. A new study in the American Sociological Review
suggests that Americans may be getting lonelier and more isolated, with
people relying more on family and making fewer close friends and confidants
from clubs and the neighborhood than they did 20 years ago. So if they lose
a spouse or partner, their whole social safety net can disintegrate.

The romantic relationship, Dr. Fisher says, "is more poignant, focused and
important than ever. It's also the one part of our lives we feel we have
some control over. It's hard to change your boss or the conductor on the
train. But if we can keep our partner from dumping their dirty socks, that
may make us feel sexier after dinner."

But if they must dump their dirty socks, let's hope they can at least
balance a ball on their nose.
July 5, 2006

http://select.nytimes.com/2006/07/05/opinion/05dowd.html

Women may want to mold their men to be more obedient and less irksome, but
there are nagging questions about nagging:

Does it work? And can you do it while you're dating or should you wait until
you're married?

In "The Break-Up," Jennifer Aniston dumps her boyfriend because he not only
won't do the dishes, but he doesn't want to do the dishes. But in "Guys and
Dolls," Adelaide advises waiting because "you can't get alterations on a
dress you haven't bought."

Amy Sutherland struck a chord with her recent Times essay -- still high on
the most e-mailed list -- about how she successfully applied the techniques
of exotic animal trainers to change some annoying traits of her husband,
Scott. He became her guinea pig for methods she discovered as she researched
a book on trainers teaching hyenas to pirouette, baboons to skateboard and
elephants to paint.

"The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should
reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't," she wrote. "After all,
you don't get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by
nagging."

She began using "approximations," which means rewarding the small steps
toward learning a whole new behavior. "With the baboon you first reward a
hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop," she wrote. "With Scott the
husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a
mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on
time for anything."

She also learned the concept of "incompatible behavior," training an animal
in a new behavior that would make the annoying behavior impossible. To keep
Scott from crowding her while she cooked, she set a bowl of chips and salsa
across the room.

Could it be that simple? And does it work the other way around -- can men
train women using exotic animal techniques?

Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist and the author of "Why We Love: The
Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love," speculated that it might be easier
for men to train women because "women are better at reading the emotions in
your voice, better at seeing things in their peripheral vision, better at
seeing in the dark. So just the man's tone of voice as opposed to even the
words could be rewarding."

Both sexes would be better off following the lead of animal trainers and
ignoring irritating bad behavior.

"Women are more verbal," she said. "But that doesn't mean that men aren't
manipulative. I think both sexes are busy manipulating each other. Women
will nag and men will tease. There's a kind of teasing that's just cloaked
nagging."

She observed that it may be hard for men to use compliments to alter female
behavior because women give and get so many polite or insincere compliments
from other women that they're immune to flattering words.

"Men and women tend to get intimacy differently," she explained. "Women get
intimacy from face-to-face contact. We do what we call the anchoring gaze.
It comes from millions of years of holding your baby in front of your face.
Men tend to get intimacy by doing things side by side, because for millions
of years they faced their enemy but sat side by side with their friends.

"If I were a man rewarding a woman, I'd do it in the format women find
intimate, which is face to face. I'd go straight up to her, while she was
doing the dishes, I'd turn her around face to face, and I'd say: 'Thanks so
much for being on time last night. It meant a lot to me.' " (You might also
tell her that you will not only finish the dishes, but that you want to
finish the dishes.)

Training your mate may be essential in an era when everybody is more
connected and yet less. A new study in the American Sociological Review
suggests that Americans may be getting lonelier and more isolated, with
people relying more on family and making fewer close friends and confidants
from clubs and the neighborhood than they did 20 years ago. So if they lose
a spouse or partner, their whole social safety net can disintegrate.

The romantic relationship, Dr. Fisher says, "is more poignant, focused and
important than ever. It's also the one part of our lives we feel we have
some control over. It's hard to change your boss or the conductor on the
train. But if we can keep our partner from dumping their dirty socks, that
may make us feel sexier after dinner."

But if they must dump their dirty socks, let's hope they can at least
balance a ball on their nose.