Thursday, July 5, 2012

Snippy isn't witty

And it's not funny either. How smart can you be when it takes you 39 years to figure out that people don't like unsolicited criticism?
Single at the age of 39, I’ve often wondered why none of my relationships lasted the distance, but had always put it down to luck and timing — assuming I had neither on my side.

But recently, my friend Steven threw some cold, harsh light on the subject.

‘Your problem is that you’re really snippy,’ he said.

‘Snippy?’ I asked, not entirely sure what he meant.

‘Yes, snippy,’ he said. ‘Abrupt. Critical. If someone says or does something wrong, then you’re onto it straight away. Men will ignore a lot of things if they fancy someone — a weird dress sense, or taking hours getting ready to go out — but they hate being put down or made to feel small. You can be funny, but sometimes it’s way too close for comfort.’

Perhaps, women my age are putting men off with our demanding, critical natures?

This wasn’t a nice thing to be told. But what he was saying did have a ring of truth about it.

I’d thought I was quite witty, to be honest, with my quick quips and smart comments. Now it seemed that what I thought was funny could be completely off-putting to men.... My sister agreed with Steven. She said that what I thought were entertaining and witty comments could come across as criticisms or complaints.
The core problem is that this obnoxious behavior is an accepted part of the female pecking order. Whoever is the lead hen gets to freely snipe away at all the others, so it shouldn't be a surprise that women whose behavior is accepted by other women don't realize that few men are inclined to tolerate it.

The two types of men who are willing to put up with critical women are on opposite sides of the male desirability spectrum. The omegas and low gammas who are desperate for female attention and subscribes to the "any attention is good attention" philosophy, and the utterly narcissistic alpha who hears most female communication the way children hear the schoolteacher in the Peanuts television specials. "Whuah-whuah-whuah". The problem, of course, is that there aren't enough narcissistic alphas to go around and they require a level of youth, beauty, and sexual fitness that is well beyond that of the average amateur life critic.

The thing is, I understand the temptation to correct people who are blundering as they babble. I figured out that most people were idiots when i was five years old and my kindergarten teacher complimented me on my carefully cut-out "triceratops" nametag. WTF? It was an allosaurus, although I would have accepted tyrannosaurus rex from the non-dinocognoscenti. But when you're a boy, other boys are inclined to follow an informative three-step process upon being factually corrected:

1. Shut up, [insert name].
2. I said, shut up already!
3. (Punch face)

It is a succinct and persuasive method of communication. Pretty much any boy with an IQ over 75 rapidly learns the importance of keeping one's opinion of the factual accuracy of other's statements, however wildly agley they might gang, to oneself. This, like many other examples of of delayed-gratification and long-term thinking, is an important aspect of what is called "civilization". Girls, however, are seldom taught this lesson by their female peers, and they aren't going to learn it from men once they're older either. If a woman is attractive enough, men will nod, smile, and put up with the nattering. If she's not, they will nod, smile, and back away slowly.

At no time are they likely to hear what they really need to hear, which is "shut up already or I will punch you in the face".

The ironic thing is that the woman's entire perspective is based on the very sort of misguided thinking that she finds so tempting to call out in others. Very few women are witty and even fewer are funny. So, her entire perspective on the subject was based on a false foundation from the start. And though she is to be credited for finally acknowledging the error of her ways and seeking to practice keeping her obnoxious mouth shut, her use of the term "intimidating" indicates that she hasn't truly absorbed the lesson but has only grasped it on the superficial level of consequences.

How do you know if you're a snippy woman who isn't funny?

1. People are often seeking to defend themselves in conversation with you. This is not normal human behavior, this happens because you are attacking them.
2. People usually react to your bon mots with polite, slightly pained smiles and fake chuckles rather than the genuinely explosive laughter that greets the genuine wits and storytellers.
3. After you offer a helpful correction or criticism, the individual you are helping nods, smiles, and immediately changes the subject.
4. If you find yourself tempted to bring up the phases of the Moon when someone brings up the subject of the relationship between darkness and night, you definitely have a problem.

Conversely, how can you deal with a snippy woman who isn't funny and get her to tone it down without actually punching her in the face?

1. Criticize her every time she offers a critique. This is most effective when she screws up in her criticism, as is frequently the case.

2. If you want to amuse yourself and make her look like a complete ass in front of others, lay traps for her. It doesn't matter how obvious they are, this sort of woman can't help herself and will leap into the biggest, shiniest bear trap without hesitation. I once had a highly critical woman attempting to argue, in public, against the controversial proposition that "it is dark at night". My male friends were nearly wetting themselves; my female friends were mortified with embarrassment on her behalf.

3. Overlaugh at her "funny" comments and then explain why it is so funny to everyone who didn't laugh. I've never been able to do this, but one of my friends is a master at it. It's remarkably effective and you can almost see the woman shrivel before your eyes.

4. Ask her to walk you through her remark. This usually has the benefit of demonstrating how totally fucking obvious her supposedly "smart" comment was. For example, suppose the writer had given into temptation and failed to bite back "the smart ‘Thanks, I think even I could have worked that one out!’" One might respond: Are you sure? Don't you think we should probably check the math right now? As a wise philosopher once said, math is hard! Okay, so sixty divided by, let's see, one, two, that goes into six three times, right? Now carry the 10....

5. Tune it out. I've largely given up bothering to attempt explaining nuance, complexity, and probability to the mid-wits of both sexes who attempt to reduce everything to binary. All it does it upset them; if they could think in sufficiently abstract terms, they wouldn't be offering that sort of unsolicited "correction" in the first place.

On a tangential note, I'm toying with the hypothesis that women are relatively deaf to voice tone. I'm convinced that it can't be an accident that women so often misinterpret male tones while also failing to hear the difference between the pleasant and unpleasant tones in their own voice. This could also, in part, explain why women like the author so badly fail to grasp how others hear them.


Matthew Walker said...

I've said it before: In prinr, when women under 50 or so describe women as "smart", what they're talking about is always a particular kind of meanness.

I haven't noticed that in real life, but I live in a rustic backwater.

Matthew Walker said...

Sorry, let me rephrase that:

"How do you know if you're a snippy woman who isn't funny?"

If you describe yourself as "smart".

Rico said...

While being "snippy" isn't attractive for anyone, I don't think that's the worst of the author's problems in finding a man.... yeeesh.

Anyway, my wife used to do the same thing. I'd make some generalized statement that wasn't meant to be 100% factual, and she would respond "actually, water isn't wet under these circumstances", or something similar - very off-putting, and I had to call her out on it a number of times before she got the hint.

VD said...

she would respond "actually, water isn't wet under these circumstances", or something similar - very off-putting, and I had to call her out on it a number of times before she got the hint.

When I was a kid, I learned that any statement I was inclined to make that began with the word "actually" was better left unsaid. I'm not saying I never offer unsolicited corrections - we all give in to the temptation from time to time - but I probably let 25 or more go for every one that I point out.

Stingray said...

I used to do things like this to men in my younger years in an attempt to show off my knowledge (mostly) or sometimes to get a leg up on the man (mot as common). It took me a while to figure out that a man is far more impressed and happy with a woman who can shut up for a while, listen, and actually understand what is being communicated. Lo and behold, I learned a great deal as well.

Anonymous said...

@Vox - you're on to something about female tone deafness. At home, it's easy to pointedly tell the wife she's being harsh. That fixes it for a while. How to deal with this at work?

There's a well established feminist narrative (a steroided, buffed out rationalization hamster), fully accepted by the courts, that "well behaved women never made history," and "if you're a businesslike woman they call you a bitch." A substantial percentage of women in the workplace are touchy snipers - nasty and harsh in their criticism, yet they don't respond well to even gentle criticism and very necessary course corrections.

The subordinate who is a touchy sniper can usually be reassigned or fired; she'll treat necessary corrections as a personal attack, screw something up and offer up good grounds for termination. Harsh peers can generally be avoided, or perhaps if they are close friends you can have a quiet word with them - good luck though, they are tone deaf and will mistake the splash of the life preserver you just tossed them for the sound of a depth charge hitting the water.

A harsh female supervisor or key client, on the other hand, seems to be a totally different problem with no good options. If there is a lever permitting you to make the threat of quitting or withdrawal - an imminent court date, immediately pending business deal - there may be enough leverage to get the sniper to stop firing for a little while, but it doesn't last and she goes back to her nasty habits pretty quickly.

Any thoughts on navigating this tone deafness problem in the workplace with a female supervisor / client, who has the upper hand professionally?

Unknown said...

I spent the last seven years alternately dodging and calling out a snippy boss, a 58 yr-old childless, soon-to-be-divorced feminist.) I quit in May to move out of state. My replacement, an older gentleman, walked out after a week. She's not funny. She's not "assertive." She's rude and snippy. And she's not my problem anymore. Whew!

VD said...

I used to do things like this to men in my younger years in an attempt to show off my knowledge

As one might expect, it works about well for women as it worked for Cliff Claven.

Stickwick said...

"It's a little-known fact ... "

aphron said...

As for the "tone deaf"aspect...women are deaf to THEIR tone but hyperaware of others'.

CarpeOro said...

For a short period of time I used the word actually on a regular basis. I caught myself doing it when I noticed my niece began picking it up from me. Even though it was more in the vein of a Glen Cook character named Django (from the Garret series) that I found very amusing, I understood that others wouldn't be using the same contextual understanding of the word. If your raising children or heavily involved with them as I was at the time (my sister and niece lived with me for a couple of years) you can often find behavior patterns of your own reflected in them, for good or ill.

Badger said...

Compulsive correctors are difficult to maintain my composure around. They're normally insecure, like Stickwick noted she was, and so needy and desperate to display value they have a complete ignorance that they are bothering people with their shtick.

This activity among women is partly an outgrowth of feminism, whose modern motto is "don't take any shit from a man" and so women are trained to pepper everybody's business with their unsolicited criticisms, thinking that being "right" all the time will get them promoted and given powerful responsibilities.

Reacting with anger gives these fools the attention they want. Contempt works better - I've more than once pulled a George Bailey line - "why don't you stop annoying people?"

But because they are so solipsistic, I've found they don't understand a tit for tat tactic - you can try criticizing them back, but they lack the self-awareness and empathy. (Interesting how people in the grip of emotion pull become emotionally dead to other people's feelings.)

"Knowing your place" is a big deal in the male hierarchy, which as Vox notes quickly teaches men to be prudent in delivering criticism. As many manospherians have discussed, a lot of nasty behaviors among modern women (compulsive correction, demanding unearned "respect,") come from the fact that they've been admitted into male spaces but never had to pay the price to stay there. It doesn't matter how many sexual harrassment or equal access laws you pass, men will tolerate you in their space but they won't respect you as one of them until you earn it. Plenty of women I've worked with have earned it BTW, they have my healthy respect for sure.

Badger said...

Another thing that works is the Tyler Durden AMOG game techniques. Giving the floor to the woman - "...are you finished?" can often make someone self-conscious enough to get the idea nobody is enjoying the show.

It's like she's trying to push open a door, the door to the attention room. When you open it from the other side, she falls forward.

Anonymous said...

> 2. People usually react to your bon mots with polite, slightly pained smiles and fake chuckles rather than the genuinely explosive laughter that greets the genuine wits and storytellers.

Yep. While we're speaking of fake chuckles and pained smiles: that's the reaction people have to sarcastic/ironic remarks. It might sound brilliant in your head, but it's usually (but admittedly not always) a simple cheapshot which everyone else in the conversation had already thought of anyway. Be sincere (i.e. non-sarcastic) 99.9% of the time and save sarcasm and irony for those truly "special moments".

> I once had a highly critical woman attempting to argue, in public, against the controversial proposition that "it is dark at night".

Heh. When I was like 14, my mom argued that opening all the windows in the house - when it was below freezing outside - would NOT lower the indoor temperature.

Stickwick said...

I was never part of the female hierarchy, having mostly eschewed girls for boys at an early age, so I've never learned to tolerate snippiness. I've always skewed a tad masculine, and learned even more over the years about being male-friendly by hanging out with mostly males (they'll ignore you unless you're fun to be around). What this meant is that I never had the problem of being overly critical or using an unpleasant tone ... until I got married.

I think there's some kind of marital epigenetics at work, resulting in a gene that gets flipped when a woman gets a ring on her finger. My tone changed, I was critical, and gee whiz, suddenly my husband was a lot more interested in his buddies than he was in me. I found myself spending a lot of time alone the first couple of years. A good Christian friend of mine suggested I start praying about being a better wife (ouch), and I found a couple of helpful books about being sweet and surrendered in my marriage. The thing is, I knew on some level I was being a shrew. And what I discovered is that it's way more fun being sweet than being sharp and critical. Not only did it turn my marriage around, but it's been invaluable for interacting with my male colleagues*.

* There are few fields as male-dominated as the one in which I work, and some of my female colleagues cope with this by being high-powered and dominating. The thing is, it doesn't earn respect. In fact, it's a good way to ensure very few people will want to work with you, and that they won't say nice things about you behind your back. What really works is being sweet and demure, which is anathema to a lot of professional women. But I find I get no less respect, and I'm never lacking for collaborators.

Stickwick said...

"A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him." - Brendan Francis

CL said...

I'm always reminded of Cliff Claven when someone starts an "actually" statement.

Carlotta said...

Watched part of a movie the other night from the 40s. Cannot remember the name...

Funniest line in the whole movie was when the guy was trying to make conversation with a girl while dancing. She said something wise and he told her to shut up or he would smack her (it was REALLY nasty) and refused to dance with her again.

He was chased by another women, much sweeter, who apologized to him for her friend's nasty remark. He said something along the lines that he wishes women had to be freshman boys at high school and college and they would learn that shooting off their mouths at someone bigger and stronger means a punch in the mouth.

Hilarious! So non-PC.

Of course, all the girls were chasing him....

Anonymous said...

Stickwick the story of how YOU turned your marriage around needs to be heard by the boundless christians and other christians that think only men have agency in marriage through their leadership.

SouthTX said...

I can guarantee you, sweetness in a woman will have her husband being the upmost polite. Being a bitch has any man with balls at best ignoring you.

Stickwick said...

Is this why we got the movie Fireproof? I've never seen it, but the premise bugged me.

VD said...

But because they are so solipsistic, I've found they don't understand a tit for tat tactic - you can try criticizing them back, but they lack the self-awareness and empathy.

That's why after they get upset when you criticize them, you have to spell out that this is how much everyone else enjoys their criticism. They usually get it at that point. They may still do it, but they won't do it around you.

Heh said...

Heh, my five year old nephew starts many, many sentences with "actually" -- usually to contradict some outrageous lie I told him for my own amusement.

SouthTX said...

Witty is what you do to wives and kid's. My wife was convinced I was an award winning bull rider before I met her. I meant it as a joke. She believed it. It was early on in our marriage. and I didn't realize how gullible some people are. When I realized she believed it, I told her right away I would never ride a 4 legged animal.

SouthTX said...

This is a high IQ Lady who I Love. And a good Mother and faithful wife. Her only critism is not be an asshole as much. Our younger son is a dark triad. Believe me, raising him as a Christian takes a lot of work.

Booch Paradise said...

On a tangential note, I'm toying with the hypothesis that women are relatively deaf to voice tone.
I wonder if that is also why so few women are funny. There are almost no jokes so funny that they can't be killed with the wrong inflection and tone.

SouthTX said...

It's a turning point when your first Son becomes an Adult. Sees eye to eye with you. And you can trust him with whatever you have. Messy wet tasks, You hide from Mom. Advice from me is don't get your LTGF pregnant until after marriage because her Dad scares even me.

SouthTX said...

Disclaimer. I am talking about my wifes tendency to feed stray cats. If I wanted to go to the dark side, Son's, FIL and LT friends would be my inner circle. The Son who scared the crap out of me when he was delivered and knows I wiped his ass. He knows the score. The younger Son who is only 6'2 knows it also. The Daughter is just growing up happy.

Jack Amok said...

I'm not so sure about that. I think they are hyperaware of what they think or expect someone's tone of voice to be, but I'm not sure they are all that aware of the actual tone of voice. Mostly I suspect they make up what they hear to suit their sense of drama.

Candide said...

Bill Burr - Women Are Assholes:

Jack Amok said...

On a tangential note, I'm toying with the hypothesis that women are relatively deaf to voice tone.

That's a good question. I wonder though if it's not just tone deaf, but... well, content deaf as well. Sometimes I think women run everything they hear though an assumed-response filter, that they're so wrapped up in where they think the conversation is going, they're not really able to hear the words taking it a different direction.

A dear friend of my father's used to tell a joke. The premise was that a deaf man sees a stranger walking up the road, and he tells his friend that he knows exactly what the stranger is going to say, and that he'll answer him and the guy won't even know he's deaf. He predicts the entire conversation, both sides, to his friend. But when the stranger gets there, the convesation doesn't go anywhere near as predicted. The deaf fellow doesn't realize this of course, so his answers get steadily more inappropriate and hilarious. The presumed end of the joke is that he gets punched out by the exasperated stranger.

Converstaions with women are sometimes like that. It doesn't seem like they're responding to the words I just spoke.

Doom said...

Oh, I loved getting my last to argue that the fundamentals of economics are completely man made. The theories about them, sure, but not the basis of how things actually work. I lead her so far and so publicly into that trap, in the company of well educated people. Yes, yes, small joys. I got her to say all sorts of things, publicly. Sometimes she even, later, when she realized, almost apologized or tried to crawl under a table when asked about it even privately. Fun and games! She thought she was trapping me by getting me to admit around her liberal friends that liberalism was foolish, until she thought about what I had said, and talked with her friends. Oops on her part. She was one of the most entertaining girlfriends I have ever had. Wasn't a bad lay, either. Not sure, always, which of those was best.

But for the most part, she was like the adults to Charley Brown to me. "Oh, hmm? Right. Go upstairs and get ready, we'll finish this conversation over your naked body."... or some such. Always worked for me. And her too, actually.

Actually, I don't care if she is a nitpicker, fool, or whatnot. It honestly just doesn't matter. Either she serves her general purposes and my needs or she does not, that is all. The rest is just stuff to play with. Like nipples. I like nipples. It totally unnerves a woman when you can find those, day night, half asleep, upside down, eyes closed, or even with your back turned to her... did you know that? *nip* *grins* It's better than the unleashing the bra with a snap trick.

Badger said...

I like Jack Amok's take - women are expecting the conversation to go a certain way and so prepare all their responses for that, only to be totally flummoxed when things go somewhere else. It's actually kind of funny to watch them blurt out canned responses to something I didn't even say. Oftentimes they start talking before I'm done with a sentence. I can't stand people who won't let me finish my point before they hop in to contradict it. I consider it a character flaw no matter who it comes from.

Like I said, once she has been judged as logically wrong and her ego is threatened, her emotional system takes over and she is powerless in its grasp, subrationally desperate to regain frame.

Eumaios had a great post on this Female Apprehension Cascade - "stop thinking and listen."

LP2021 Bank of LP Work in Progress said...

Very helpful post for me, great analysis.

Wendy said...

Yes, I admit. I saw it. Really it's not that bad, but then I watched it with low expectations. It's been a while, but I remember thinking "she's really acting like a bitch" and only towards her husband, and she is tempted to cheat/walk away from it all and goes as far as making a date with another doctor, so it's not all on the guy. They just have him start with changing himself, which is generally good advice. Though his dad was teaching him the process (basically doing one nice/thoughtful/useful thing per day for the spouse whether they notice/appreciate it or not for [I think] 30 days, maybe more) his mom was the one to do it first. So it would take some rationalization to argue that it only a one way street and for men only.

Of course, if a woman only wants to blame others for her problems, she'll only see fault in the guy.

Amir Larijani said...

Great one, Vox. Reminds me of something my dad once told me, "Never pass up on a golden opportunity to shut the fuck up!"

That is one of the most career lessons, as well.

SouthTX said...

I was on a hiring team for our company. We picked up 3 of the best ones we could find. Thankfully my group picked up what I have witnessed as a natural who is laid back. Dude's good at what he does. He knows it is the best job he ever had coming out of the army and oilfield. He respects the senior guys. He left his crazy first wife and the judge gave him costudy. His 2nd and current begged him to marry her. He told his us his first thought was why the hell not. A laid back Man who knows what the f*ck he is doing will be successful. Us older ones take care of the new ones who have proven themselves.

SouthTX said...

He was smart enough to know when to keep his mouth shut and not be a budding young badass. They are easily dealt with. His ability to keep his nose clean and do a hell of a job means his kids will grow up most likely spoiled.

Cyrus said...

Nope, they're putting men off with their sandy vaginas and saggy, aged bodies

Kathy Shaidle said...

My response to the Daily Mail piece was called:

"How Women Ruin Romance By Talking Too Much"

SouthTX said...

I know I am an outlier in the blogosphere. I come from a remnant of a traditional Patriarchal society. But almost all of my friends wives are happy, and my friends have almost have never been divorced. Only the younger ones. My sisters and my wifes sisters have been married a long time and seem happy and have never been divorced. The kids are almost always successful. Sons take their place willingly, Daughters are happy because they know deep down they are protected.

SouthTX said...

When a man goes to bed and thinks about it. And who realizes the the Truth. It opens his eyes.

SouthTX said...

I've seen that girls who are "liberated" and climb the corporate ladder and are still cute. They are known as DTF. I stick with my Wife and Mother of my my children. But the very old gamer in me, wargames how easy a conquest. Theoretical. I know I have to answer to God.

SouthTX said...

War gaming works. If you deal with bad stuff on a world level scale. You had better make sure everybody is up to speed. We have table top discussions all the time.

SouthTX said...

When all guys you work with are invested because of our wives and kids. You make sure sure its a win=win for everybody. Crazy folks don't get included. I can tell you a Man with a family who he really wants to see them again, those get trust. Loner's and chicks aren't trusted to get the job done.

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