I have no idea how to encourage women. No, that’s too strong a way to say it. But honestly, it’s a mystery to me. With men, it’s easier. Just say it like it is. Easy peasy. You think they’re doing something wrong, you pretty much just say so. They ask a question, you pretty much just answer what you think. Women, you do that, they might get pissed off at you.

I read this interesting article once in SI years ago about a male coach of a women’s sport, and he was saying how coaching women is different from coaching men. With male athletes, they screw up, you just yell at them. With women, you can’t do that, it just doesn’t work.

It’s fairly similar in normal life, I think. Women want to be affirmed, no matter what. The stereotypical thing is the “Does this make me look fat?” question. The correct answer is always, with no hesitation, no. Affirmation. (Sometimes they throw you a curveball and say “I think this makes me look fat. What do you think?” My current theory is that the correct answer is still no. Affirm their feelings, not their statement. Why they ask a question that has only one correct answer is beyond me. How come men aren’t allowed to apply this rule to our own questions? Like, “Honey, can I play XBox (only correct answer is yes)?”)

That’s easy, but what do you do when it’s something less trivial? Like, and I’m going to be absurd here for discussion, but what if they ask, “Do I steal and plunder too much?” What if they actually do steal and plunder too much? The man can’t say yes, because that’s not affirming. But if they just affirm, the woman will just go on stealing and plundering too much. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing a man can do to change a woman. The woman has to decide it for herself, and then a man can encourage that. But he can’t just confront her to help her change the way he would another man, like “you steal and plunder too much. Stop it.”

The most masterful of men know how to affirm women in such a way that the affirmation evokes a desire to change, I think. Unfortunately, I’m not a masterful man. I’m a confused, bewildered, ignorant man. My natural tendency is to just say it like it is. If Jieun actually were fat, and asked me if I thought so, my natural tendency would be to say yes. Fortunately, I’ve trained my natural tendencies, but I’m still terrible at affirming. Sorry, honey. Fortunately, Jieun is far from fat. She’s drop-dead gorgeous. And she never steals nor plunders.

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