by Simone Redaelli: The role of male silence and female talkativeness during a first date…
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“Veronica, nice to meet you.”
“Do you, by chance, live nearby?”
This is the typical start of a conversation between strangers – a male and a female – who will soon desire to get to know each other better. Innumerable examples of this kind can be found in romantic movies.
These initial questions may appear innocent. Indeed, they seem to suggest that individuals are selflessly interested in understanding each other, in exploring altruistically each other’s living conditions. But altruism sometimes represents a hidden act of egoism.
On the onset of a chat between a male and a female, the one who speaks first is usually the male. And the male is also the one who often pronounces the two questions reported in the opening of this article.
Why should all of this matter?
This way of communicating immediately defines the male as the questioner, and the female as the answerer.
The conversation then goes as follows. After posing the initial questions to the female, the male waits. She talks abundantly. Once she stops, he has more to ask.
An external observer could think that the male is interested in what the female has to share. Truth is, the male is – above all – trying to remain silent.
The Bulgarian writer Elias Canetti pays a lot of attention to the relationship between the questioner and the answerer in his non-fiction book Crowds and Power, and his work is essential to comprehending male behavior.
According to Canetti’s view, silence is power. Canetti reminds us about Socrates’ temper in Plato’s dialogues. Socrates was not keen to chat with others. He used to pose questions, and then to remain silent. Even though Socrates used to literally refuse any form of institutional power, he actually had full control over his interlocutors. The individual who incessantly asks doesn’t have to share their own ideas and thoughts.
Coming back to our conversation between the two strangers: the female awaits the male silence to be spoken out. Once more, Canetti correctly states that whoever remains silent in a conversation is advantaged: male words become soon the most awaited. They are so rare during the course of the conversation, they will be considered – once pronounced – extremely eloquent and incisive by the female.
Thus, the more the male lets the female talk, the more the female will value him.
Although this explanation may sound cynical, we should remember that the male and the female do not know each other during their first conversation. For this reason, we can suppose that their initial moves will be mainly guided by sexual selection. They will be attracted by sex-related traits shown by the opposite sex.
From a social perspective, females tend to choose males that reflect a high social status. For instance, leadership positions are proofs that males have the capacity to invest resources in the offspring. Leaders speak little. But when they do, they solely speak to ask questions or to give orders, which are often perceived as eloquent and incisive messages. These traits perfectly fit with the male profile we have described above. During the first conversation, the female candidly welcomes and evaluates this male behavior, essentially through a couple of strategies. In light of male’s questions, she has a lot to say. She speaks relentlessly to test if the male interrupts her. Once in a while, she spontaneously stops, and checks if he has more to ask. The perfectly silent leader not only is a questioner, but also a listener.
Males prefer to engage in intimate conversations with females rather than with males, as females show traits and skills essential to establish social relationships and support and to provide care for the offspring. While remaining mostly silent during their first conversation, the male evaluates his odds of emotional and psychological bonding with the female counterpart. Given that she speaks diffusely, he has the time to process her communication skills and empathy.
In conclusion, during the course of a first conversation, a male who speaks a lot and doesn’t ask anything is a bad signal for females. A female who doesn’t speak much and asks a lot of questions is a bad signal for males.
Luckily enough, human relationships tend to live beyond first dates.