In a nutshell, the Wyman Method was my therapy for guys who go mute at the dinner table and guys who interrupt in business meetings and guys who tell entirely too many jokes concerning women's breasts. It was my cure for the common cad.
And it made me famous -- truly famous -- for a time. On the heels of the book followed the radio show and the newspaper column and the monthly appearances on "Good Morning America," plus the very lucrative private practice. I was an important person doing important work until my life took a dramatic dive -- a plunge that was breathtaking in its downward trajectory.
But there will be more about my reversal of fortune soon enough, much more. In the meantime, think of me as I was before the fall -- a newfangled Pygmalian ("Femalian," as David Letterman dubbed me). Or think of me as Rex Harrison in the movie My Fair Lady). Rex was a linguist who taught Audrey Hepburn how to communicate like a lady. I was a linguist who taught men how to communicate with ladies. As a matter of fact, think of the story I'm about to tell you as a sort of "My Fair Man."
It's a story about language, obviously, and about love, as you've probably guessed, as well as a story about having it all and losing it all and figuring out how to get it all back. And, because it's a cautionary tale, it comes with a warning label: Beware of smart women with a score to settle.
"PLEASE TRY THE dinner table script again, Ron. From the top. And this time, speak directly into the microphone."
"Okay, Dr. Wyman."
"I also want you to linger for half a beat on the word 'your.' As in: 'So, Marybeth, how was your day?' It's the emphasis on the 'your' that will make your wife feel as if she's the focus of your attention, as if she's getting her turn with you after a long day, busy day. Do you understand?"
"Sure, Dr. Wyman. Whatever."
" 'Whatever' is no longer in your vocabulary, Ron. Not when you're talking to women. It sends us an I-don't-care message."
"No 'whatever.' Ever."
"Right. Now, let's hear the line again."
Ron leaned closer to the microphone. " 'So, Marybeth, how was your day?' "
"Ron. Ron. You lingered over the wrong word. Listen to how hostile that daaaay made you sound." I shook my head disapprovingly as I rewound the tape and played it back to my client. "You gave the impression that you'd rather die than have Marybeth tell you about her day."
"That's because I would rather die." His expression was pained. "I have zero interest in hearing about how some secretary in her office lost thirty pounds on the Slim Fast diet. I mean, am I really supposed to give a crap about that, let alone ask my wife to tell me about it over dinner?"
"Calm down, Ron. You're the one who came here for help."
"Yeah, because Marybeth threatened to divorce me if I didn't. I don't want her to leave me. I just want her to leave me alone when I'm eating."
"Ron. You've got to keep in mind that Marybeth's chatter is merely an attempt to establish a connection with you. As I told you during your evaluation, communication is crucially important to women. We use words to achieve a sense of intimacy with others. It makes us feel insecure and unloved when men give us back nonresponsive answers or ignore us altogether. If you were to listen attentively to what Marybeth reports about her day and ask pertinent follow-up questions, you would be demonstrating that you care about her and she would respond in kind, and your relationship would improve dramatically. You can trust me on this."
"Oh, I trust you, Dr. Wyman. You wouldn't be so successful if you didn't know what you were talking about."
Copyright Jane Heller, 2001. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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