Negotiate Like a Girl

It’s the oldest story in the world. Boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy ends up watching Sex and The City 2 and hanging out with girl’s friends all night talking about shoes. And boy starts to wonder: How did this happen?

The answer isn’t actually so complicated. Girls are just better at negotiating for what they want. While boys tend to either make demands, or more often than not just shrug and mumble something incomprehensible to avoid the discussion altogether, girls come to the conversation prepared: They know they want to go to the mall to buy that dress, and they have reasons why it’s that dress and not another, and why it needs to happen when they say. As a result, malls are full of boyfriends schlepping around like the “Walking Dead,” while they could be doing something they actually enjoy. It’s frustrating for them. And frustration builds. The longer things stay this way, the shorter their relationships will be.

But there is a way through this. It’s the art of negotiation, possibly the most useful skill a man can learn. And it’s actually quite simple.

Stage 1: Learn
“The main thing to realize is there are two stages -- a learning stage and a solution stage,” says Laurie Puhn, a lawyer, relationship expert and best-selling author of Fight Less, Love More. “In the learning stage, you’re a detective. You’re searching for the hidden reason she wants to do one thing or another. So you ask neutral questions, like ‘Is there a reason for that?’ You want to understand where she’s coming from.”

Typically -- and much less successfully -- men just skip the learning stage altogether and announce what they want and when they want it. Commands and demands. No one likes to be talked to that way. “You negotiate so people like you,” says Puhn. “It’s very important. And by learning what it is you’re actually negotiating, you gain the high ground. You have the information.”

So, first, take a breath. Don’t just assume that she wants you to do A because she doesn’t want you to do B. And don’t say, “Sure, whatever” or “Hell no, I’m watching football on Monday night.” Instead, use your questions. For example: “Is there a reason we need to go to the mall when the game is on?” Or: “Why would you like me to be there?” The answers may surprise you.

“It may come down to ‘We don’t do enough stuff together’,” says Puhn. “So it’s not a football issue; it’s an attention issue. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t ask. And just by asking, you’ve shown that you’re concerned about her needs and goals. That’s very important to girls.”


Stage 2: Find a Solution
The second stage -- the solution stage -- is trickier. It requires tact and calm and some measure of forethought. But the first thing is to actually know what it is that you want. You’ve asked her what her goals and needs are, so be clear on what yours are too. Then you’re ready to start offering solutions.

“You can make trade-offs,” says Puhn. “While you’re learning where she’s coming from, you can put your own interests together and say: ‘You’re right, we don’t spend enough time together, so how about we go out on Tuesday instead?’ That way you’re solving her real problem. Then explain what you want: ‘I’ve always watched football on Mondays, that’s all. I’d like to continue if I can.’”

A common mistake is to assume that she knows what you want and is just stopping you from having it. And that misunderstanding goes both ways. “A lot of girls think that a guy should just know what she wants,” says Puhn. “It takes some women till they’re in their 30s before they realize that he actually doesn’t -- they need to articulate it!”

Finally, says Puhn, watch your tone. “Speak in a kind way. Stay calm and manage your emotion.” When talking solutions and trade-offs, it’s possible to get a bit exasperated, but it won’t work to fly off the handle. “Remember, your goal is to find a solution, not to win,” explains Puhn. “Because if you win, she loses, and that means she’ll be motivated to win the next time. So you both lose, really. It leads to a rollercoaster relationship with a scorecard.”

In other words, try to remember that she’s your girlfriend, not your opponent. And if she’s determined to watch some dismal chick flick with you, then consider it an opportunity to negotiate for something you want … like renting Jackass 3-D next time. It’s only fair!

How to say you're sorry

We Brits are infamous for apologising -- you’d almost think our third word after “mama” and “dada” were “Sorry!” But the casual apology, repeated umpteen times per day, can become a bit meaningless, if not outright tedious. What about when we need to apologise for real? “Learning how and when to apologise is an important life skill,” says Nigel Summerton, an experienced relationship councillor and the senior partner at Plymouth-based Personal and Relationship Counselling. We spoke to Summerton and other relationship councillors about how to do it right.

Tip no. 1: Say it like you mean it
A quick, off-the-cuff apology can sometimes do more harm than good. For it to mean anything to the recipient, it has to mean something to you. “It starts with acknowledging and genuinely regretting a transgression,” says Summerton. “You should want to put things right, rather than simply apologising to keep the peace.” On the other hand, says Mo Kurimbokus, a supervising relationship counsellor with Relate (a national federated charity with over 70 years’ experience supporting the nation’s relationships), you don’t want to mull over your feelings too long before speaking up. “Sometimes people need some space to calm down, but if you know you’re in the wrong, apologising quickly can stop a situation in its tracks,” he says. Either way, make sure it’s sincere. Otherwise, regardless of when you say it, it will fall on deaf ears.

Tip no. 2: And if you don’t mean it, don’t say it!
Apologising to make another person happy may cool things off for now, but over time it inevitably leads to resentment. A better tactic is to engage the person -- find out what they’re feeling and why they seem to expect an apology. Says Annie Wilson, a partner at Norfolk-based Family and Relationship Counselling and a practising Relate councillor with over 16 years’ experience, “Ask for clarification about where the other person is coming from. In that way, you can at least begin to understand what is happening between you and try to build from there.” You may even find you agree with their position and feel that an apology is in order -- only now, you can give it genuinely.

Tip no. 3: Get your apology accepted
Even with the best of intentions, a simply apology often isn’t enough. Of course it depends on the nature and depth of the transgression, but assuming you did more than accidentally step on someone’s toes, you need to give it your heartfelt all. Wilson offers a four-point plan for ensuring that your apology is virtually impervious to rejection.

  1. Listen carefully to the other person’s complaint.
  2. Say you’re sorry without implying any blame. In other words, take responsibility for what happened and use "I" rather than "you" statements.
  3. Offer a strategy for change.
  4. Listen to the other person’s response and follow through on whatever is agreed upon.

Tip no. 4: Give forgiveness a chance
At this point, you’ve really done all you possibly can in the apology department. But, warns Kurimbokus, don’t confuse acceptance of an apology with forgiveness. The final step in the apology process, forgiveness, has to be earned, and it can take time for the other person to regain their trust in you. “Depending on the dispute and the amount of pain caused, you may need to put together a game plan to begin to repair the hurt,” Kurimbokus says. “Talking things though with a trusted third party can often be a good way to start.”

Dating Apps: The Lowdown

Technology has an uncanny way of making our lives more complicated, even as it vows to simplify them. Hard drives that crash. Voice recognition that doesn’t recognize. Online bank accounts that get hacked. Smartphone apps, however, tend to deliver, getting us where we want to go, finding the free Wi-Fi, calculating tips. But can they help us get our dating lives in gear? To that end, MLT looked at three popular dating apps to see how well they cut through the hassle of the singles scene and put us on the path to a love connection. Read on for the results.

P.S. If you need advice on where to go and what to do on that first date, you’ll be happy to know there’s an app for that, too. (Several, actually.)


  • The Bottom Line: Free to download, but have your credit card handy. When you want anything more than superficial contact, like sending a “wink” to a woman, it’s gonna cost you. One month of service is $29.95. Discounts apply for multiple-month subscriptions.
  • Looks: Interface and menus are clean, evocative of Facebook.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, Zoosk had received an average of three stars (out of a possible five) from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: Zoosk asks about your perfect match, your ideal date, favorite movies and music.
  • What We Liked: If its claims are true, the site signs up 80,000 new users a day, for a grand total of 50 million people looking for love.
  • What We Didn’t Like: The fact that users are called Zooskers. If we wanted to date a zoosker, we’d go to the zoo.
  • Connection potential: Before even completing our application, we were sent an email letting us know we’d been matched with a single mother of three boys. She was also an Eagles fan (not of the Don Henley kind). Uh, thanks, but no.


  • The Bottom Line: Free to download. Subscriptions start at $9.99 per month. You can also use the service gratis by allowing the app continuing access to your Facebook account.
  • Looks: Startup screen is a bit girly (very heavy on the whole red-heart thing), but the toggle-laden search page is much more Teutonic.
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, iDate had received an average of two and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: A quick and easy form asks for basic info, such as your height, religion, latitude and longitude, and whether you’re a smoker.
  • What We Liked: The only one of the three apps reviewed here that allows you to complete your profile entirely on your phone.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Giving iDate unfettered access to our Facebook profile (including letting it post updates on our wall whenever we did something on iDate) is genius marketing, but a bit too invasive for our liking -- and not worth the savings on the fee.
  • Connection potential: The pickings are easy to narrow down, although the pool of prospects seems pretty narrow to begin with. Even the broadest of search specifications returned few or no match results. The developer’s site notes that iDate has “thousands of personals and pics” -- not exactly great odds for finding your soul mate in a world of 6 billion people.


  • The Bottom Line: Free. If you want an upgrade to what the site calls A-List Extras, you’ll pay $9.95 per month.
  • Looks: The app icon is a half-full beaker. The apparent message: Chemistry at work!
  • Stars in Your Eyes?: At press-time, OkCupid had received three and a half stars from iTunes users who’ve downloaded it.
  • Tell Me About Yourself: As you build your profile, you’re asked a battery of questions -- some sensible, some off-the-wall. The more questions you answer -- from how often you Tweet to whether you’d ever date a pot-smoker -- the more potential matches OkCupid unlocks for you.
  • What We Liked: The app’s Quickmatch feature, which is the dating equivalent of Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” option. Don’t like the match OKCupid picked? You can easily skip it and move on to the next prospect.
  • What We Didn’t Like: Answering random questions is fun -- to a point. At one stage well into the process, a message informs you that the average guy answers 200 of OkCupid’s questions, but that answering 50 is “an adequate start.”
  • Connection potential: When the site found us a blonde ultra-runner who loves craft beers, indie films and dancing, we sent her a message immediately. Fingers crossed that after a 50-mile day, she’ll still have enough endurance for a night on the town.


Get it right this Valentine’s Day

Like most things having anything to do with women, Valentine’s Day is laden with signals that are crystal clear to them and about as comprehensible as Greek to you. A dozen roses? Signal: “He’s lazy.” A box of chocolates? “He doesn’t really care.” So what’s a man to do? Start with two words: Think creatively. And with a few tips from Men’s Life Today’s experts, you’ll be able to fill her Valentine’s Day with a few unique and unexpected surprises that will signal only one thing — this guy deserves my love.

 Watch and learn
“The number one desire of most women is to be understood,” explains London-based relationship advisor Paula Rosdol, founder of So you’ll need to sharpen up your powers of observation. Pay attention to her likes and dislikes and especially to everything she contributes to your relationship. “Strive to do, say and buy things for your partner that have a special meaning for her,” says Rosdol. “For example, if she loves to cook for you, take her to a Michelin-star restaurant and buy her that kitchen gadget she’s been eyeing up.” 

If it just won’t feel like Valentine’s Day to you without the traditional flowers and chocolates, Rosdol suggests you at least add a twist to it. For example, present her with a single rose in a beautiful Murano glass vase that she can keep forever, or if your budget allows, a nice box of Swiss chocolates with a card inviting her for a weekend skiing holiday in the Alps.

Plan ahead
As with most things, preparation is key to a successful Valentine’s Day. “Romantic hotels and restaurants generally inflate their prices and are booked up months beforehand, so if you want to take her somewhere special, you’re going to need to plan well in advance,” says James Preece, a.k.a. The Dating Guru from “Or make reservations for the same hotel or restaurant for the following weekend, when prices are lower, and go out of your way to make the day special in other ways.”

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to let her know you’ll be taking her out or doing something special on Valentine’s Day, or right after. “Women love anticipating good things to come,” explains Rosdol. “And there’s a bonus to this. If she knows you’re planning something, she’ll start thinking of how to please you.”

Be creative
Money can’t buy love any more than it can buy happiness, so don’t make the common mistake of throwing up your hands in defeat if you can’t afford an expensive gift. Instead, think outside the box. Preece proposes creating a “memories” scrapbook filled with your favourite photographs, keepsakes, holiday mementoes and even some printed emails. This will serve as a souvenir of your relationship for both of you, and remind you of how much you mean to each other. If you’re more of a poet than an artist, write her a love letter. Many men never think to put pen to paper anymore, says Preece, and it really is a lost opportunity. “For the best results, hold her hand, look deep into her eyes and read it aloud,” he suggests. “If this is something you’ve never done before, she’ll be incredibly impressed.”

Six Signs She’s Just Not That Into You

Hey, Romeo! If your killer material gets nothing more than crickets over coffee with a girl you’ve been chasing ... or if you can’t even get her to go out for coffee ... it’s probably time for a reality check. That’s right: There are women out there who are impervious to your limitless charm.

Too many dudes are caught up in the notion that a girl’s just playing hard-to-get if she’s not showing you love. That might sometimes be the case ... or, more likely, you’re delusional. In the interests of Bro Code, we at Men’s Life Today consulted someone who’d know (a woman, and in this case, a woman who’s also a relationship expert) to identify six sure-fire signs that you’re wasting your time.

No. 1: You have a better relationship with her voicemail than with her.
If the only time you can ever get this girl on the phone is when you call her -- and if she seems surprised that it’s you when she finally answers -- you’ve got a bad connection! Face it: If she doesn’t call you back -- or ever call you at all -- she’s ducking you. “If you think she’s avoiding you, tell her that the next call has to come from her,” says Dr. JoAnn Magdoff, a New York-based psychologist and relationship expert. “If she doesn’t make it, you’ll have your answer.” In other words, it’s time to lose her phone number.

No. 2: She cuts you down with a crappy cliche.
When a woman utters the universal escape clause -- “I’m just not ready to be in a relationship” -- the most literal translation is: She’s not ready to be in a relationship with you. It could be that she’s got a lot on her plate. But in most cases, if she’s not buying what you’re selling now, she won’t be shopping in your store anytime soon. “If you can hang long enough, she might turn around,” says Magdoff. “But don't hold your breath.”

No. 3: You can’t find your way onto her calendar.
It’s easier to predict the ponies than the next time this girl will be available to go out with you. She’s either “working late,” “gotta get up early,” “gonna be out of town,” or “having her blood drawn.” And she always asks if she can get back to you in case she works things out at the last minute. Meaning: You’re in the permanent bullpen, and you’ll only get the call if her intended starting pitcher comes up lame. “These are the classic signs of being a fallback option,” explains Magdoff. “The only way to capture her imagination is to show less interest in her.”

No. 4: She talks dirty … but not about you.
When she describes her fantasy man, it doesn’t sound like anybody who might ever be remotely mistaken for you. Or even speak to you. “If she’s describing her fantasies to you, and you’re not in them,” warns Magdoff, “you need to be talking to someone else.”

No. 5: The next time she laughs at one of your jokes will be the first time.
If you think you’re the king of comedy but can’t command even a couple of laughs from your intended queen, it’s time to take your seltzer bottle and chattering dentures act on the road. “If she’s not finding your humor or personality interesting, you need to ask yourself what you find alluring about her,” says Magdoff. “Don’t get into this because you like a challenge.” Face it, funny boy: You’re chasing after somebody who’s laughing at you, not with you! (Sorry, we always wanted to use that one.)

No. 6: She keeps telling you that you are so perfect for her sister!
Sadly, this is only a good thing if she’s siblings with Megan Fox. On the other hand, says Magdoff, “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to meet her sister. Let’s face it, you’re not getting anywhere with this girl!”