Male-female conversation is cross-cultural communication. Culture is simply a network of habits and patterns gleaned from past experience, and women and men have different past experiences. These cultural differences include different expectations about the role of talk in relationships and how it fulfills that role.
Everyone knows that as a relationship becomes long-term, its terms change. But women and men often differ in how they expect them to change. Many women feel, “After all this time, you should know what I want without my telling you.” Many men feel, “After all this time, we should be able to tell each other what we want.”
These incongruent expectations capture one of the key differences between men and women. Communication is always a matter of balancing conflicting needs for involvement and independence. Being understood without saying what you mean gives a payoff in involvement, and that is why women value it so highly.
这些不一致的期待捕捉到了男女之间的关键区别之一。交流永远都是对牵连和独立的一种平衡冲突的需要。“ 不言而喻” 是对牵连的回报，这就是女人十分看重这一点的原因。
If you want to be understood without saying what you mean explicitly in words, you must convey meaning somewhere else—in how words are spoken, or by metamessages. Thus it stands to reason that women are often more attuned than men to the metamessages of talk. When women surmise meaning in this way, it seems mysterious to men, who call it “women’s intuition” (if they think it’s right) or “reading things in” (if they think it’s wrong). Indeed, it could be wrong, since metamessages are not on record. And even if it is right, there is still the question of scale: How signifcant are the metamessages that are there?
假如你希望无需清晰的表达就能够被理解，你就必须通过别的途径传达你的用意，比如变换表达方式， 或通过言外之意。所以，女人比男人更适应交谈中的言外之意就是理所当然的了。当女人用这种方式来猜测含义的时候，男人会觉得难以理解，称它为“女人的直觉” （ 如果他们认同的话），或“强行臆测” （ 如果他们不认同的话）。的确，她们的猜测有可能是错的， 因为言外之意并没有确切根据。 即便它是正确的，那还有一个适用范围的问题：言外之意在这里有多大的意义呢?
Metamessages are a form of indirectness. Women are more likely to be indirectly, and to try to reach agreement by negotiation. Another way to understand this preference is that negotiation allows a display of solidarity, which women prefer to the display of power (even though the aim may be the same—getting what you want). Unfortunately, power and solidarity are bought with the same currency: Ways of talking intended to creat solidarity have the simultaneous effect of framing power differences. When they think they’re being nice, women often end up appearing deferential and unsure of themselves or of what they want.
When styles differ, misunderstandings are always rife. As their different styles create misunderstandings, women and men try to clear them up by talking things out. These pitfalls are compounded in talks between men and women because they have different ways of going about talking things out, and different assumptions about the signifcance of going about it.
Why are women more attuned to metamessages? Because they are more focused on involvement, that is, on relationships among people, and it is through metamessages that relationships among people are established and maintained. If you want to take the temperature and check the vital signs of a relationship, the barometers to check are its metamessages: what is said and how.
Everyone can see these signals, but whether or not we pay attention to them is another matter—a matter of being sensitized. Once you are sensitized, you can’t roll your antennae back in; they’re stuck in the extended position.