A few years ago, I came across the graphic above, and suddenly I understood something about women that I had failed to understand in my forty plus years on the planet. I had been misinterpreting their words all along. I had understood simple words like “fine” and “nothing” in a literal sense and had failed to realize that they had broader, unspoken meanings that could impact my quality of life.

With this newfound knowledge, I felt empowered to listen and ascertain the enormity of any given situation that required my attention. Admittedly, I am generally oblivious and assume that spoken words are to be taken in a literal sense. This works when talking to my male friends, but it’s a minefield of angst when dealing with the opposite sex.

Given the numerical notation, I assumed this was a hierarchy of sorts, like a progressive chart that indicates the level of anxiety I should feel. The thermometer in my car is similar in that it goes from cold to hot, and as it gets closer to hot, the little arm of the gauge crosses into the red. That’s when you really know you’re in for some trouble. Likewise, the bonus word “Wow” in the chart above represents the red area in this gauge of female-to-male communication.

If it were only that simple. Much to my dismay, I soon learned that this is not a progressive chart and that there may be no warning whatsoever when communication crosses “into the red.” It’s the equivalent of cranking the car and having the thermometer gauge go straight to red and the car overheating in that very instant with no time to react.

The randomness of the scale makes it difficult to apply any sort of mathematical formula to predict the probability that any actions or careless words could lead to an overheated situation. Being a simple guy, I instantly decided to reduce the scale to a game since it couldn’t be conquered mathematically. I conducted unauthorized experiments with my wife to see what actions or words elicited which reactions. This soon led me toward an imminent demise, so I stopped the game. I can say, somewhat with pride and maybe a little fear, that I am able to get to “Wow!” pretty fast. It’s a skill I never knew I had.

I wish I could say I had some sage advice for those men out there just now realizing the implications of the chart above, but I have difficulty retaining knowledge gained from experience, even that gained from near-death experiences. All I can say is that it’s not a game and the logic and progression cannot be discerned. Consider yourself warned.

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