Winning Your Woman

How to Win Lovers and Influence Co-WorkersCars have a four-stroke (or “four-cylinder”) engine, and lawn mowers have a two-stroke engine. But did you know that people have a five-stroke engine?

“It doesn’t feel like you love me when you hardly even appreciate me,” my wife told me. “I do some pretty amazing things, but to you they’re only worth a mildly enthusiastic acknowledgement.”

Huh? Just a few weeks earlier, on a whim I bought Erin a very thoughtful book that I knew she’d enjoy (and she did). Then on Valentine’s Day, I bought her Godiva chocolates (doesn’t that spell “love” to every woman?). And a short while later, I brought her flowers. How could she not feel loved?

The problem was that I was focusing on only one of the five strokes (Gifts), and it happened to be the stroke that is the least meaningful for Erin.

After many years of marriage counseling, Dr. Gary Chapman noticed a pattern: everyone he had ever counseled had what he calls a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. In The 5 Love Languages (which has sold five million copies), Dr. Chapman says that of the countless ways we can show love (or approval), five categories proved to be universal — everyone has a love language, and we all identify primarily with one of the five love languages.

I like to think in terms of a five-stroke engine that needs to be fueled, because it’s not just about love. Psychologist Kevin Leman says the five also apply to approval and respect — how you communicate approval and respect to others, and how you interpret how others are treating you.

To understand and remember all five strokes, I refer to the “cliff notes” versions rather than an entire book — there is a concise and enjoyable chapter on this topic in Dr. Leman’s book Have a New You by Friday, or a similar chapter in Andy Andrews’ book The Noticer. Both authors make them easier to remember because they associate each with a pet animal:

  1. Words of affirmation or approval (Dog). A dog loves to be praised. My wife is not a dog (she’s a fox!), but words are one of the biggest strokes for her. Erin gets revved up when I recognize specific examples of her talents, smarts, and personal charms. She doesn’t “feel the love” unless I talk about her unique qualities and achievements (and it doesn’t work to compliment her in vague ways like, “You are beautiful and smart”).
  2. Quality time (Parrot). Unlike certain other pet birds, parrots require plenty of attention, otherwise they become lonely and sad. Many kids (especially teenagers) feel your approval most when you spend time with them and pay them attention. Simple acts such as laying with them at bed-time or watching their sports activities go a long way.
  3. Gifts (chicken). Chickens get excited when you bring them a special gift of food, such as leftover veggies or fruit. My sister-in-law never forgets to give thoughtful gifts at all the right moments, which is a clue that gifts are probably an important stroke for her happiness.
  4. Acts of service (Goldfish). Goldfish seem perfectly happy as long as you feed them and keep their bowl clean. Leman tells a story of a guy whose wife is a “Martha Stewart” type. She is super-thoughtful for her husband — keeping his closet perfectly organized, making elaborate meals, and even picking out birthday cards for him to send his friends and colleagues. That’s a clue that she also feels most revved up when her husband does things to help her.
  5. Physical touch (Cat). A cat likes nothing better than being pet. Babies and children desperately need frequent physical contact. My wife, too, needs non-sexual touches from me as reassurance that I care about her, even when I’m not “turned on.” Remember that “Martha Stewart” lady? Leman says that despite her acts of service, her husband felt absolutely unloved. Like 90% of husbands, Leman says, he needed his wife’s physical assurance (in both sexual and non-sexual ways) that he was attractive and important to her.

Understanding the stroke that is most meaningful to your wife or girlfriend is not a secret formula to her heart (she is, after all, a complex creature — and anyway, she would rather feel pursued than have a formula applied to her). But it can help avoid frustration and misunderstanding, because you can show that you care in ways that are meaningful to her; and you can help her understand which stroke shows you she cares for you, too.

Understanding these five strokes can also help you connect better with your kids and meet their need for love and approval. And it can even help you influence and inspire — or at least get along with — your co-workers. “Empathy is an important first step in trying to understand those around us,” said author Craig Morgan, “a step that will help us communicate and interact in a more productive and rewarding manner with the people in our lives.”

For more on this topic, check out Man Cave Radio episode 23.

Think of one or two of the most significant people in your life. How can you best rev up their 5-stroke engine?


MCR-015: Getting Lucky — Lessons from the South Pole

by Jesse Lahey on February 10, 2012

Taking an observation at the Pole.

Taking an observation at the Pole.

Getting Lucky

In his latest book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins and his research team analyze why some companies are able to thrive even in difficult circumstances and unstable environments — for example, how did Southwest Airlines have huge growth and profitably from 1972-2002, a period when most other airlines were struggling and even going bankrupt?

A common notion is that companies like Southwest have a lot more good luck. Collins’ team discovered that’s not true … they did not generally have more luck than other companies in their situation. Instead, they made their own luck — largely through a combination of planning and discipline.

This myth of “good luck” doesn’t just apply to large corporations — it applies to life! Making your own luck can revolutionize your work, your finances, your love life, your health, and your family.

A key analogy in Great by Choice is the true story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott, who led teams that set out within days of each other in October 1911, in a race to become the first explorers to reach the South Pole. Amundsen’s team not only reached the South Pole more than a month faster, but it was the only team to return alive. The difference between the approaches taken by Amundsen and Scott — who were of similar ages and with comparable experience — illustrate the principle of making your own luck.

Here are three lessons from the South Pole to help you get lucky:

  1. Take responsibility and take action.

    Never forget that you are not the victim of your circumstances. You are still ultimately in control of your life and happiness. As Kent Julian teaches, unsuccessful people believe that E = O (the Events that happen to me create the Outcomes in my life). But successful people know that E + R = O … Events plus Response = Outcomes. Scott’s journal entries show that he frequently complained about about weather and bad luck; Amundsen’s philosophy was to presume bad events might strike his team along the way, so he prepared for them rather than waiting for “bad luck” to strike.

  1. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

    Be optimistic, but assume plan ahead so that you are prepared to deal with bad things that could happen. For example, Scott was devastated when his team’s only altitude-measuring thermometer broke; Amundsen brought four thermometers to cover for accidents.

  2. Follow the discipline of the 20 Mile March.

    Have a goal for regular progress that you achieve no matter what, but set an upper-limit so you don’t over-extend yourself. In his race to the South Pole, Admunsen’s team traveled 15-20 miles every day, regardless of whether the weather or other circumstances were favorable. “In contrast, Scott would sometimes drive his team to exhaustion on good days and then sit in his tent and complain about the weather on bad days.”

“Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.” — Roald Amundsen, The South Pole

Marriage Moment: Give and You Shall Receive

One of the ways many guys can make their own luck is by investing in your woman … little things to express love to your wife. If you’re married, your wife can have a huge impact on your life and your happiness — therefore, marriage is one area where you should be putting the three Getting Lucky lessons into action.

Adriana LimaThe 2012 Super Bowl commercial for Teleflora featuring super-model Adriana Lima expressed it well: “Give and you shall receive” — of course, as a commerical for flowers, its focus was materialistic. But it is pretty likely that if you frequently give your wife authentic signals that you love her, you will receive great sex, great friendship, and a great partner for life. That’s getting lucky!

Last month on, Joshua Gordon issued a challenge to men to write a love note every week to their wife. That’s one way to put the 20 Mile March into effect, building up deposits in your wife’s emotion bank account which will help weather the storms that life will surely send your way.

One way that Jesse follows the 20 Mile March principle is a goal to take Erin on a date (almost) every week. Often it is a no-cost or low-cost date … a walk, a visit to a neighbor’s house, a dessert or coffee at a coffee shop. Other times it is mid-priced (lunch at a restaurant), or higher-priced (dinner at a restaurant) … and 3-4 times a year, we splurge for a night or two at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast.

A lot of guys feel intimidated by the notion that their wife needs frequent signs of their love. In movies and TV, we see guys who plan super-romantic events for their women. As Jesse and Erin discuss in this segment, it doesn’t have to be fancy or well-planned … just some time to enjoy and focus solely on your wife.

Man Toy: Bio Lite Camp Stove

The BioLite ($130) is a compact, portable stove that burns sticks, twigs, and pine cones instead of gas, so you don’t have to carry fuel with you when camping. Use it to cook food and boil water — and use its USB port to charge your gadgets or power an LED light.