Men and women often have different ideas of what’s important—and at what point “important” topics should be
raised. A woman told me, with lingering astonishment, of a conversation with her boyfriend. Knowing he had seen his
friend Oliver, she asked, “What’s new with Oliver?” He replied, “Nothing.” 41 , later in the conversation it came
out that Oliver and his girlfriend had decided to get married. “That’s nothing?” the woman gasped in 42 .
<br> For men, “Nothing” may be a ritual 43 at the start of a conversation. A college woman missed her brother but
rarely called him because she found it difficult to get talk going. A 44 conversation began with her asking, “What’s
up with you?” and his replying, “Nothing.” Hearing his “Nothing” as meaning “There is nothing personal I want to talk
about,” she supplied talk by filling him in on her news and 45 hung up in frustration. But when she thought back, she remembered that later in the conversation he had mumbled, “Christie and I got into another fight.” This came so late
and so low that she didn’t pick up on it. And he was probably equally frustrated that she didn’t.