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Transcript: Wed., Dec. 15 at noon ET

On Love: Dating advice

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Ellen McCarthy, Donna Sozio and Samantha Brett
Washington Post Staff Writer and authors
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 12:00 PM

Dating experts Donna Sozio and Samantha Brett, authors of "The Man Whisperer," join The Post's Ellen McCarthy to discuss their book and offer tips on how to take your relationship from ordinary to everything you've always wanted.

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McCarthy writes about weddings and relationships in Sunday's Arts & Style OnLove section.

Sozio is a radio and TV personality and author. She also teaches women what they need to know to meet men, keep men and how to have better relationships. Brett is an author, journalist, and TV personality. She is also a dating blogger for the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

To learn more about Sozio and Brett, visit their website: www.themanwhisperers.com.

For more marital and relationship advice and to see how other couples have gotten to the altar, visit our On Love section.

The transcript follows.

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Ellen McCarthy: Hey all, thanks for joining us on this chilly Wednesday. I'm excited to have Samantha Brett and Donna Sozio with us to talk about their new book, "The Man Whisperer." Let's get right to the questions.

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Washington, D.C.: This town needs advice on how to meet people, there are a ton of single women who are having difficulty getting into a relationship first (before working on keeping one). I would also submit that D.C. is a town of active people so please don't say volunteer/join a sports league, we're out here, we're living our lives, we just don't know where the men are.

Donna Sozio: The most important thing to remember when you want to meet someone is to SLOW DOWN! We are all so busy. When we find time every day to enjoy being outside around other people - the park at lunch - a drink after dinner - reading in a cafe - it sends a message that we are open to meeting someone. Forget the blackberry - after-work women (and men!) don't need to look so "busy" anymore! Then once a man approaches, Man Whisper to him to create instant attraction! Man Whispering is soooo effective for the modern career woman.

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Baltimore, Md.: Been in a relationship for almost four years -- we're still very much in love but have found that romance has fallen a little by the wayside (especially since we are now living together). We're still attracted to each other and have sex several times a week, but a lot of the time it's "maintenance," if you know what I mean. How can I try and rekindle some of that fire that existed in the beginning of our relationship?

Samantha Brett: That's a great question! Many couples ask us that and it's definitely a common problem. Both of you have a role to play in this and I think the first step is to definitely schedule some alone time for a regular date night. The key is to get dressed at separate locations - perhaps one of you straight from work - and then to meet out at a sexy destination which is somewhere not too local and that you may not have been to in a while. You want to rekindle those feelings of excitement and anticipation you had when you first met. If there are kids involved, you want to pick a night when they can be looked after by their grandparents or a sitter. You may also want to schedule in some time for a naughty weekend away with just the two of you every once in a while ... that can do wonders! And every day touch is often under-valued ... cuddles, kisses and thoughtful text messages should be used often!

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Arlington, Va.: I agree that non-verbal communication is important and that touching a man on the arm lets him know you are interested. Are there times more aggressive touching can work? I have found, of course only after a good conversation, a pat on the butt communicates interest very well and successfully, I might add.

Donna Sozio: In romantic relationships, women need not be "aggressive". You can be aggressive if you want to... but it's entirely not necessary to gain a man's attention. Remember, men want sex as cheaply as they can get it, and when you pat them on the but you are saying - I want you sexually. Men rarely put women into 2 categories - we are either long term relationship material - or we are booty call material. Decide which category you want to be in - and then decide if you want to pat him on the arm or on the butt.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: What is a man whisperer? Men don't even pay attention if you speak loudly, especially when sports are on TV.

Samantha Brett: A Man Whisperer is a woman who uses feminine communication with her man to get him to respond to her requests... all the while making him seem like it was his brilliant idea all along! The best part is that Man Whispering eliminates the #1 thing that men complain about which is ... nagging. (Which is why men love it so much.) Man Whispering teaches women how to phrase their requests in such a way that it's a win-win situation for both partners. Things get done, relationships become smoother and the divide between the sexes becomes a thing of the past.

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Ellen McCarthy: Hey Samantha and Donna,

Maybe you could start by telling us a little about the origins of this book. What made you decide to write it?

Donna Sozio: Yes... it's a great story. Sam is from Australia and I'm from LA. We were observing the same frustrations from women about men and relationships - so we looked at what was the cause - and we found it to be that modern career women (remember your job is an achievement based reward system) - were taking the same approach to love as they were to their career. Trying to impress men on dates doesn't bring love. Feminine communication which the book teaches - creates the chemistry necessary in a relationship for it to turn into love!

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Ellen McCarthy: What are some of the main tenets of communication that your book covers?

Samantha Brett: Thanks for your question! There are so many great points in the Man Whisperer book, but I think the main thing to take out of it is that Man Whispering is a win-win situation because it eliminates nagging, saves your relationship from the usual stress that comes with the great divide between communication and helps you better understand one another.

The main tenets of Man Whispering involve knowing what the real issue at hand is; learning how to phrase your requests in a way that is non-threatening to your man, learning to "zip it" so that your man has a chance to "fix" the problem, and then learning how to reward your man for completing the task in a way that makes him want to do it over and over again in order to please you. You are learning to bring the "good guy gene" out in your man to ensure that your relationship runs smoother, sexier and that everyone is happy.

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Dating potential or friend zone?: I'm having trouble reading signs from a female friend. She regularly complains about how a date with a new guy was disappointing. Thing is, the reasons she doesn't get along with these guys are usually reasons that are traits that I clearly don't have. Is this some sort of subtle (or not so subtle) hint, or is this just me in the "friend zone"?

Donna Sozio: If you are interested in your female friend... make a move! Ask her out on a date. Take action. (She won't.) And you'll feel better that you did anyway.

Say something like this... ask her to a movie or something "normal" - and then say, "Here are two options. This can be a real date where I'll pick you up and take you out (and I'm hoping you'll pick option #1) or if you're not interested in me that way, I'd still love to see you."

Go for it! Tell me how it goes!

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Ellen McCarthy: Can you define "Man Whispering" for folks who haven't read the book?

Donna Sozio: Yes! It's a new communication style women use with men in romantic situations that creates a complimentary relationship - one filled with appreciation, trust, adventure, and fun. It eliminates resentment in relationships - which is the hidden cause of most fights! It's win/win for both women & men.

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Las Vegas, Nev.: What makes you two experts?

Donna Sozio: Good question. Between the two of us we have over 25 years experience studying masculine/feminine communication styles & dating and relationship behaviors. I have a degree in Sociology and Sam has a degree in Communication. We have dedicated our lives to writing books that share new models of communication to put an end to the battle of the sexes.

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Rockville, Md.: I have a bit of a though time dating -- especially, meeting and asking women out (I know this blog is geared to women, but...). What advice can you give me (I would like to get the advice of expert women on this subject)? Where do you think is the appropriate place to meet and engage potential dates. Some places might be inappropriate for some (at church is more family-oriented, at the gym everyone is focused on exercising, etc). And how do you think is the best way to approach this? Thank you!

Samantha Brett: Hey there... good news! Single women are EVERYWHERE. The key is learning how to approach them in a non-threatening way. Whether you're at the grocery store or at a nightclub, you need to remember that women are people just like you - and most of the time if we smile at you, that's an invitation for you to come up and just say hi. That's all women want! Be friendly, open and non-threatening. You'll quickly gauge whether or not she's interested in pursuing a conversation with you.

The places which are appropriate for meeting women are women-friendly places so think outside the square. Stay out of the gym and hit pilates or yoga where there are loads of women. Go to the bookstore, sit in a cafe with your laptop, go to a market, a flower store, shopping - you name it, where there are women, there is a way to approach them!

Always remember that when getting into a conversation, don't go straight for the kill. Compliment her on something she's wearing or doing (sincerely!) and ask her something about herself. Then LISTEN. Men so often underestimate the power of simple listening. If you want to ask her on a date, stick to something like a coffee or a casual drink. You'd be surprised by how many of us would love some company... if only you'd say HI!

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Ellen McCarthy: Can you give us an example of a request that could be perceived as nagging, and how you would rephrase it, based on your communication methods?

Donna Sozio: Nagging/demanding/commanding is usually coupled with a threat. The "threat" can either be a look/hands on hips/or a verbal punishment. Sure your guy man do what you want just to not get "punished" either socially or by withholding sex. But that causes resentment and it will build and the relationship will suffer for it later.

Phrases like "I want you to.... You never... Can't you just once.... Didn't you hear me.... " are nags.

Man Whispering is the solution - the antidote to nagging that really gets men to spring into action because it sets them up for success and appreciation rather than a punishment.

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Ellen McCarthy: I know that a lot of single people feel particularly single during the holidays. Do you have any advice for making this time of year a little easier?

Donna Sozio: Get together with friends - and not just your girlfriends - or guy friends. Mix it up. Throw a party (don't call it a singles event), make sure there are equal men & women, and give it a theme - an eggnog mix-off competition - something that will spark conversation. Most people are in a good mood during the holidays so it's a GREAT time to meet & greet.

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Sick of waiting: My boyfriend of eight years knows I want to get married, and says he does too. We both agree that we're traditional in wanting him to do the asking. He's implied that he'll be proposing by the new year, but has a history of cold feet. How do I deal with the disappointment if he doesn't, and what's the best way to ask what happened?

Samantha Brett: You're not alone! So many men are afraid of popping the question, but we can help you speed up the process by teaching you ways to activate his "monogamy gene". Many men are afraid of marriage for a bevy of reasons, including the fact that he believes it will be a threat to his freedom, his sex life and his identity as he knows it!

You need to prove to him that by marrying you, none of those things will be lost. Allay his fears! We have some specific phrases you can tell him in The Man Whisperer that will do this effectively.

We also advise that when you find your man continues to promise to marry you but keeps pushing back the moment when he is going to ask you, you need to give yourself what we call "the inner ultimatum". Give yourself a deadline in your mind when you feel he should ask you. If you feel like he still stalls and then passes your deadline (and be generous!) then it's time to make some serious decisions about whether or not you want to be in a relationship where promises are continually broken.

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Heartbreak: This must be a common question around the holidays. But my boyfriend and I recently broke up, and I am not dealing very well. What are the best ways to cope, especially around this time of year?

Donna Sozio: Firstly, a BIG HUG to you! Arg. That is one of the toughest things to go through. Every day give a gift to yourself. And do something new. Change your routine around. Coffee at a new spot. New flavor of ice cream. This will really help. And when you feel yourself spinning down - SMILE - for 30 seconds. It changes your brain chemistry so you can feel normal again. Find comfort in the smallest of things. And try not to be alone. Reach out to your friends (both guys & gals!) to keep you busy! The holidays belong to YOU too... enjoy them as best you can.

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Man in Va.: I don't think most men categorize women in two categories like you said: a.) long-term and b.) booty call.

Donna Sozio: I love all different opinions. And I'll give you the reason why I said that. Men's brains are systematic. Their brains categorize just about everything which allows them to focus on one thing at a time. (Which is also the reason why - when men are focused on a game on the TV - it's really hard for them to shift gears and get their attention.)

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Setting back the women's movement: The whole concept of women needing to adjust their communication style to placate men rubs me the wrong way. How about men being a little less defensive and giving us the benefit of the doubt? And the idea of likening it to the people who train dogs... well, no comment. Gee whiz.

Samantha Brett: Thanks for your question! Firstly, we'd like to say that Man Whispering isn't about "placating" men at all... it's about adjusting the female style of communication so that both women and men are put in a win-win situation. No woman enjoys nagging and nagging while her man still continues to ignore her, and no man likes to be nagged at! In fact, we've given the book to loads of men (who have given it to their wives and girlfriends), and even after reading it themselves, the men are thankful that we are teaching women this new style of communication. The men find that when their women attempt Man Whispering, it instantly improves their relationships and they are happier for it!

Likening it to training dogs is just a pun ... but really it's about women reverting to feminine communication in order to better communicate with their men...

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McLean, Va.: What is the best way for someone (age 40-50) to slowly ease into dating after having been married for 20 years?

Donna Sozio: Congratulations on taking the leap. I know it can look like it's a totally different world out there. And I commend you on being brave to open yourself up to meeting men.

Yes, take your time. Firstly, make a list of the qualities you want in a man. Be clear on what excites you about being with another person and what makes you feel like you want to run for the hills.

Next, let your trusted friends know that you're open to dating again. Let them get the word out.

Then... change your routine. Don't go to the same place for coffee - or at the same time - this will allow you to meet new people!

Slow down and smile.

Focus on self-trust.

Relationships aren't about them... it's all about you and who you are in relation(ship) to them.

Best of luck... the book will help you through the process. Keep in touch!

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Washington, D.C.: From your website: "Can you be a Man Whisperer and a Feminist? Absolutely! "MWing" is about equality in the boardroom and in our pay checks but we've discovered that in the bedroom, complimentary relationships work better than trying to be "equals" with your man. Complimentary relationships are where you leverage off each others strengths and do not try to be just like one another."

Which type of relationship teaches you to spell "complementary" correctly?

Samantha Brett: Haha great question... we'll get this fixed :)

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Dupont Circle: I'm a lesbian. I don't have any trouble meeting other women, but it never works out well. Would your techniques work on them too?

Donna Sozio: YES! And this is why. Even in lesbian relationships one woman is the more masculine energy and one woman is the more feminine energy. Which were you? Figure that out and then learn to whisper to the other.

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Not really a problem, but . . . : My boyfriend pays for EVERYTHING and prefers to be the one who drives. I'm a pretty independent lady and love that he takes care of/spoil me, but at some point, it's got to stop because it's just not practical. The "I have a job and can pay for things too" statements haven't worked yet. How can I assert my independence and desire to be on more equal footing economically in our relationship without offending his desire to provide?

Samantha Brett: Lucky you! Firstly, I'd say embrace it! Your man enjoys and revels in the fact that he gets to be "the man" in the relationship, and by allowing you to be the feminine one, you have great balance in the relationship even though you don't think so. Man Whispering is all about being in a complementary relationship and that's exactly what you have! We talk often about women not attempting to be "equal" to their man - which is what so many modern women want to do. We know you can pay your own bills and buy your own diamonds, but the best relationships are the ones where the woman allows the man to be the masculine energy in the relationship and if that's the way your man shows it - GREAT. Enjoy it and perhaps suggest that every three or four times, you'd love to drive so he can sit back and enjoy himself, and that you'd like to pay for his dinner (or share the bill) so that he can spend more on dessert for you later on or use the extra money for your favorite flowers!

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Washington, D.C.: My son is 26, unmarried and has a child. He was about to go on a date but before they went out he mentioned that he has a child. The woman then declined to go out with him. He was devastated. This was the first time he asked someone out after he found out he was a father. I think he should mention it on the second or third date, and in a place where they can discuss it so he can answer her questions. He's helping to support the child. Either way, some women won't like this but I hope he will find someone that accepts it. What do you think? Will this be a big problem in that most women won't have anything to do with him?

Donna Sozio: Very good question. Although it was a tough response - at least she was upfront about it. I see no problems letting a woman get to know your son as he is as a man for a few dates - and then, say after 2 dates, telling them that he has a child. This is why - if they do marry - she still needs to get to know him for who he is as a man - not just a father. The first two dates are all about building chemistry. Then you can let people know your special circumstances. A big hug for him. That was so brave to ask a woman out. And he should try again ... and again... and again!

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What's up with nagging?: Why are you positioning nagging as a women's problem? This is what I don't understand. I also don't understand the concept of "feminine communication" and still maintain that you are in the business of placating men. One might argue that men are the weaker sex when it comes to communication and might be better served with advice.

Donna Sozio: This communication style doesn't placate men. It builds chemistry with men. In a romantic situation, a man wants to feel like he's with a woman. Not another man. Men don't fall in love with accomplishments. There is nothing a woman can DO that will ever "impress" a man enough to fall in love with her. Men fall in love with who we ARE. And Man Whispering is a communication technique that allows women to show men who we are... not all that we have done. I hope that clarifies.

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Ellen McCarthy: How has this research changed your own relationships?

Donna Sozio: For the better! We practice what we preach. Sam and I even "whisper" to each other. My mom whispers to my dad... and after 43 years of marriage - it's working! Whispering is a win/win communication style that builds trust and appreciation - while it is effective is getting us what we want.

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Washington, D.C.: I met a friend of a friend recently at a party, and we seemed to hit it off. Now, I'm not sure what to do! I followed-up our meeting with a friendly invitation to another event, but he will be out of town. Should I assume the ball is in his court? Ask again after the holidays? It's been awhile since I've had a crush on someone I don't see on a regular basis.

Samantha Brett: The great thing about meeting a man is that if they are into you, they will pursue you. It's in their DNA. Men tell us all the time that if they are interested in a woman, there is NOTHING that will stop them from getting in touch. We call it their "chase gene". You've done your bit by showing him that you are interested. Now you do need to wait for him to get in contact with you when he returns. That is a sure-fire way to tell if he is interested. If many weeks pass and you still haven't heard from him, getting in touch in a non-threatening way is the key. Ask him how his trip was or his advice on something that you're having a problem with and that you think he can help you with.

If he still isn't asking you out, you need to take hold of the belief that there are plenty of men out there who will indeed chase after you for a date and will value you for who you are, without you having to pressure them into a date or to chase until they say yes. We guarantee it!

Being open to all sorts of people is the key as well as going out to man-friendly places (like sporting matches or the pub). Also, putting your best foot forward without constantly expecting an outcome will make you in-demand and in control!

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Alexandria, Va.: You said: "It's a new communication style women use with men in romantic situations that creates a complimentary relationship." You mean I should compliment a guy I'm interested in more often, or do you mean a complementary relationship, where the two people naturally bring out the best in each other?

Donna Sozio: Both! We talk about how to compliment him in the book. And yes, a complimentary relationship is where both people are operating in their expertise. It creates trust and appreciation for the other which in turn creates even more trust and appreciation. It's an upward spiral where the better it gets - the better it gets!

"Where the two people naturally bring out the best in each other" - that's a great way to put it! Man Whispering is a communication technique that does exactly that.

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Washington, D.C.: Dating is so frustrating for me. I'm overweight, know it and acknowledge that many men will rule me out as a potential date because of my current size. I'm working on my weight (healthy diet and lots of exercise), but it isn't an overnight process and I don't want to lose a year of dating at my age (26). How can I help men see my personality (and potential!)?

Donna Sozio: It's so important for a woman to FEEL good. Take the focus off men for one month. And put the focus on you to feel good. Get healthy in mind/body/spirit. When you start feeling good - in your groove - and sassy - then start dating again. I guarantee you'll have a better experience!

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Bethesda, Md.: I agree that whispering is better than nagging, but are you saying that if a woman whispers . . . "Please don't put dirty dishes in the dishwasher without rinsing," it will get a better response than said at full volume?

Samantha Brett: Haha good question. Man Whispering is of course, not about actually whispering the commands in a quiet voice! Instead, it's about asking a man to do something using feminine communication, rather than cajoling, nagging or berating her man. It's a win-win form of communication where women are able to stop asking her man over and over again to do the same thing, and all the while the men are actually encouraged to WANT to do the things the women ask of them.

This is because women will learn to phrase their requests in a non-threatening way; she will allow her man to "fix" the problem by "zipping it", plus she will offer him a reward for his efforts which will encourage him to want to please her again and again. This means that nagging and constantly asking him to do things at full volume will become a thing of the past.

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Ellen McCarthy: What are some of the biggest mistakes you think men and women make in approaching the opposite sex?

Donna Sozio: Women: Reward men for having the guts to approach you. Even if they say something cheesy - just say, "Thank you so much... but I'm with my friends." Always leave men in better condition than you found them. + look beyond what men say for their first line (as long as it's respectful!)

Men: Approach gently. Find something in common that you can bring up. And ask for what you what IE: her number. Then then take her out and treat her well.

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Anonymous: "New communication style": Really? Because it sounds kind of like my grandmother's claim that women like my German great-grandmother were skilled at dominating their households by making their husbands "think" that everything was their (the husbands') idea. And it kind of sounded like a load to me then, too. (To be fair, I'm no fan of the threatening/pouting/nagging technique either. But I refuse to believe that those are the only options.)

Donna Sozio: It's new because it's a hybrid. It's bringing what worked in the past forward with a new twist for modern women. This communication style allows modern women to have a satisfying career - and a fulfilling romantic relationship.

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Making the first move: How do I get a guy who looks interesting to ask me out? Am not great at making the first move and would prefer to be asked out -- maybe am doing something wrong.

Samantha Brett: Easy! Men always tell us that the best way to let them know you're interested is to simply smile and say hi. Yep, it's that easy! That's often all they need to enable their "chase gene" to kick in.

The only thing you could be doing wrong is you could simply be too closed-off to men you are interested in because you are scared they don't feel the same way. To avoid this, start smiling at everyone; men, women, the shop assistant, people on the streets - whoever. Learn to be open with your body language and friendly with your communication.

Then, when you meet a man you are hoping will ask you out, ask him thoughtful questions, listen to his answers, smile a lot and most importantly - use plenty of eye contact. Look at him straight in the eye for three seconds before you look away - he'll instantly be intrigued and want to know more!

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Falls Church, Va.: Just a comment. There are a lot of D.C. women who are just going through the motions. I asked one on a second date and you could see the wheels turn with her thinking 'Wow, I need to alter my schedule/life to accommodate.' Many women are ambivalent about relationships. At least that has been my experience as a long time male participant in the D.C. dating scene.

Donna Sozio: Yes, perhaps. Know clearly what type of woman you want. What are her qualities? And know that you will have to invest some time into getting to know her to find out if she has "time" for a relationship or not.

Ladies: be aware that when you are SO BUSY... it's actually a turn off for most men. Perhaps you are that busy... but if you are interested in him - don't make him feel like it's SO hard to carve out time for him in your busy day.

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I'm about to be single again: And can't face the prospect of being a 49-year-old woman in a culture where 49-year-old men date 30-year-old women who have breast lifts and eat like a bird.

Donna Sozio: Don't date for one month until you are feeling good about yourself again - until you feel you can say with love - "of course there is a man out there who is perfect for me." Because there is!

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Ellen McCarthy: Did you look at men's communication styles at all during the research for your book? Any major suggestions for guys on how they can improve their communication with women?

Samantha Brett: I love this question! I think there is sooo much that men can learn from reading The Man Whisperer - most specifically the different way women communicate than men. So often we expect men to be more like our girlfriends - i.e. talk a lot, listen to our feelings (and not always just be focused on the solution!) and intuitively know what we really mean when we don't actually say it. We'd love to delve into all the mistakes men make too when it comes to communicating with the opposite sex and to teach men the skills to communicate with women ... so stay tuned because that's for the NEXT book!!

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Ellen McCarthy: Thanks so much to Samantha and Donna for taking time to be with us today. Stay warm, everyone.

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Donna Sozio: THANK YOU everyone! Best wishes and happy holidays, Donna Sam. The Man Whisperers XO

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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