New age body language and mind expert Allan Pease doesn't like to mince words. For four decades, his brand of life skills have helped rock stars and Prime Ministers coast through. Fona Frnandez attempts to get into the mind of Mr Body Language
You started young: as a ten-year-old you sold rubber sponges from door-to-door. What lessons did you learn from that time? Do you apply any of these today?
I started even younger. It must have been 1956 -- Dad was an insurance salesman and I would tag along with him on his rounds. I learnt a lot by watching people. By the time I turned 10, it held me in good stead. Things haven't changed since the 1950s -- gestures are still linked to emotions and behavioural influences are easy to gauge even today.
What led you to write Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps?
The origins of the book go back to 1991. I wife Barbara and I were close to getting divorced. We couldn't live with or without each other. As a part of self-therapy we worked on lists where we spelt out a list of things about each other. Three years before that, in 1989, the world's first brain scan targeted men and women's mindsets and came out with quite a few logical ways of explaining man-woman relationships. It provided enough fodder for this book.
Allan and Barbara Pease
It's been published in 52 languages across 160 countries. The content struck a chord in each of those countries such that every reader believed that a local wrote it. The problems are exactly the same. For example, all that Botswana's Bushmen want to do at the end of the day is to chill in front of a fire at home while the wife would want to talk to him about the day. Likewise, in India, most men prefer sitting in front of the tube, remote control in tow. It's the same everywhere.
How important is listening in a relationship?
It is most important for the woman. Men start 90% of affairs and 80% are broken by women. Most women think, "He doesn't listen to me, it's like I don't exist at all." Women want acknowledgement from men while men are more interested about ideas, facts and data. Women prefer to talk about the events of the day -- downloading everything to their spouse without any interruption is important for them.
What are the most obvious body language traits that separate Indians from their counterparts elsewhere, particularly in Asia?
The basic emotions are the same regardless of culture. The subtle nuances change however. One of the most crucial elements in India is eye contact. Men here tend to stare at women, which comes across as aggressive and the exact opposite of what one notices in the rest of Asia. Another factor is touch: Men tend to hold hands with their best friends here -- there's nothing sexual about it. It rarely raises eyebrows here. Space is another factor that is interesting to observe here: how far one tends to stand from another person. Also, out here, I've noticed how people might be rude and offensive while arguing at traffic signals and get back to their normal behaviour as soon as the signal changes! Also, head wobbles here can be quite disconcerting for the non Indian travelling across the country -- one has no choice but to make our own inferences from these. It's been 25 years since I visited India last -- and the Indian Itch is still on. I pity the Indian woman who has no choice but to be a witness to it!
Are people more conscious of creating their own image or are we witnessing a bandwagon, "me-too" mentality?
Traditionally, in most parts of Asia including India philosophies veer towards the individualistic, spiritualistic frame of mind. But I've begun to notice how everyone now wants to get rich, real fast. It's very prominent here. Typically obvious cultural differences are changing here because of US television. Soon, there will be nothing to separate this part of the world from the West. It will disappear altogether. There were very measurable, pronounced differences earlier. Today, can see an Arnold Schwarzenegger in everybody.
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