"My SmartyPants are made from the fiber of a indigenous tree-plant in the south of Durkadurkastan where the Tree of Life was rumored to have been planted in 846BC by sabertooth tiger shepherds..."
February 7, 2010 7:42 AM   Subscribe

My fiance has male answer syndrome. Lately, I have found myself getting irritated almost after every sentence. How do I change my perception/attitude so I can handle this with grace and humor instead of anger and stabbing?
posted by spec80 to Human Relations (54 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Think of it this way... Male Answer Syndrome is essentially the human form of a bird's plumage, that is, it's a mating display. When he does it, it's because he wants you. Be flattered!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:48 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Step 1: don't call it "male answer syndrome." I mean, I'm not criticizing your wording of the question to us. But if you're using that language in your discussions with him, that would probably be not so helpful. Yes, I'm pretty sure there's a better adjective than "helpful" to describe it. Anyway, I know many men with the syndrome you're describing ... and many women with it too. It's a human problem, not a male problem.*

Also, it would help to know if you've talked to him about this at all or if you're silently stewing about it. You mention your "anger and stabbing," but I don't know how much that's in your head vs. openly expressed. The sooner you talk with him about it (gently, of course, not angrily), the better. For one thing, this gives him a better chance to change the behavior. If you never mention it either because (1) you don't have the nerve to or (2) you think it's so obvious that he already knows about it, that is not ideal.

*Example: I was in a restaurant in Ithaca, NY, and a waitress was talking with a male customer who asked about another restaurant across the street with a sign that said "Wine and Tapas Bar." He wanted to know what "tapas" meant. She immediately and confidently replied, "Oh, that means they have wine and also beer on tap."
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Male answer syndrome is a condition characterized by trying to answer every question posed regardless of whether or not you know the answer or not. It's actually a problem on askme

Here's what urban dictionary has to say:
The tendency, especially among males, to make educated (?) guesses about subjects and present them as fact. The syndrome manifests itself most frequently when the sufferer is asked a question by a member of the opposite sex.
Female: Do I need to put premium gas in my car?

Male: Absolutely. If you don't, you will short out your cam injector bearings.

Female: Uh, I think you are suffering from Male Answer Syndrome.
The first question would be: how accurate are his answers? Is he actually correct? I would say, if he says "X" say you don't believe him and make him prove it. If he turns out to be wrong more often then not then he might learn to stop doing it. He may not even realize that he's just making guesses.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 AM on February 7, 2010

What is "male answer syndrome"?

It means if you ask a man about something he doesn't know about, he'll give a specific, authoritative-sounding answer because he feels compelled to pretend to know what he's talking about. (There's an example of this in the OP's heading, although it's generally better to spell these things out in the question itself.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:55 AM on February 7, 2010

Step 1: don't call it "male answer syndrome." I mean, I'm not criticizing your wording of the question to us. But if you're using that language in your discussions with him, that would probably be not so helpful.
I disagree. He probably isn't even aware that he's doing it. Learning that this is a standard "thing" and not just some quirk of spec80's might help him deal with his condition constructively.

The first thing he needs is to realize when he's making these guesses. If he knows he's going to get called out if he does it, he'll be a lot more careful about thinking about what he says.
posted by delmoi at 7:59 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think it's impossible to say what you can do unless we know how you already react. When he bullshits, do you treat his answers as if they're correct, even when they obviously aren't? If so, you might consider quitting that. It also depends on his motivation. If he's doing this to appear smart or authoritative, I'd definitely call him out on it when it occurs, every time (because, not wanting to lose face, he'll probably quit). If he just thinks he's right, but is wrong, I'd take him aside after the fact, in private, and point it out.

The good thin about the internet is that it can prove anyone wrong in seconds (even, unfortunately, me!).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:00 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to call him out on the bullshit he is spewing. MAS is a terrible, terrible affliction to have to deal with (and yes, females are occasionally afflicted).
posted by torquemaniac at 8:01 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Turn it back as a joke. "Why, that's the most interesting thing I've heard all day!" Maybe it's a UK thing, but we had a bunch of expressions and gestures (like chinny reckon) that would cure people of this tendency.

But then, I'm a bloke. I just had to answer.
posted by scruss at 8:09 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you have Female Nagging Syndrome. ;)

Really, though, you just have to let him know that nobody likes a know it all. Especially when they're wrong.
posted by mpbx at 8:12 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Did something change?-- was he not like this before? Speaking as a man, this is one of the few personality traits I consider a near-instant dealbreaker in potential friends, male or female, and even just thinking about people I know who do this is making me feel stabby.
posted by threeants at 8:15 AM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

My answer to you depends on a bit of omitted information: how does he treat your answers? If you have an answer or a solution, does he condescending dismiss them and insist on being right? If so, there's a bigger problem you should address before your fiance becomes your husband.

If not, just try to talk about it when he's not doing it in a lighthearted tone. Tell him its something you've noticed, that it bothers you, and ask him to be a bit more aware. You can turn it into a game for all the great dad-answers he'll be able to make up when your kids ask where babies come from.

Or call him on his bullshit and tell him to stfu. It's what I do, but then I'm not looking for a relationship that works.... :)
posted by motsque at 8:18 AM on February 7, 2010

someone very close to me is like this... I've learned to say "really!?" and drop it.... I care about them enough to acknowledge this is who they are.
posted by HuronBob at 8:20 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

When my husband gives me one of those answers, I just look at him and say "You just made that up, didn't you? You actually have no idea, right?" He'll often just laugh and admit it. Of course, sometimes he's not the only one in this marriage who has the syndrome.....
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2010 [15 favorites]

Some advice in the event that he does not change his ways:

One reason that Male Answer Syndrome bothers me is because I have an urge to point out when someone is wrong about a fact. I see sappy quotes misattributed to Mark Twain in Facebook profiles and my fingers itch. I have to remind myself that the world will keep turning even if mistakes go uncorrected. So:

Boyfriend: Padma Lakshmi hosts Project Runway.
You: I think Padma hosts Top Chef.
Boyfriend: No, I'm pretty sure she hosts Project Runway.
You think PRETTY SURE, HUH? YOU ARE WRONG, SON!, but don't say it. Transition out of the topic ("Padma has great taste," "Im hungry, do you want to go grab lunch") and remember that someday, your boyfriend will be watching TV and Project Runway will come on, and he'll see that Heidi Klum is the host, and he'll burn a little with shame and think to himself, huh, Girlfriend was right. I should've listened to her.
posted by sallybrown at 8:30 AM on February 7, 2010 [7 favorites]

You could simply repeat his words back to him, slowly and precisely, and ask him to verify each segment of it:

Okay, let me see if I've got this right...

Your SmartyPants are made from the fiber of a indigenous tree-plant?

And, they're made in the south of Durkadurkastan?

And this is the same area where a"Tree of Life" was supposedly planted?

And this planting happened in 846BC?

And this tree of life was planted by by sabertooth tiger shepherds?

Anyhow, that would certainly wake me up to such a habit.
posted by jon1270 at 8:30 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you want to challenge the behavior, you can say things like "wow, how'd you learn that?" or "so that's a fact, right?"

If you want to avoid the behavior, you could get portable internet. I got tired of trying to verify answers to questions from people, so I got an iPhone so I could look up anything I wanted whenever and wherever I needed to. I'm not kidding when I say it's made a difference in my life. :)
posted by Jenesta at 8:33 AM on February 7, 2010

Men deal with this by mercilessly mocking. However, that might not be great in the context of a relationship. :-)
posted by callmejay at 8:39 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a reminder of what the actual question is here:

How do I change my perception/attitude so I can handle this with grace and humor instead of anger and stabbing?

The OP isn't trying to change him, merely come to terms with this habit of his.

OP, you need to figure out why he's doing this and why it's pushing your buttons. He may be doing this out insecurity, fear, arrogance, ignorance, a genuine desire to help, based on the information he knows or a mixture of all these things. Have a talk with him, but approach it in a helpful way, as a problem you're having. Tell him how you perceive what's going on, emphasizing that it's your perception, not necessarily what it actually happening. Then be quiet and listen to him when he begins speaking. Get clarification about any unclear answers, then try and figure out why it affects you the way it does. From there you should be able whether you need to change your perceptions or ask him to tone it down.

The point of all this is to put a human face on what he's doing and understanding why he is the way he is and why you're affected by it in a certain way. Putting him an negative category i.e. "He has male answer syndrome" automatically marks him as wrong and you right. That's not a good way to go about approaching the problem, especially with someone you're planning on spending the rest of your life with.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on February 7, 2010

I guess by virtue of me having admitted I had never heard this phrase before I am immune to the disease.

Not necessarily. I have certainly been afflicted with a case of this, especially in my college days. But it was mostly because people would ask me the questions expecting me to know the answers because I was considered 'the smart one' in our group. Often, I was bullshitting but it's because I often felt insecure enough, even around good friends, that I didn't know what I'd do if I couldn't meet their expectations. If "the smart one" can't answer inquiries, why would "the funny one", "the kind one", or "the cute one" want to hang out with him?

(Yes, I realize how innane that sounds now, but I wasn't "the self-aware one" either.)

So though I can't guess why your boyfriend might answer questions that way, it might make you less stabby to remember that the appearance of cockiness doesn't always come from a self-assured place.

If you haven't let him know that this bothers you, explain to him why -- and go beyond the shorthand and generalization but get into why it makes YOU feel the way you do. Many are taught from a young age that we should strive to have all the answers, so it may take some explaining to open his mind to why this might be a bad thing.

Also, if this is something that comes up mostly when he's asked a question, then it might be as simple as rephrasing the questions and resetting expectations. Asking someone "Why does x happen?" suggests that you expect him to know something about x, and then he has to admit he doesn't, which can feel like he's disappointing you. But asking "Do you know why x happens?" suggests that you don't know if he knows, and he may be able to get off the hook with a simple "nope!"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:41 AM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding ThatCadadianGirl - my BFF's husband was/is a chronic guesser-of-answers-in-authoritative-tone. She habitually calls him out on it. Now he comes clean as soon as she balks & they have a little jokey moment together. I think you can ease your stabbing with a little humor at his expense.
posted by jenmakes at 8:44 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I became a lot more aware of this behavior when I started working in museums. For one thing, in museums and similar institutions, you hear this happen all that time. "What is that?" "Oh, that's probably a dental implement for pulling teeth," when it's a seed planter/borer. All kinds of assertive-sounding incorrect answers from visitors. It can be interesting to hang around in museum galleries and listen for them. So it's quite widespread, and has even been written about a bit in a scholarly way.

At the same time, museum staff are not immune to this. Both men and women can fall prey to the atmosphere created by being the staff perceived as having all the answers. So in healthy places there is a culture of comfortable and appropriate challenge when someone tosses out a confident but suspect answer. There's an awareness that myths can proliferate even among people who are right about a lot of stuff, and a respect for primary sources and authoritative secondary ones, too. In practice it sounds something like this:

"Wow, that's something I've never heard before. Where did you read that? I'd like to correct myself if what I've been saying about that is wrong."

"Are you sure that's what it was for? I've seen seed planters that were really similar in design to that implement. Who can we ask to find out for sure?"

"I thought that too, but then I came across an article by ___ or in ____ and learned that I had been mistaken about it. I'll put a copy of it in your mailbox/send you the link."

"That's definitely one possible answer, but I'd like to verify that before I relay the information myself."

So perhaps you can just start building a repertoire of responses that say "Hm! That's an interesting idea. I think I'll do some more checking into that and get back to you."

I agree, though, that a persistent problem with this is a real dealbreaker for me. Not even a dealbreaker so much as an instant put-off upon meeting a person who does this - we don't get to the point of having a deal to break. People who know a lot of things are interesting, but the smarter they are and the more they come to know, in general they should also be developing an understanding that it's possible for even them to be wrong, surprised, using info that's out of date, or misinformed. People who love facts do need to learn how to qualify what they can confidently say and not say. If someone is doing this more out of an insecurity or need to be seen as the smartest one in the room all the time, regardless of their desire to be actually correct, I wonder how far you will get in trying to work with this behavior.
posted by Miko at 8:49 AM on February 7, 2010 [10 favorites]

I TOTALLY understand the stabbiness. I've had some success by explaining to the offending party that if he can bring himself to occasionally acknowledge that he doesn't know something, it will give him a greater air of credibility on all his other bullshit assertions, and then challenging him to say "I don't know" three times a day.

Good luck, though. There's a high recidivism rate with this one.
posted by HotToddy at 8:51 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hm. I think of his condition as being called "Modern Jackass," thanks to this episode of This American Life, which a is slightly less male-hostile name for it.

My father is a frequent contributor to the fake magazine Modern Jackass, and when he starts doing it, my mother and I look at each other with raised eyebrows and mutter "Modern Jackass." Sometimes he hears us, and he laughs, sometimes he doesn't, but we've established that this sort of nonsense doesn't require refutation.

Also, seconding ThatCadadianGirl.
posted by purpleclover at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Er, ThatCanadianGirl.
posted by purpleclover at 8:53 AM on February 7, 2010

(I guess I should have said that the offending party was Mr. HT. Would not advise that approach with a co-worker!)
posted by HotToddy at 8:54 AM on February 7, 2010

Your fiance is mansplaining! From the link:
To explain in a patronizing manner, assuming total ignorance on the part of those listening. The mansplainer is often shocked and hurt when their mansplanation is not taken as absolute fact, criticized or even rejected altogether.

Named for a behavior commonly exhibited by male newbies on internet forums frequented primarily by women. Often leads to a flounce. Either sex can be guilty of mansplaining.

The members of the equestrian community were unimpressed when Bob posted an essay that mansplained a solution to a horsy problem they were all well-acquainted with.
You're not alone! One coping method is to roll your eyes and say, "Thanks for that wonderful information. Please, mansplain to me some more." Probably works only if your fiance has a good sense of humor.

Jon1270's advice is more diplomatic. I do something similar, and it's a good solution.
posted by halonine at 8:55 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife mostly cured me of this using the ThatCanadianGirl plan (TM).

Hello, I'm Chris and I'm a smarty pants. It's been 10 minutes since my last expression of omnipotence (I did say mostly).
posted by arcticseal at 9:03 AM on February 7, 2010

Take the cbt approach and make small wagers about the things that you know or which are patently dumb. Alternatively, have them try AskMe. A few good rubbings can cure many guessers. A fraternity brother of mine paid out about $100 in $5 bets before coming to grips with not knowing these things. In medical school, a few humiliating wrongnesses were good enough to teach the lesson about what you know and what you think you know.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2010

I apologize for the lack of detail in terms of the actual term and my reaction to it. I think many upthread have already answered the definition of the term correctly. My reaction is usually the thousand yard stare followed by escalated stewing.

I know he is genuinely trying to be helpful when he says these things which is why I know that it is me that has the problem and I should change how I react than try to change his behavior. And as someone pointed out above, I am well aware that I am guilty of doing this myself sometimes. However, my fiance is a much nicer and thoughtful person.
posted by spec80 at 9:08 AM on February 7, 2010

In my experience, it hasn't always been the detailed-answer-in-a-field-he-knows-nothing, but the need to give advice at all when what I really wanted to do was vent and get some sympathy for a problem. I often know the best plan of action, but for whatever reason, haven't done it.

Does that match your experience? I found with guys that don't get it, it is easy to tell them my objective point blank, and turn it into a point of humor instead of contention.
posted by whatzit at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

A fraternity brother of mine paid out about $100 in $5 bets before coming to grips with not knowing these things.

Whether this will work depends on you both and your relationship, but:

Placing silly bets sounds like it might be an excellent strategy. Make it $1 bets, or quarters, since it's not at all about the money. Him actually handing you the $1 will make you feel awesome, and give you a reason to look forward to his assertions. Plus, you might well be wrong.

Challenge him in a jokey way, and make it a fun thing you do between each other.
posted by amtho at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Set up a blog and fill it with his answers.
posted by quarsan at 9:25 AM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Hi, I am Broom, and I have M.A.S.

(several voices - "Hi, Broom")

I have suffered from this my entire life, but it was only when I was diagnosed by a therapist* that I realized this, and how badly it affected my life.

* Relationship counselor.

Since then, I've made a concerted effort to realize a fundamental difference between what people are often saying: "I have a problem and want to kvetch about it!", and what I am hearing: "You are wise! Please help me solve my life! Obi Broom Kenobi, you are my only hope!"

So, now, when someone (especially a girlfriend) tells me a problem, I remind myself to first sympathize, and nod understandingly, and only after that, if they seem to want some advice, do I offer any. Of course, I often forget to do this, but at least I remember sometimes.

And it's helped in relationships.


So, your question is how to adjust your own reactions. Be proactive, and explain it thus to him: "Sometimes honey, when I bitch about X, I don't want advice. I just want the most important person in my life to empathize, and tell me I'm not crazy/deserving of bad luck/stupid/doomed. Telling me you understand my feelings in the situation I'm in would make me feel loved, more than any advice you could offer."

All phrased positively: what he can do to make you feel more loved, which makes him an even more awesome boyfriend.

PLEASE ignore all the passive-aggressive suggestions to rub his face in it, or show him up, or otherwise react hostilely. These WILL NOT improve your reactionary feelings, and are very likely to merely make him dig in and take the haughty "she won't even listen to my well-intentioned advice!!!!!!!" stance. It's all downhill from there.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:41 AM on February 7, 2010 [15 favorites]

"You are so full of shit!"

Then see where the conversation goes from there.
posted by Danf at 9:46 AM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thanks, Danf; good example.

"You are so full of shit!" is a perfect way to send communications in your relationship into the toilet, while reinforcing your negative, hateful attitudes towards your boyfriend!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:15 AM on February 7, 2010

I tend to have this, a bit. A previous partner helped me chill out a bit by constantly calling me on it, in a kind, joking way. It was one of our ongoing in-jokes (the catch-phrase being "wikipedia-prove-it to me!").
However, that partner occasionally had to eat humble pie when I did know what I was talking about, (and could prove it) and wasn't just doing my knee-jerk "I'm smart" thing. The cool thing about calling out people when you suspect they're full of it is that occasionally you might actually learn something interesting about sabretooth tiger shepherding practices in the Durkadurkastan region - and when they go into explaining it to you, they start to realize how irrelevant and beside-the-point what they're telling you really is!
posted by Bergamot at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2010

Could you say sometime (when he hasn't just done this), "Hey, you know what, sometimes I have a hard time telling when you really know the answer to a question, or if you're just trying to help me by making plausible guesses. If you're just guessing, can you say so?" You may have to provide an example of a time when his "fact" turned out to be wrong, but not present it as if he were intentionally lying to you. Assume the best, that he was just trying to guess the answer with you because he wanted to help, and that you misunderstood him as stating fact.

Then you have set up the background to ask "are you guessing, or do you know" when you suspect he's doing it.
posted by ctmf at 10:55 AM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

May I point out that we males know we're all guilty of this? It's why we don't ask for directions (especially from other males).
posted by dinger at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2010

First, I 'm delighted that there's a term for this behavior. A perfect cultural example of MAS being used in a game is the "What Is It?" segment on "This Old House". Previous respondents have correctly identified it as a male dominance display, in both male and mixed company.

To the OP, you're not going to and probably shouldn't discourage him from MASing in company. It's not a disorder, it's a perfectly healthy social behavior. On the other hand, it's reasonable to expect him to be able to be vulnerable and less-than-perfectly-confident in private. I can't speak to specific techniques to bringing up his chronic private MASing, but I would absolutely bring it up if it's causing irritation.
posted by einheit at 10:59 AM on February 7, 2010

'Cause I like a "good question!" question and like to guess at possible answers. (I also sure like to make up plausible-sounding explanations for thing that I know are wrong as a form of humor, and my friends know when I'm doing it.) I'd hate to find out someone thought I was being serious or authoritative, though.
posted by ctmf at 10:59 AM on February 7, 2010

Right, so as I'm sure you know, your silent stewing is kinda toxic to you.

I suspect you'd find it easier if you had some verbal way of acknowledging when you know you've gotten a BS answer -- something other than the thousand-mile stare. One class of responses is that designed to change your fiance's behavior -- "oh, hey, you're doing that again, can you please stop?" This isn't necessarily a horrible idea; it's a small enough thing that he might be able to reduce the frequency of the BS if you two deal with it right.

However, that's not the only type of response that's possible. My husband is a huge fan of the make-things-into-a-private-joke school of relationship issue management; I've come to see the wisdom in this approach. The basic idea is to talk about the issue at least once so that that it's an acknowledged 'thing' between you two, and then make funny reference to it when it comes up. So you might say something like "oy yoy yoy, again with the bullshit!", but be smiling and laughing when you do it. Use the humor to reaffirm your relationship to both of you, and to keep him from feeling attacked. Heck, you could annouce a new rule: "every time I catch you BSing, you need to do a silly dance", or some such.

This is not advice to become passive-agressive: don't laugh if you really want to be stabbing his eyes out. Instead, what should be going on in your head is "oh hey, that annoys me! --> but this is a quirk of his, we've talked about it --> I love him and his quirks, and I feel close to him --> I'll just poke him and make fun of him for having done this". On his end, it will be like "oh no she's criticizing me! --> but she's laughing and smiling, she clearly still loves me --> how can I poke back at her? heh heh --> ... hmm, I guess I actually was doing that BS thing. I'll try to do that less."
posted by wyzewoman at 10:59 AM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may want to just adjust your reaction, but really, it'll be beneficial for him to know how you perceive what he says. He might feel a little hurt, but it's worth devising some sort of system.

There is nothing worse than someone with MAS encountering someone who flies off the handle at small issues, especially if the frustration is exacerbated by someone offering MAS-related reactions.
posted by mikeh at 11:12 AM on February 7, 2010

The problem with breaking down the answers is that you're stuck having a protracted discussion about something really boring Every Single Time.

Me and my SO also go with "Huh. You're totally just guessing, aren't you," with a wry grin. If whiskey is involved and assertions get huffy, bets are laid and the internets consulted.
posted by desuetude at 11:32 AM on February 7, 2010

I didn't know there was a term for that. I just call people who do it liars. I have a friend who does this all the time, and we just tell him to stop making shit up. Every time he gives a suspicious answer, we say, "Do you REALLY know, or is that made up."
posted by ishotjr at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Calling it male answer syndrome (even if it mostly is one) can turn a relationship discussion into a discussion of class, depersonalize the issue and him, and create a feeling of us vs. them rather than one of "how can we solve this?"
I'm much more likely to respond positively to a complaint about my behavior and how it affects you than a complaint that I'm a man and "Men are so [whatever]!" That discussion would already be headed in the wrong direction before it could even get started.
posted by TruncatedTiller at 12:49 PM on February 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Be careful how you treat the answers as well - on occasion the other anachronism just glosses over the "um, dunno really but I guess" bit that comes before "the smartypants are made of an indigenous tree-plant in the south of durkadurkastan" and I will then get grilled on the damn indigenous tree-plants and when my ignorance becomes super apparent, he wants to know why I didn't just say "I don't know". I'm a big fan of making a guess then researching but I'm also overly confident in my voice when I do said guessing so the um and ahs of the guess get overtaken by the confidence. I also have a waffling tendency - instead of just stopping at what smartypants are made of, I'll go into the tree of life stuff and by that stage, it's all over. So the other anachronism has learnt to pull up at 'indigenous tree-plant' and ask me if I'm guessing.

It's actually a mutual complaint in our relationship, which gets us lost every so often because we assume the other person is confident about where they're going, when in fact they aren't. So we end up on the wrong side of the city before the knowledgeable person asks why we're taking the long way. And it turns out the driver was waiting for instructions/going to work out of habit/had a vague idea but took a wrong turn but because they did it with confidence, the passenger shrugged and went back to reading/talking/singing.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:48 PM on February 7, 2010

Heh, I do this. It's fun seeing what I can get away with:

Her: Yummy, sandwiches are such a good idea!
Me: They were invented by the Earl of Sandwich.
Her: You lie.
[I prove that although perhaps not invented by, they are in fact named after the Earl of Sandwich]
Me, continuing: And the mechanism we use to open doors was invented by the famous musician, Handel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

I used to be an answer man. I knew everything, and if I didn't have facts I could make shit up that sounded like facts and were close enough in most circumstances. Being mostly correct is addicting as hell, especially when preening for a mate.

I am not an answer man anymore. I still know a lot of things, and can plausibly guess most everything else, but before I answer a question I consider if an answer is really what is needed. And sometimes if I don't know for sure, I will say, "I actually have an answer for that if you want it." Sometimes I will jape myself for knowing so much useless crap, or blame Wikipedia for being so sticky. Perhaps the most important skill I have in this arena is the ability to say "I don't know..." when I don't know. Then you can say, "but I could guess," or "let's find out together."

How did I make this change? I read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." In the first few chapters of the book one learns that the most important aspect of human communication is not transferring knowledge, but forming connections. Having an answer all the time does not make a connection. It does not make friendship. An encyclopedia is full of facts, but it is not a friend.

As soon as you internalize this important fact, you can reframe the situation from "i am being asked for information" to the much more humanely important "I am being invited to connect."

In the context of making a connection, then, there are no kindly delivered wrong answers. An accurate fact is good. An honestly proffered guess is good. An admission of ignorance is good. An invitation to continued research is good. Lies are bad, bullshit is bad, sneering is bad, mocking is bad, being a superior twit is bad.

So, how do you handle your partner with Answer Syndrome?

You show him my answer, you give him the book, and you call him (kindly) on his shit everytime he tries to be the Answer Man instead of being your friend.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:57 PM on February 7, 2010 [10 favorites]

Being married to a man with a bad case of Male Answer Syndrome, manifesting primarily in the form of mansplaining, I have to tell you, it only gets worse after you're married, when they stop being on their best behavior and/or start feeling the need to exert more influence control over the household. My advice is to find a way to manage it now, rather than waiting until the behavior is ingrained :) I use a combination of one very targeted incisive question to derail a mainsplain, humoring him if he's really into it, or wandering off mid-splain.

Lord knows I have my faults, so if Male Answer Syndrome is the worst he has for me, I can deal with that :)
posted by 2xplor at 4:35 PM on February 7, 2010

I have been accused of this. I don't correct people unless the mistake will get someone hurt or I am teaching. If someone asks a question of fact in a rhetorical way, and I know the answer and think it is actually something the person would be interested in, I ask "do you really want an answer for that?" If someone asks me something and I don't know, I will say so, and also tell them if I know anything that could be helpful in researching the answer. Or I will look it up with them right then. I am sure I fail at all of these sometimes, but I try to be very careful about it.

But despite this, I know that sometimes I rub people the wrong way. I don't know if this applies to your situation, but what I wish I could say in those situations is this: I don't think I'm better or smarter. When I say something, it's because I think you will be interested, and because I am interested in your response. If I misread the situation, I wish you'd tell me. If I am wrong, I really really want you to tell me.
posted by Nothing at 5:22 PM on February 7, 2010

Yeah, I have this (FWIW I'm a woman). I think the most valuable thing I've learned to combat this, much a some others above are suggesting, it preface my speculations with "well, I don't know for certain...". With that disclaimer out of the way you can really indulge properly in a flight of fancy - I think the important thing is to have a sense of humour about it and most importantly to not take your own answers too seriously. It's one thing to speculate, quite another to suggest that your answer is The One Correct Answer TM
posted by jzed at 2:18 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Married to a woman with this. This came out in couples therapy. The woman is very, very smart...just not about everything. Unfortunately, it has eroded her credibility in social circles where people start to tune out...even if they want advice over empathy...when she starts pontificating. It's an crying-wolf equivalent. So if you are a loving GF, and maybe even a possible wife, you owe it to him to point this out.

As my mother said, "It's better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought of as a fool, than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
posted by teg4rvn at 11:46 AM on February 8, 2010

What IAmBroom said is very true.

For the OP, I'm curious how much you get these "answers" in response to actual questions you pose and how much you get them just out of the blue when you say anything. Many of the people who responded here assume that you actually are asking questions. In my own personal experience, I get the MAS-type "answers" from people (either sex) when they don't understand that I haven't asked them anything.
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2010

Robert Angelo: It is usually when I am doing something that involves a certain method or form i.e. cooking/baking or folding laundry. I'm quietly doing it and he'll look up from what he is doing and comment and I will say, "What?" and he will begin going into it.

I spoke to him and it's all good. He is aware of it and I will employ ThatCanadianGirl's method. If I get really mad, I'll either walk away or flick him in the nuts. Or try to while he runs away which will make me laugh and I will feel better.
posted by spec80 at 3:58 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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