In Adrian F. Ward’s “Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends,” a study was performed that sought to evaluate how men and women perceived seemingly platonic friendships with the opposite sex. From this study, it was ascertained that women and men’s perception of these friendships were vastly different. In this article, “Men and Women Can’t Be “Just Friends” by Ward, the argument is effectively established that men mistakenly perceive mutual attraction through this qualitative study; however, the argument could have been made stronger through more data, such as quantitative data.
In this article, the author conveys the message that men and women evaluate friendships with the opposite sex in different ways, with men being much more attracted to their female friends, as opposed to their female counterparts. The author emphasizes how this question has persisted over time, but until recently, has not been validated. The author also provides real life examples, alluding to how men and women can “live, work, and play side-by-side, and generally seem to be able to avoid spontaneously sleeping together” (Ward, 1). She then moves into her argument, stating that this platonic relationship between men and women is a “façade” (Ward, 1). Through this qualitative study, the author concludes that men mistakenly and misguidedly believe that their opposite-sex friends are attracted to them; however, the women are “blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends [. . .] they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual” (Ward, 1).
The author relays this message by providing evidence from this qualitative study to substantiate her claims. This research involved 88 pairs of opposite sex friends, emphasizing their privacy at all times to be sensitive to any “unspoken romantic feelings” (Ward, 1). Thus, both confidentiality and anonymity were maintained throughout the study, in addition to the friends agreeing to not discuss the study at any time. Then, the friendship pairs were separated from one another for individual questioning. These questions delivered pertained to the men and women’s feelings towards each other, in an attempt to determine if there were any romantic feelings associated with the other in the study.
From these questions, it was gathered that men were far more attracted to their female friends than they actually acknowledged to their friends. Additionally, men were more likely to mistakenly believe that their opposite sex friends were as attracted to them, if not more. However, the women did not perceive their friendship with their male friend in the same way, assuming that their lack of attraction was mutual on both ends. Ward also claims that, from this research, the men’s feelings had no relation to how the women actually felt, “and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt” (Ward, 1). Thus, men regularly overestimated the level of attraction felt from their female friends, while women regularly underestimated the level of attraction experienced by their male friends.
In addition, these questions also determined that men were also more likely to act on their misjudged perceived mutual attraction, unlike women. However, both men and women experienced equal levels of attraction to already “taken” friends of the opposite sex, and also those who were single. In spite of this similarity, women were more sensitive to relationship statuses, while men were not. Thus, through this qualitative study of one-on-one questioning, these conclusions were drawn.
This argument presented by Ward was convincing to an extent. Qualitative data, as shown in this research, allowed for the researchers to garner information on opposite sex pairs via questions. This allowed for a free flow of verbal exchange between those being questioned, and those who were delivering the questions. Also worth noting was the fact that those being questioned were not hindered or self conscious, as a result of their opposite sex friend not being in the room with them during this process. Qualitative research, such as this, allows for rich content with open-ended answers, thus allowing those under study to speak freely in an uninhibited nature. As a result, this was an excellent way to gather data on the inside feelings and sentiments of friends of the opposite sex.
However, as the research heavily relied on just one mode of data collection via qualitative research, this research lacked the necessary quantitative data to further back up the claims being made. This research could have been made significantly stronger if there had been some numbers involved. For example, if there had been questions that relied on asking scaling questions, such as how they felt on a scale of 1 to 10, or noting the number of times that men had acted on their perceived feelings of mutual attraction, this would have made the argument much more convincing and substantial.
In addition, although the women were found to underestimate how their male friends felt about them, it is difficult to clearly discern, as the researcher, if they are being completely honest or willing to divulge this information. Perhaps the women felt that, even though they were in a “verbal” contract with their male friend, they still were not comfortable revealing their true feelings to the researcher. After all, the women were found to be more “sensitive” to others’ relationship statuses; perhaps they were also sensitive in revealing their true sentiments.
In summary, in Ward’s “Men and Women Can’t Be Just Friends,” the author argues that women and men’s perceptions of opposite sex friendships vary greatly. Though the information presented in this argument is convincing to an extent, it lacks sufficient evidence to thoroughly convince the reader on its claims. Including additional data, specifically quantitative data, would have provided the research more substantial evidence in convincing the reader.