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Sure Thing

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Sure Thing Paper

The play Sure Thing, by David Ives, reveals the variations of boy, Bill, meets girl, Betty,

and the ensuing pick up lines. The central theme throughout the play displays multiple varieties

of a possible conversation that ends with a ringing bell that symbolizes a fresh start and a second

chance to make a good impression. What results is a very funny sequence; a series of

opportunities, of near misses, of crashing abject failures as Bill tries to engage Betty’s attention.

Body language, communication, and first impressions are just a few factors that we can use to

help start a new relationship if we use it right.

When Betty is alone in the cafe reading her book one can assume she doesn’t want to

be bothered just by looking at her. As Bill comes up to her and interrupts her reading the first

couple of times Betty doesn’t want anything to do with him. But when Betty finally tells him he

can sit down with her she still continues reading, not wanting to have a conversation. Body

language is everything. It’s more important than words, more important than routines,

and even more important than physical appearance. Bill should have known just by getting a

glimpse of Betty that she didn’t want to be bothered.

Solid body language is the best way to make a strong first impression. According to

Joe Navarro (2008), who specializes in the area of nonverbal communication or body language,

body language behaviors are guided by very primitive parts of our brain, called the limbic

system. Essentially, this system tells us when we are comfortable or uncomfortable and readies

our bodies to pursue what is attractive or to run or fight what is not. Given that, in a dating and

persuasion context, we can use simple body language clues to decide what our partner is feeling.

We can read whether his/her limbic system signals are particularly important for romance,

because that part of our brain is also responsible for our feelings of love (Fisher, Aron, Brown,


Study after study has shown that when men and women attempt to interact as equals in

friendly cross-sex conversations they do not play the same role in interaction, even when there is

no apparent element of flirting. Several striking differences in male and female contribution to

cross-sex conversation have been noticed in these studies. First, women show a greater tendency

to make use of positive minimal response, especially “mm hmm,” and are more likely to insert

“such comments throughout streams of talk rather than simply at the end.” Women also are more

likely to adapt a strategy of “silent protest” after they have been interrupted or have received a

delayed minimal response (Malts and Borker 2012). Like when Bill tried to make conversation

with Betty but it never went anywhere:

Bill: Would you mind if I sit here? Betty: No. Go ahead. Bill: Thanks. Everyplace else seems to be taken. Betty: Mm-hm. Bill: Great place. Betty: Mm-hm. (1120)

Contrasting contributions to cross-sex conversations have been observed and described

for men. Men are more likely to ignore the comments of the other speaker, that is, to offer no

response or acknowledgement at all, to respond slowly in what has been described as a “delayed

minimal response.” Men use more mechanisms for controlling the topic of conversation,

including both topic development and the introduction of new topics, than women do (Malts and

Borker 2009). As we see a lot in this play, Bill was the one that initiates conversation and he

guides it all the way throughout the play. Most explanations for these features have focuses on

differences in the social power or in the personalities of men and women. Men’s dominance in

conversation parallels their dominance in society. Men enjoy power in society and also in

conversation. Borker argues that “men and women come from different sociolinguistic

subcultures, having learned to do different things with words in a conversations with another,

even if both parties are attempting to treat one another as equals, miscommunication results.”

In general we like people who are socially skilled, intelligent, and competent. When two

people meet, they form impressions of each other, even if they are only in contact with each

other for a minute. There are two characteristics that people assess when forming impressions;

competence and physical attractiveness. For example, when Bill and Betty spoke about Faulkner

they were both capable of having the conversation:

Bill: I love Faulkner Betty: He’s Incredible. Bill: I spent a whole winter reading him once. Betty: I was so excited after ten pages that I went out and bought everything else he wrote. Bill: All that incredible psychological understanding. Betty: And the prose is gorgeous. Bill: And the way he’s grasped the mystery of time-

Betty: -and human existence. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read him. (1121)

Kristen Tubre, the head of the department of Psychology at Loyla University of New Orleans,

set out to find what causes initial attraction and also what factors influence relationship

maintenance in both females and males. At the end of the study males were found to prefer

attractiveness while women prefer personality and the financial stability to physical

attractiveness when choosing a mate. Although Betty says that labels are not important, when

Bill starts talking college scores and where college was Betty was only wanting to here the

highest scores and from the nicest schools so she knows that Bill will be able to support her.

Betty. Labels are not important. Bill. Labels are not important, exactly. Like me, for example. I mean, what does it matter if I had a two-point- [Bell] -three-point- [Bell] -four-point at college, or if I did come from Pittsburgh- [Bell] -Cleveland- [Bell] -Westchester County? Betty: Sure thing. (1125)

In the social world, what we see is not always what we suspect. “We may strive to see

others as they really are, but all too often the charlatan wins our praise and the altruist our scorn,”

writes Daniel Gilbert in an article reviewing research on judgmental mishaps. “People are

drastically overconfident about their judgements of others,” Gilbert adds. But not Betty!

A “sure thing” is something that you can bet all on, and that has interesting ramifications

in the context of romance and relationships. Aren’t we all looking for a sure thing? Isn’t love

something of a game of chance? By the end of the play, with the theme of fresh starts and

multiple second chances to make a good impression, Betty and Bills initial differences in opinion

have revered to become perfect companions, an ending that is really just the beginning, That’s

not to say that the road to getting there wasn’t hard. As in dating, where different aspects can

influence ones relationship. But with the best body language, communication skills, and a great

first impression who’s to say we can’t all find our mate?

Jabr 6

Work Cited

Bower, Bruce. "False Impressions." Science News 141.13 (1992): 200-03. Print.

Daniel, Maltz N., and Ruth A. Borker. "A Cultural Approach to Male-Female Miscommunication." Language and Social Identity (2009): 196-216. Print.

Gumperz, John J. "Language and Social Identity." Cambridge University Press (1983): n. pag. Print.

Ives, David. “Sure Thing.” Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan et al. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2010. 3-7. Print.

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