My wife is convinced that I either have Alzheimer's or simply don't care what she has to say. Take the other day. I'm in the backyard garden working on my laptop. She strolls out and surveys her garden. While she's inspecting the roses, I'm navigating the backend of my website, looking for a lost link. "Where did that link go?" I think to myself. "Maybe I saved it to my notes?"
Out of the blue my wife utters, "Hey babe, did you notice the fern?"
The music of her voice temporarily pulls me out of my website world.
"Did I notice the urn?" I ask, blinking at her affectionately.
"No, did you notice the fern? It's indigenous to this area." She looks just past me, offering a clue as to the location of the fern.
I scan around in a panic. "Is this a new fern or one she just moved around? How come I don't notice these things? Where is the indigenous fern?" So many thoughts run through my mind. Finally, I spy the fern.
"Ah, that looks nice. I like ferns." I smile at her. She's not smiling back. I glance briefly at my laptop, then back up at her. I'm not sure what to do next. Keep working? Shut the laptop and give her my undivided attention? I went with the latter.
Men just don't listen
Ask nine out of ten women if their men listen to them and the answer will be "no." And that's only because the tenth woman doesn't have a boyfriend. Much has been written about this and different theories abound. I read one study that said women's voices are structured differently than men's. The study indicated that women's voices have more musicality, and the tone is harder for men to focus on. They hear the music more than the words. Try using that one on your girlfriend or wife!
Common sense tells us that some men are just poor listeners. But that doesn't mean we can't improve our efforts before our significant others clobber us. Here's three reasons why men don't listen, and what we can do about it.
1. We're doing something else- This is probably the most common problem. We get engrossed in what we're doing. Be it working on the computer, watching a football game or reading Men's Journal. I know that's the case when I'm painting at the easel or writing on my computer. My wife will innocently come into the room and engage me. I might glance at her and nod, but chances are I haven't really digested what she said. Except for maybe the last three words. And parroting back the last three words won't help me. Women are on to that one.
Women will probably find more success by walking into the room and starting with a question. Something like, "Hey, when you have a minute can I ask you a question?" This will signal that she needs your undivided attention, and hopefully you'll clue in and actually put down the laptop or mute the television. Also, people remember by thinking, not hearing. Asking a question requires the other to think.
2. We're overwhelmed by details- Men sometimes get overwhelmed by details. We also tend to gravitate towards solutions, which is the last thing she's looking for. As my spouse once told me, "Sometimes all we want is a sympathetic ear. Someone to say 'poor baby' and let us share how we feel." Unfortunately, guys tend to rattle off a quick solution. For example, if your wife tells you she's frustrated at work and you say,"Then quit," that won't be very helpful.
Women often turn to their girlfriends to talk about stuff, but they need feedback from their guys too. A good strategy might be similar to the "when you have a minute, can I talk about something with you?" approach. Get his attention first, and then maybe preface things with," I don't need a solution, but let me share how I'm feeling about something with you." Hopefully, that will give the guy a heads up that it's time to listen and be supportive, rather than be Mister Fix it.
3. We tune out nagging- It's not that we don't deserve to be nagged at times. I think most guys, if they're honest with themselves, know they don't always follow through. But the reality is that repetitive complaining rarely results in positive change. What's worse, guys tend to tune out nagging and long rants.
My wife found a clever way around this. She uses sticky notes in strategic places to remind my son and I to do certain things. I've found the approach quite effective. Another option is similar to the above approaches. Tell your boyfriend or husband that you want to talk about something. Get his undivided attention. Use questions that make him think. Here's an example: "Babe, if you were a cat, would you like to walk into a litter box filled with poop?" Follow that with,"And would you want that cat's paws on your lap?" From there, your boyfriend or husband might better grasp why you need his help with cleaning out the litter boxes.
I'm sure there are many other reasons that men don't listen well. I suppose it's a two way street, like so many things in life. Men need to work on giving their wives their undivided attention. Wives should adopt clever ways to get their husbands' attention. Hopefully the above three examples and solutions will be of value in your relationship.