If you talk to anyone…moms, sisters, friends, therapists, they will all tell anyone, “Communication is the Key to a happy Marriage!” Well, it took me a bit of time to figure out that the most important part of communication is listening, not actually speaking. And, I mean, listening that is comprehensive and focused so it help you understand what the heck he is saying or where your groom is coming from. So, I am thrilled that Susan, PAX workshop leader, has decided to spend this month’s topic on how men listen. Take it away Susan!
Judging from every bride and groom I know (including myself), and every movie I have seen about how men and women relate to their wedding day, I am certain you have experienced some frustrationwith your man when expressing the details of the day. Whether you were giving him the play by play of each part of the day or sharing how upset you are with a bridesmaid, there were probably times you wish he could listen like your girlfriends do.
Men love listening to us, especially when we are really passionate about something. However, there are times when a man’s eyes will “glaze over” when we are talking. Remember, men are single focused. When they are listening to us, they are single focused on us. However, he is trying to figure out what to focus on. Sometimeswe give an amazing amount of detail and he can’t determine the focus of the conversation.
Default Listening #1: THE POINT
If the person a man is listening to is fine (i.e. not upset), he is listening for “the point” of the conversation. He is trying to remember all thathe is hearing. If we provide too many details that seem unclear or unrelated, he gets overwhelmed. This is when you will see his eyes glaze over and he often checks out.
No wonder the point is not clear to him, usually there is no point! We are simply trying to express our thoughts and ideas. We just want to be heard. However, we often end up feeling like he didn’t listen or doesn’t care enough to stay tuned in and engaged the way our girlfriends do. If you don’t want his eyes to glaze over, you need to spare him every tiny detail. Save that for your girlfriends. The women in your lives love to know things like what you were wearing and which store you were in when you decided on the invitations.That is all part of the lead up to the story about the invitations. For your man, he just wants to know which ones you picked. The point.
Default Listening #2: THE PROBLEM
If the person a man is listening to is upset, he is listening for, “What’sthe problem?” Men are natural problem solvers. If we are upset,they are compelled to solve our problem so we can be happy again.This is of course frustrating for us because we generally aren’t looking for the problem solver, we just want to vent. We need to get it out of our system and the best way to do that is to talk about it. When they interrupt us by trying to solve the problem, we feel likethey aren’t listening to us. We could be ranting and raving about how a vendor isn’t giving us what we asked for and they are searching the conversation for the problem. While we may eventually want his help, for now, we just need him to feel sorry for us. Sometimes, we just need to cry.
If the problem is not clear to him, he will ask clarifying questions. Have you thought about this? What about trying that? This is even more frustrating because generally we have already thought about the things he is suggesting, however we haven’t gotten around to telling him that part because he is SO BUSY INTERRUPTING US! While he is simply trying to fully understand the problem so he can help solve it, we often take offense to his clarifying questions. Doe she really think I couldn’t come up with that on my own? Does he think I am stupid? Of course, I already thought of that!! Ugg, why do I even bother? Might as well talk to my girlfriends. They listen!
While his ways of listening may cause you frustration, there is hope...
Tips for a different kind of listening:
- If you are telling him a story, train yourself to get to the point with quality information – spare the details. If you see his eyesglazing over, you are about to lose him. What is it that youreally want to communicate? Say your main points quickly.
- If you are upset or need to vent, ask for a different kind of listening. Ask him to “hold the trash” while you vent. He canpretend to hold an imaginary trashcan while you “empty yourbasket” or “dump”. There is no point, there is no problem to solve, you just need to vent.
- If you do want his help solving a problem, try asking in a newway. “I have a problem that I need your help with. I havealready tried A, B, and C. Now, what do you think I can do?”
Remember, men love listening to us. We will have much better results if we learn how to communicate in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the men in our lives.
Workshop Leader, PAX Programs