When we conducted a national survey of women for our book, For Men Only, my husband Jeff and I learned that one of the highest felt needs for many women was for their husbands to listen to them. Now, every guy has heard, ‘she doesn’t want you to fix it, she just wants you to listen.’ Most recently, this point was brought home with the video gone viral It’s Not About the Nail. (I wrote a blog for MomLife about this video which you can find here.) Certainly, every guy out there has been as confused as the guy in the video about what in the world it means to “just listen.” Jeff always thought it meant to just let me talk about whatever was on my mind, sit there and not interrupt. And when I was done talking, then he would fix it.
Surprise, surprise, that actually wasn’t the right approach.
When we were doing the research for For Men Only, our interviews and surveys of women helped us identity specifically what listening means to us women. Believe it or not, it is just a shift in focus. From what I understand in my research, men have trained themselves their whole life that when someone comes to them with strong emotions that those emotions are counterproductive and clutter up their ability to solve the problem at hand. So they filter out all those emotions, in order to focus in on the problem. However, those feelings they are so busy filtering out are what women most want them to listen to! Instead, they need to put their Mr. Fix-it hat on the other way, and learn to filter out the problem in order to focus in on the feelings. If men figure out what their wife or girlfriend is feeling, and just say something like, “I’m sorry, honey, did you feel like your friend didn’t appreciate such-and-such?” … then she will feel like she’s been heard. All those jangling emotions have been defused, and then if a solution to the problem is needed, she will be much more interested in sitting down side-by-side and figuring out what it is.
I realize for men this may feel really odd. It feels sort of – wimpy – to just listen and acknowledge feelings… it feels to men like they didn’t accomplish anything! But after all this research with women, it is clear: if men do this, they will actually be solving something for her. I’m not saying men can’t offer any technical solutions. But what I am saying is to do things in the right order. First, identify and acknowledge her feelings. Then she’ll be more interested in your brilliant problem-solving skills.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.