Ok, hands up. Who’s had their better half storm out of the room on them, leaving them dazed and bewildered and wondering just what the Hell happened. Was the TV remote in your hand? Were you mid-text? Had your head bobbed up from that important spreadsheet on your laptop? Don’t worry. It’s not her… It’s you. But the problem is easily remedied.
Remember, you’re setting an example
Not only do your kids use your behavior as a benchmark for how to be an adult, they will develop all their expectations for their future relationships on how you and your partner interact. You want to raise an active listener and effective communicator who’s successful in all their personal and professional relationships. So, lead by example!
Listening, and why you’re probably bad at it
It’s easy to blame smartphones. A world of information at our fingertips and we’re expected to remember every single detail of a colleague’s Turkish holiday or your partner’s nebulous plans to “maybe go somewhere next Christmas”? Let’s face it, it’s easy for our to dart between IndyCar news and blitzing the competition on Candy Crush while someone close to us is pouring their heart out and we think they have our undivided attention. The sad truth is, we’ve been poor listeners long before smartphone technology. Statistically we’re particularly bad at listening to our partners, in fact our attention span decreases by over 50% when talking with our loved ones as opposed to with our friends, typically starting to drift off after around 6 minutes.
It’s not you, it’s us!
Being a poor listener is an unfortunate symptom of male psychology. Having evolved as hunter-gatherers our psychology develops with a self-oriented bent where our female counterparts, for whom nurturing and empathy are more hardwired, tend to be oriented around others. Hence, we subconsciously apply a filter that blocks out information that does not pertain to us, which is why we’re so super-humanly crap at sustaining conversations about;
- People we’ve never met
- Celebrity gossip
- Partner’s colleagues
- Other people’s relationships
- Social media interactions
- Our partner’s feelings
… Unless they directly apply to us!
What you can do
Our subconscious loves to erect screens that cause us to zone out when our partner is talking. Your subconscious mind thinks that it’s trying to protect you from extraneous information that will distract you from your duties as a provider. But the reality is you’re unintentionally ignoring things that matter to her. This can lead to frustration and arguments and the next thing we know we’re sitting in an empty room wondering what went wrong. Here are some handy hints to help prevent these emotionally damaging scenarios:
If you can tell the conversation is serious put your phone away, turn off the TV and focus your attention entirely on your partner.
Look as well as listening
When listening we tend to think that we need only use our ears, but our female counterparts know that listening is a visual exercise too. Typically, women are better at picking up on visual cues like microexpressions and body language. Look directly at her, nod where you understand and try to mirror her body language and facial expressions to make her aware that you’re following along the conversation with her.