Husbands are great at listening. We hear a request to take out the garbage, so we take care of that. We hear a demand to replace a light bulb, so we take care of that. We hear our wife ask us to listen to her problem, so we head right off and fix that. Well, not so fast. What if your wife really didn’t want you to fix her problem at all?
We are going to look at listening in a whole new way today.
When your wife asks you to listen to her problem, chances are she doesn’t need you to fix the problem at all. She really just wants you to listen to her problem. She doesn’t necessarily want you to fix it, but only be able to understand how she feels about it. The problem is probably fixable, and as a guy we are trained pretty well to go right for the solution. For your wife, the real issue is her negative feelings about a problem. What is hard for us to understand is that by talking about the issue your wife is able to fix something inside of her. Instead of approaching your wife as Mr. Fixit, consider if she is expressing an emotional issue or not. If it has to do with relationships, her health, or her perceived value, chances are you need to approach it as an emotional issue. So now would be the time to take off your Mr. Fixit hat and turn on those listening skills.
So, essentially your wife wants you to listen by not fixing her problem and fix her problem by listening. Confused yet? Good. We are all on the same page.
Let’s look at four necessary wife listening skills.
Give your wife all of your physical attention
For your wife to feel you are listening to her, you need to take your attention off of everything else and give it solely to her. That means looking at her in the eyes, staying still, and staying in the same room with her. It may also mean you have to hit pause, set the IPad down, or send the kids to another room.
Give your wife all of your mental attention
So, listening is more than just hearing the words your wife says. If this was not the case, we could be replaced by sock monkeys. To listen you need to be able to recognize her feelings and understand what your wife is really trying to communicate. I hear you. This all seemed easy up until this point. This is starting to sound pretty exhausting at this point. You are correct. A woman has an almost unlimited capacity for listening and expressing emotions. They do not understand that we have a limit and then our brains shut off. Do the best you can to give your wife your full mental attention, but let her know when you have reached your limit and you will need to listen again another time.
Listen for your wife’s feelings about the problem
This one is best explained by Jeff Feldhahn in For Men Only, “Instead of filtering out her feelings to concentrate on the problem, we need to practice filtering out the problem so we can concentrate on her feelings about it.”
Let her know that you realize she has feelings about the problem
After you listen to your wife’s feelings about a problem, she needs to know that you understand how she is feeling. This can be accomplished by simply restating what she just told you so that she knows you got it. The important thing left at this point is to not blow it. Once you have let her know that you understand her feelings you then need to let her have that feeling. Trying to talk your wife out of having this feeling will only be counterproductive. If you do you will find yourself back up at the first listening skill.
We just saw one way we can mess up at this listening thing. Let’s look at a few more listening don’ts to avoid.
- Do not tell your wife she is overreacting.
- Do not question how she interpreted the facts.
- Do not throw out the hormones card.
- Do not ask her to stop crying
- Do not judge your wife’s feelings.
- Do not get defensive and take things personally.
Do not run for the hills, she needs you right then.
So what can we learn from all of this? If we can take the time to listen well to our wives we can harness great power to eliminate the troublesome emotions and help our wives finally find solutions to the original problem. She will appreciate you for this.