Effective listening does not come naturally. It is a skill and needs to be practised and developed. It takes hard work and concentration to listen effectively to what someone is saying.
Imagine this scenario: your better half ‘The Enemy’ says to you ‘We need to talk’. This is the battle of the sexes in a nutshell. She is of course lying. She doesn’t mean ‘We need to talk’ at all. What she really means is ‘I need to talk, you need to listen’.
Now, effective listening does not just happen. You need to prepare. First, eliminate all distractions. You can’t listen properly if the kids are running around causing havoc, if the television is on at full blast, and the dog is trying to rearrange the insides of the cat.
So eliminate the distractions. Turn off the television, get rid of the kids, sort out the dog and cat, and then give her your full attention. You will already have scored a few points if you have said something like ‘I will give you my full attention, just let me turn off the TV, eliminate the kids, and murder the cat and dog.’ This done, it is time to listen. ‘Ok, darling, I’m all yours.’
Effective listening starts now. Sit down with The Enemy and prepare to concentrate. Let your body language tell her that you are listening. Maintain good eye contact, lean towards her. Take her hand in yours. Remember that she is the centre of your universe, the only thing that matters to you in the whole world, and dote on her every word. Remember, this is not about you talking, it is about you using effective listening.
The whole point of this approach is that you do actually have to listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t top her story with a better one of your own. Don’t judge her. Don’t turn away as if you’re not interested. Empathise with her. Show her that you understand what she is feeling and that you feel the same way. Don’t talk except to show her that you are listening and understand what she is saying. ‘Yes, darling’ is good communication from you. ‘Uhu’, ‘I know’, ‘I know why you are so frustrated’. ‘Really’. ‘How do you feel about that’.
And if you are not sure about something, ask her. Don’t try to listen for five minutes and then turn off and lose your concentration because you haven’t a clue what she is talking about. Don’t think about sex with her, her sister, her niece, her dog or any combination of these. Don’t think about sex at all. You can do that later. Ask questions if you’re not sure about something . Ask questions to make sure you understand. Ask questions if you don’t understand. Ask questions to show her that you understand what she is saying.
This is VERY effective listening. Show her that she is important to you by how you listen. Devote ALL this time to her, and the returns will be amazing. Relationships are crucial and this simple technique is one of the best ways to tell her so many things that she wants to know but needs reassurance about. That she has a place in your life, that she is wanted, safe, secure, and loved.
Now, of course, you are a Martian, so your instinct is to identify her problem and solve it. That is not the point of this exercise. DON’T solve her problem, Just listen to her and make her feel important and loved. And remember that effective listening is much more than just listening to words. Pick up on her attitude (sad? upset? confused? worried?) and react accordingly. Look for non-verbal cues as well. Does her body language tally with what she is saying or feeling? What is her face saying? Do her gestures tell you anything? All these are crucial for effective listening.
All these things are simple to do, but they require concentration and WORK. But whilst you are listening, you are working on your relationship, so this is worthwhile work. Have the patience to listen to everything she says and don’t appear inattentive or bored or exasperated. Then round it all off with ‘I love you’ and a hug, and you will have done your work very well.
Until, of course, tomorrow, when she utters those dreadful words ‘We need to talk’. Except that this time they aren’t so dreadful, because you have developed effective listening skills, great ammunition for you in the Battle of the Sexes.