LEARNING TO LISTEN
Likewise, if a man does not understand how a woman is different, he can make things worse when he is trying to help. Men need to remember that women talk about problems to get close and not necessarily to get solutions. So many times a woman just wants to share her feelings about her day, and her husband, thinking he is helping, interrupts her by offering a steady flow of solutions to her problems. He has no idea why she isn't pleased. For example, Mary comes home from an exhausting day. She wants and needs to share her feelings about the day. She says, "There is so much to do; I don't have any time for myself."
Tom says, "You should quit that job. You don't have to work so hard. Find something you like to do." Mary says, "But I like my job. They just expect me to change everything at a moment's notice." Tom says, "Don't listen to them. just do what you can do." Mary says, "I am! I can't believe I completely forgot to call my aunt today." Tom says, "Don't worry about it, she'll understand." Mary says, "Do you know what she is going through? She needs me." Tom says, "You worry too much, that's why you're so unhappy." Mary angrily says, "I am not always unhappy. Can't you just listen to me?" Tom says, "I am listening." Mary says, "Why do I even bother?" After this conversation, Mary was more frustrated than when she arrived home seeking intimacy and companionship. Tom was also frustrated and had no idea what went wrong. He wanted to help, but his problem-solving tactics didn't work. Without knowing about life on Venus, Tom didn't understand how important it was just to listen without offering solutions. His solutions only made things worse. You see, Venusians never offer solutions when someone is talking. A way of honoring another Venusian is to listen patiently with empathy, seeking truly to understand the other's feelings. Tom had no idea that just listening with empathy to Mary express her feelings would bring her tremendous relief and fulfillment. When Tom heard about the Venusians and how much they needed to talk, he gradually learned how to listen. When Mary now comes home tired and exhausted their conversations are quite different. They sound like this: Mary says, "There is so much to do. I have no time for me." Tom takes a deep breath, relaxes on the exhale, and says, "Humph, sounds Ii ike you had a hard day." Mary says, "They expect me to change everything at a moment's notice. I don't know what to do." Tom pauses and then says, " "Hmmm." Mary says, "I even forgot to call my aunt." Tom says with a slightly wrinkled brow, "Oh, no."
Mary says, "She needs me so much right now. I feel so bad." Tom says, "You are such a loving person. Come here, let me give you a hug." Tom gives Mary a hug and she relaxes in his arms with a big sigh of relief. She then says, "I love talking with you. You make me really happy. Thanks for listening. I feel much better." Not only Mary but also Tom felt better. He was amazed at how much happier his wife was when he finally learned to listen. With this new awareness of their differences, Tom learned the wisdom of listening without offering solutions while Mary learned the wisdom of letting go and accepting without offering unsolicited advice or criticism. To summarize the two most common mistakes we make in relationships:
1. A man tries to change a woman's feelings when she is upset by becoming Mr. Fix-It and offering solutions to her problems that invalidate her feelings.
2. A woman tries to change a man's behavior when he makes mistakes by becoming the home-improvements committee and offering unsolicited advice or criticism.