How To Listen To Women Effectively
Women work through their jumble of feelings by talking them through with someone else.
That “someone else” need not provide any solutions, just an empathetic ear. The benefit to the woman comes mainly by the act of talking itself.
And so the primary skill in being a “good listener” is to know how to encourage her:
To start talking, and
To continue talking until she’s said all that she wishes to say
Because women are looking for empathy, the term Acceptance has come to mean those listener behaviors which collectively result in:
The woman being happy that she’s expressed her feelings, and
Her continuing to verbalize her feelings
The term Non-Acceptance has come to mean those listener behaviors that collectively result in:
The woman regretting having opened her mouth
Her stopping the act of expressing her feelings
Acceptance behaviors seem to come naturally to other women, but not to men. For men to excel at this skill, we need to be taught.
The first and most basic step is simply to listen.
That sounds easy but it isn’t, because most male-to-male conversations are Two-Way Conversations. The standard ritual is for you to say something … then the other person says something … then you say something additional … and so on and so forth.
During typical Two-Way Conversations, it’s common for us do the following:
Listen to the beginning of what the other person just said.
Make a guess as to where we think that comment is going.
Listen to the rest of the comment with half an ear while thinking about what we plan to say next. That way, we maximize our own “preparation time” and improve the odds that we’ll say something intelligent when it’s our turn to respond.
Men do that so often in business that it’s second nature for us. But when a woman is talking to you about her feelings, it’s a major mistake.
That’s because conversations with women are not Two-Way Conversations.
The Art Of One-Way Conversations
Most men don’t especially enjoy listening to women blather on and on and on about nothing of substance. We’ll pretend to listen (in order to gain access to sex later) but we don’t especially enjoy having to sit there and listen.
And so we mostly tune out. Either we’re working on what to say next or we’re just taking a mental daydream trip to someplace else.
Either way, women can spot such inattention immediately. It angers them. And when women get angry due to male inattention, they clam up. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve seen “the cold shoulder” up close. It wasn’t much fun, was it?
So this part is critical: Your job is to listen. You don’t have to worry about what you’ll be saying next because she’ll do all the talking. These conversations are One-Way Conversations:
But there is one catch to this easy and simple approach: Men are quite skilled at pretending to listen when in fact we’ve mostly tuned out instead.
How many times has a woman asked you in the middle of a conversation, “Are you listening to me?”
So just listening is merely the first skill you need to master.
Why “Just Listening” Isn’t Quite Enough
You also need to indicate to her from time to time that you understand what she’s trying to say, that you empathize with her, and (by inference) that you care.
To show her that you’re actually paying attention, you need a repertoire of helpful phrases to interject at the appropriate moment. These phrases act as “saving throws” to demonstrate that you’re doing your job.
In fact, these phrases are the same types of comments you’ll hear a woman insert from time to time when another woman is talking to her. Often, they’re little more than sound effects, such as:
At other times just a slow, knowing nod is required (as if you’re digesting what she has just said and it all makes perfect sense to you).
Easy, right? You do this every day, no?
But every now and then, a more incisive comment is called for, and here’s the basic formula:
“Wow, that sounds _______.”
Always say this slowly with an empathetic facial expression and tone of voice.
And in that blank space insert a word that describes the feeling she was trying to express. Pick whatever feeling seems to fit best.
Two Magic Words For Being the Perfect Listener
If you’re confused about exactly which feeling you’re supposed to insert into “Wow, that sounds ______” then here’s a shortcut:
We’ve found that we can cover most situations with one of just two descriptive words:
In our own experience, women grapple with feelings that feel unpleasant at least 70% of the time and “Wow, that sounds frustrating” fits quite well.
Another 20% of the time, she’ll be talking about feelings that feel pleasant, so “Wow, that sounds exciting” is a great pick.
With just those two words, we can cover almost every scenario.
A variation on the above “magic phrase” is:
“Wow, you must feel __________.”
Again, say this with the same empathetic expression and tone and insert an appropriate “feeling” word into the blank.
Common words that fit well here include:
“Furious” (if she sounds upset), or
“Thrilled” (if she sounds happy)
And that’s the drill.
Listen attentively, and from time to time utter a syllable or articulate the feeling she’s describing. You’ll be Mirroring the emotions she’s having trouble sorting out.