How to Solve the Listening Problem

Getting Men Out of the “He Just Doesn’t Listen” Box

There are some things that just don’t seem to change for the majority of people. One such thing is the idea (some women would say “reality!”) that “men just don’t listen” to women.

“Why don’t men just shut up and listen??” Is what most women seem to be saying in magazines, movies and music. Men think they listen just fine. Maybe we are missing something – what exactly women want men to listen to, and how they want men to respond | Photo by paladinsf

I think many couples never move past the issue because men actually think they listen well enough, and their complaining companions can’t seem to explain what exactly she means by “you need to listen more.”   Clearly there is a problem.

Well, I have been reading and based on a study recently published by the American Psychological Association, I certainly believe that a huge part of the communication problem, is wrapped up in the way women describe the “he doesn’t listen” problem.

“Just shut up and listen more!” may not be the answer. The study would suggest that women are not impressed or impacted with HOW MUCH a man listens per se. What matters most is first, WHEN (or to what issues) a man listens (pays real attention). Second, WHAT he feels (appears to feel) when he hears what is shared.

When Listening Matters Most

The study has a horribly long name  – “Eye of the Beholder: The Individual and Dyadic Contributions of Empathic Accuracy and Perceived Empathic Effort to Relationship Satisfaction” by Shiri Cohen, PhD of the Harvard Medical School and others.

What it says though is simple: it matters to women when men react to their particular emotions. So listening matters especially when emotions are stronger.

“Relationship satisfaction was directly related to men’s ability to read their female partner’s positive emotions correctly…Also, when men understood that their female partner was angry or upset, the women reported being happier, though the men were not.”

What Does Listening Mean (to Women)

Women do not just want an available ear – they want empathy. A show of common concern. A display of feeling, felt pain, understanding and compassion.

“The findings also show that the more men and women try to be empathetic to their partner’s feelings, the happier they are. The authors suggest that this research should encourage couples to better appreciate and communicate one another’s efforts to be empathetic.”

It is not good enough to have heard what she has said, it must be clear that you have also felt what she has said.

Why Does this Type of Listening Matter

“It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times” the study’s lead author, Shiri Cohen is reported as saying.

“This is consistent with what is known about the dissatisfaction women often experience when their male partner becomes emotionally withdrawn and disengaged in response to conflict,” said Cohen.

Its About Good Times Too

People with cheer-leading partners are much happier. Well think about it, aren’t you happy when someone celebrates your achievements? | Photo by PRINCESS THEATER – Raising the Curtain

Things get interesting –  its not just about when she is sad. Apparently people (both women and men) have a higher relationship satisfaction status when their partners blow horns and shoot fireworks in support of their successful ventures.

Another study reports that “People with cheerleader-partners report high relationship satisfaction.”

I cannot help but point to the obvious fact that the bible got this right eons ago: “Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad.” (Romans 12:15) Simple but sensible tip.

For the Road

Want to get out of the “he just doesn’t listen” box? Take this with you:

  1. Open your ears especially wide when she is sharing about her pain, struggles, hardships etc.
  2. Show on your face, in your actions, by your follow up questions, by your emotional response that you are listening and taking a real interest.
  3. For both men and women: Be supportive when things go great – when good news comes, celebrate!

Well what do you think? Please share.





18 thoughts on “How to Solve the Listening Problem”

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