I had a meeting with a self-identified relationships healer a couple of months back. I loved her work because she seemed to have the idea that women weren’t listening either. She would tell me how in relationships there would be a lot of reflection from the women about what men weren’t doing right, but no self reflection or holding space for the man to talk. What did he want out of the relationship? Why doesn’t he speak up? Yeah, she was onto a winner there. You can’t automatically expect men to divulge and open their feelings whilst at the same time complain that they aren’t doing as you ask. Men need to feel respected too.
Yet it’s easy for me to speak up, you ask? Well, think of me as someone that’s worked extensively on his past and present. I’ve had a lot of good help that many don’t have access to now.
Seems a lot of people have a lot to say right now but no-one is actually listening. Have I ever told you that for the last 8 years I’ve managed teams of people on and offline? Did you know the easiest way to empower voluntary co-operation is to have your staff members feel like they are respected? Yup, that’s all you need to do. Make sure that your staff members feel respected enough that they can come to you with any problem they may have. However little. And no dismissing it as frivolous, or petty. Every small thing can be blown out of proportion when left for too long.
Where am I going with this? Well, think of it as the ego trap. I used to think that only men had dainty, fragile egos. That it was only men that you had to navigate around with a tippy toe attitude as to protect their feelings. I found out though that it was everyone, it’s just that men are perhaps more direct about it than women. It’s not common to talk about the female ego, but if you read any psychology book you’ll find out that women’s ego’s can be just as fragile too.
One thing I’ve learned to do in my relationship that’s proved really beneficial is to reflect on my own behaviour. When she’s mad it’s not because she’s being a bitch, it’s usually because I’ve done something to upset her. Taking my management experience from this whole scenario I’ve realised to take any grievance that she has with me with concern. One of the BIGGEST flaw in any relationship is to brush off your partners concerns as if it wasn’t important. It might not be important to me; it may seem particularly stupid to me; it may even seem petty to me; but the core point is that it’s upsetting her and it’s something that needs to be talked about. So, after a lot of two and fro we look at a solution which may involve a behaviour adjustment from one or both of us.
Don’t get me wrong though, she treats me exactly the same way. My grievances, however unimportant or shitty, are heard. This is quite an advanced communication technique. For both people to look at their own behaviour and adjust accordingly. I say advanced because I don’t hear of many people using this, apart from my happily married friends, though. Those that have taken accountability for all they have in life.
So why have I talked about men listening better to women for this entire article when it’s about women listening better to men? Well, it’s like this. The way I hear women complaining that their man never listens to them, I would like every woman that reads this article, and has a grievance with their partner, to go and act with their partner in the same way they want their partner to act with them. Sounds easy, right? Treat others the same way in which you would like to be treated. Actually, it’s not easy, and I’m not blaming anyone for this. It’s never blaming with me, it’s always solutions.
Listening is an art. It’s hard to sit there and hear things you’re either being blamed for, or accused of, or even being moaned at. If there’s one thing I know about is suppressed feelings, and if you aren’t holding space for him then I bet you anything there’s another person holding space for him somewhere else, and he won’t be painting a scenic picture. Feelings have to come out in some form. I’m not saying this could be a woman, it very well could be a man friend, a bartender, or just a computerised text bot. Fact of the matter is you have to allow him to say what’s on his mind. Let him speak to you in a way that you will listen to him — sort of in the same way you always wish he will listen to you.
Right about now your ego is probably kicking in and telling you, “Why do I need to make the first move, why can’t he?” — Yeah, I honestly get that. I really do, but in the end something has to give way; someone will have to be the bigger person and hold space for the other. Sometimes it just needs one act of selflessness to create a super nurturing relationship. Take my wife for example, if she hadn’t held space for me I would have in the end never listened to her. I would have accused her of nagging all the time and probably have fled the nest after I couldn’t take it anymore. We’re super happy, I listen to her in the same way she listens to me. Good actions breed other good actions. Think of it like an empowerment domino effect.
So when I hear about the wage gap; when I read about the constant denigration of the masculine, and the incessant drone of how we live in an oppressive patriarchal society I switch off. I call it the blinker effect. We have this, us men. It reminds us of when our mum’s nagged us, when our sisters chided us, and when our aunties scolded us. It’s an inbuilt off switch that shuts us down when anything negative comes our way. If you wonder why bad news travels ten times faster it’s because we are primed to seek out the negative in everything (think from primal days when danger was constant). Think, if you really want a lot of us to listen, then you need to listen to us too. Communication is bi-directional and not one way.
This is why I think we need to be treated with respect also.