What never ceases to amaze us are the similarities in the challenges raised by men and women when working with each other, with women often admitting that their number one issue is that men don’t listen. Men are usually surprised when they hear this and their typical response is, “of course we listen!” The greater insight is that men do listen, but not always in ways that communicate to a woman that she’s being heard.
One of the leading ways men sabotage their success with women is by not taking the time to show that they are listening and, in the process, demonstrate their concern and consideration. Women, in turn, tend to sabotage their success with men by expressing irritation or resentment for a man’s reaction when she’s attempting to communicate with him.
When men fail to give the proper signals that they’re listening, women begin to feel their words are not getting through. A woman’s sense of being excluded or dismissed stem from men not responding in ways that she values and appreciates. This leads her to feel she’s being ignored, that what she’s saying is not that important, or that she’s not that important. Here are the most common ways that indicate to a woman that a man is not listening:
- When he ignores what she’s saying by being so task-oriented and singularly focused
- When he interrupts her in mid thought with his solution, when she’s not looking for a solution
- When he presumes to know what she’s feeling—or should be feeling
- When he becomes easily distracted
Interruptions are very natural to a man’s way of thinking and acting but unnatural and unmannered for women. If a man interrupts a woman to make a point or offer advice and he’s on target, that last thing he would feel is that he wasn’t listening. He expects her to say, “Good point!” while all the while she may be thinking, “I’m not looking for advice. I just wanted to think this through with you, so please let me finish.”
Men generally love to solve problems and be the hero, so bringing a problem to a man is an open invitation for his advice. If he senses frustration or anxiety in a woman’s voice, he’ll tend to assume that it’s his responsibility to resolve the issue and put her mind at ease.
Women tend not to interact with others the same way men do, but if a woman can understand why men interrupt or become distracted—they can encourage a man to listen and be more supportive in the long run. A man’s tendency is to focus on a solution, and he will wait patiently and listen if that’s what he’s been asked to do. One of the best ways a woman can encourage a man to listen is to be very explicit by asking at the onset of a conversation, “I need your help and would like your opinion about something, but let me first give you a little background.”