A Letter to Men; Listen Up!
By Rory Gibson
Like many teenagers, I am fond of sitting in shopping centre food courts. The kids call it “chillin”. I call it research. It’s amazing the joy to be had just quietly observing the human species as it happily and sloppily grazes in this climate-controlled biosphere, safe from the predators outside the automatic doors.
To blend in with the herd I have a kebab. Who said work has to be dull?
Nature rewards patience. Sit downwind, try not to spook the animals, and have your eyes and ears switched on long enough – something magical will happen.
And so it was that I was rewarded as I lingered in the local mall, reluctant to venture back out into the cloying fug of a very sticky, humid Saturday. While munching on a fine lamb kebab (hot chilli sauce, no extras thanks), I became aware of a drama unfolding at the next table.
A woman, sitting with a man I presume was her significant other, was sobbing with some vigour, driven to tears by something that was more serious than, say, not winning anything on a scratch-it.
She was wiping tears from her face, her handkerchief already sodden, all the while talking in a low voice to her man. I couldn’t hear what she was saying.
But he obviously could, and I scoured his face for traces of concern. Inscrutable. The only sign of acknowledgement on his part was what appeared to be sympathetic nodding.
Suddenly the bloke’s hands shot out and came together with a loud report high in front of his face, ending the life of a fly that had been on a reconnaissance mission around the remains of their lunch. This had a couple of effects. For one, it startled the torpor out of people at adjoining tables, myself included, causing us to jump in alarm. It also distracted his previously inconsolable partner from her grief. She stopped sobbing and gave him a Julie Bishop-esque death stare.
What had appeared to be sympathetic nodding was just the Mr Miyagi wannabe tracking the movements of the fly, and instead of listening intently to his one true love’s tale of misery he was waiting for his moment to pounce. His patience paid off. It’s nature’s way. And that’s fine if you are hunting flies, but rubbish if you are supposed to be listening to your girlfriend pour her heart out.
Listening is something men aren’t good at. We are problem solvers. We just want to hear what the problem is, then suggest a fix.
The other aspect of our male communication behaviour often manifests itself when we first meet potential dates… men tend to talk too much about themselves. Narcissists aside, they do so not because they aren’t interested in what the woman they are trying to woo has to say, but because they feel the need to sell themselves quickly.
There’s a personal trainer at my gym called Sam, and because he works closely with people at a very intimate level I often workshop theories about human behaviour with him. Not scientific I know, but insightful nevertheless. I was telling him about the fly hunter in the shopping centre, and we got to talking about listening habits.
He’s an instructor for other personal trainers, and he always hammers it home to his students that if by the end of the first couple of sessions with a client they know more about you than you know about them, you’re failing in your job.
It’s the same with dating. So many women tell me that they’ve gone out with a guy who on paper looked great but by the end of the night they were bored rigid because he talked about himself the whole time.
Flip it around fellas. When you go out on a first date, make sure you come away knowing more about her than she does about you. Show an interest in her work, her hobbies, her background.
And by background I don’t mean interrogate her about her dating history. Ask her about where she grew up, her favourite memories from that time, her school.
Nothing too personal, just genuine curiosity. And when she answers your questions, look her in the eye and listen like it’s the most important thing you need to hear that month. Successful dating requires successful communication, and successful communication requires a genuine ability to listen. The hottest dates happen between the ears, not the lips.
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