Penalties for not paying attention will be swift and severe!

Guys, the secret to successfully communicating with your wife is listening. Mainly her listening, but occasionally you should listen, too. And here I’m talking about setting aside time for serious, focused, lengthy, heart-to-heart talks where you actively engage in real, intense listening throughout the entire commercial break.

Eventually, however, the game will come back on, so you’ll want to stop listening and wrap things up quickly, but diplomatically. “I understand where you’re coming from” is a good line. “Let’s keep this line of dialogue open” is another. “YOU CALL THAT HOLDING??” is less effective and means you should restart the line of dialogue during the next injury timeout.

The problem is that listening is harder than it sounds.

I happen to be the worst listener in the world due to a combination of a short-attention span and complete self-absorption. The most interesting human alive could be regaling me with stories of his death-defying Everest ascent and post-summit party with Prince Charles and the Dalai Lama, and the whole time he’d be talking I’d be quietly thinking, “I’ve got to remember to get my furnace serviced.”

Effective listening means both hearing the words and not interrupting with your own stupid thoughts. After a long, frustrating day, your wife just wants a sympathetic ear. You may want to try to look on the positive side and offer encouragement, but sometimes a woman just wants you to shut the hell up and let her vent.

Husband: “How was your day?”

Wife: “Your daughter tried to feed woodchips to the baby.”

Husband: “Hmm. Well at least it wasn’t nails, like last time. Remember when — “

Wife: ” — It’s wood chips. Those are dangerous.”

Husband: “I think they’re organic. Plus they have lots of fiber, too.”

Wife: “She was putting foreign objects in our baby’s mouth!”

Husband: “Well, we did say we wanted her to take an interest in her little brother.”

(Silence)

Husband: “Um, are you OK? Because I’m not comfortable with the way you’re looking at me right now. And could you put down the carving knife?”

So, guys, sometimes your wife just wants you to listen and not say a word, unless that word is, “I’m going to pick you up something from Enstrom’s and the liquor store.”

I realize I’m facilitating gross stereotypes here, but when an issue arises, men want to solve it, whereas women want to talk about the problem, discuss their feelings about the problem, then, maybe resolve it. I’m not saying this approach is wrong; I’m just saying men could never adopt it.

A typical Saturday morning at a guy’s garage:

John: “Buddy, I need your help. My fuel-injection is messed up.”

Chuck: “Oh. I’m sorry. How does that make you feel?”

John: “Huh? What the %#@ are you talking about?”

Chuck: “The fuel-injection. It must be difficult for you to see it misfiring.”

John: “Well, uh, yeah. I guess.”

Chuck: “And having a vacuum leak in the intake manifold can be frustrating, can’t it?”

John: (On the verge of tears.) “Yes, it really can.”

Chuck: “I’ve found that oftentimes hugs can ease the emotional pain of compression-related ignition issues.”

John: (Crying.) “Hold me!”

But we don’t do that. We can’t. In an actual study by the Indiana University School of Medicine, researchers found that women use both sides of their brain to listen, whereas men just use one side.

According to a researcher: “Women can handle listening to two conversations at once.” I found this fascinating considering that men can barely handle listening to one conversation at once.

Yet we need to try. We get so caught up with kids and work and life that we need to remember to take time out, realize what’s important in this world, and for once in our lives, actually spend quality time having long, meaningful conversations with our wives.

Which I definitely plan on doing during the next injury timeout.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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