Have you ever been just crazy annoyed at your boyfriend, guy friend, dad, brother, or another random dude in your life because he comes up to you all excited about a new thing and it’s something you told them about like three weeks ago? Well, you’re not alone. Turns out, we guys are actually terrible at listening—here’s why.
Listening is more important to women. The truth is, we guys simply don’t value listening as much as women do. In fact, we don’t value it much at all, especially in comparison to other relationship traits like compatible interests and a shared sense of humor. Even among our own kind, we’re rarely paying that much attention to what’s going on. We don’t even talk as much, so it kinda makes sense that our listening is sub-par.
We might be listening and you don’t realize. As guys, we have very different speaking and listening patterns than women. We tend to take longer gaps between speaking and give less feedback that we’re listening. Essentially, we talk like everyone is giving a speech—we each get a turn take their turn and pass it on. In contrast, women tend to provide a lot more verbal and visual feedback that conveys that they’re engaged and they take much shorter turns in speaking. Basically, that’s all a complicated way of saying that when we’re sitting there not responding to your story, we might be tuned in, we’re just not showing it.
We engage by solving problems. If a conversation isn’t solving a problem, we tend to switch off. If you bring us a problem, we will 100% solve it in no time. We’ll listen to the issue, ask intelligent questions, engage with creative solutions, and generally respond exactly how you would want. That’s because we’re problem solvers at heart. If something isn’t a problem that we can solve, we do tend to switch off a little bit.
Sometimes our macho-ness gets in the way. We’re taught that listening and engaging to emotionally connect with others is apparently weak sauce. It’s what sissies and girls do, not manly men who like hard liquor and hot women. As completely ludicrous this is, it’s what sticks with us as we grow up. Because of this, sometimes we’re not comfortable engaging emotionally, and that can seriously impact our ability to listen.
We tend to demand rational solutions to irrational problems. You know how I said we love solving problems? Well, we really only like to solve rational problems. When a situation is completely irrational (as so many emotional discussions end up being), we tend to neglect problems that lack rational solutions. If you’re talking to us about how two of your friends broke up and now you’re not sure of the protocol, we’re probably not going to be great listeners.
We might not agree but we don’t want to fight about it. Sometimes fighting about something is just not worth the effort so we’ll just nod along and make non-committal sounds that might mean something but probably doesn’t in order to let you run out of steam. The problem is, we don’t really care about it but we don’t really agree with you. However, you really care about this topic and we don’t want to LIE but we also don’t really want to confront the issue. We’d rather just let it rest, so the sooner we can get off the conversation train, the better.
There’s this little thing called confirmation bias… People tend to listen to and respond to things that confirm their own biases and ignore and disengage with things that don’t. It happens to everyone, not just guys, but as a result, sometimes we can be really hard to talk to. What this means is that whenever you’re telling us something that doesn’t confirm our own existing thoughts, we’re probably going to check out.
It might be a sign of a toxic relationship. If we’re not listening or you’re not feeling heard and supported, it might be a sign of a toxic relationship. After all, communication is the cornerstone to any positive long-term relationship. If you and your fella are struggling to talk and listen to each other, it might be time to start developing an exit strategy. Think of it as an early warning system.
It might be how you say it. As a rule, us guys tend to be a little more direct and blunt with how we’re feeling and what we think. Women tend to be a bit more indirect, using subtle inflection and body language to convey emotion. If you’re doing this—for example, if you’re upset about something but not coming out with exactly what—we’re probably just going to ignore it. Yes, it’s the WORST time to have that reaction since you’re already upset and disengaging probably won’t make it better, but that’s the reaction you’re likely to get. Solution? Just tell us the problem.
Sometimes we just don’t care about stuff. I know this makes us sound like major a-holes but it’s true—sometimes we just don’t care about what’s being said. It’s not right but it happens.
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