My girlfriend tells me all the time that “I don’t want you to fix it; I just want you to listen!” But that’s after I’ve been listening for 10 minutes! Seriously?
That’s what my husband thought too! Jeff thought “listening” meant to just let me talk about whatever was on my mind, sit there and not interrupt. And when I was done, then he would fix it.
Nope! That doesn’t make a woman feel “heard”.
Have you seen the amusing viral video, “It’s Not About the Nail”? It is easy for a guy to think, The solution to her complaint is right there! If she would just solve the problem (get the nail out of her head), she wouldn’t be upset!
As strange as it seems to you, though, what a woman wants her man to listen to isn’t really the problem itself: it’s her feelings about the problem! The vast majority of women on our surveys for For Men Only (our book about how women think), showed that a woman is first looking for someone to help her process all her feelings, and then to deal with the technical problem. But it has to happen in that order.
So the next time your girlfriend is upset, ignore the problem for a minute, and dig out her feelings about it. (“I’m sorry, honey, did you feel like your friend misunderstood you when you said that?”) And only after you see her jangling emotions relax a bit, should you even mention a solution. (“Do you want to talk about what you might do now…?”)
I realize it may feel really odd and wimpy to just listen and acknowledge feelings—but trust me. You’ll have made her feel heard, which is exactly the solution she most needs from you.