Everyone knows that in many ways, men and women are different. The difference has inspired many country songs. Countless books have been written on the subject. Fortunes have been made conducting seminars on the topic. At times the differences are so significant that it seems we come from different planets.
One of the greatest differences is in the way we communicate. Generally, men are brief and to the point. When Cheri asks how my day went, my tendency is to respond, “Good. Got a lot done today.” After a round of golf she will ask me how my game went. My typical response is, “Same as always. I didn’t play very well but had few good holes.” She will often follow-up with the question, “What did you talk about?” and my mind goes blank. It requires extensive mental effort to try to recall any conversation other than “good shot” or “take a Mulligan.” So, I’ll reply, “Nothing really. Just talked about golf.” Cheri knows there must be more, but she is gracious and doesn’t press for more detail.
Cheri loves to shop for bargains at thrift stores and garage sales. She calls it junkin'. When she comes home, I rarely have to ask her how her time went. She’s excited to share with me the bargains that she found. She will describe in detail the things that caught her attention and why she did or didn’t buy certain items. She may describe where the item was located in the store, what the houses looked like, and then recount her conversations with the people working in the stores or at the garage sales.
I know that this scenario is not unique to Cheri and me. It’s a typical difference between men and women. We have a tendency to accept it as such and leave it there. But men, we can become better husbands if we are willing to change the status quo. When you recount your day with bullet points instead of details, you are merely giving information. But when your wife is pouring out the details of her experience, she is not merely dispensing words. She is seeking to connect with you on an emotional level. She is inviting you to come along and share the experience with her. The only way to complete that connection is to give her your attention and listen to her heart.
This is a practice that will not come easily for most men. We’re accustomed to taking in the information we want or need and filtering out the rest. I began the process of retraining myself to listen a few months ago. It’s a challenge to undo decades of a learned behavior. But I know I can become a better husband and strengthen our relationship if I will learn to listen. Don’t just listen to her words. Learn to listen to her heart.