HOWTO Listen to Women: The One Thing Every Mangeek Should Know

Ok, first a little expectations management. I’m not going to talk about “breaking the ice” with girls in bars. I’m not going to tell you how to have a woman in every port, be a ladies’ man, or any other such dork.

I am going to tell you how to respond to a particular kind of situation, one that is particualarly important to handle well. This seems to be a deep dark secret that few men know. Even now that I know it have trouble remembering to use it.

One more thing before I get started: I don’t mean to generalize all women. Everybody’s different. I’ve observed over time that a lot of women verbally approach problems in a similar way and a men tend to fumble it repeatedly. This is just some non-obvious advice I learned from a Christian preacher. I’ve rarely heard it explained this way, and it’s a remarkably simple way for a man to get the right words out of his mouth in a sticky situation. ‘Nuff said.

Let’s begin with an illustration. What would you say?

She: “My landlord is a jerk. When I ask him to fix things, he’s always late and grouchy about it. He always brings up the time that I was two weeks late paying…”

You (reasonable but stupid): “Yeah, landlords are all that way. You just have to put up with it.”

Do not give advice.

You (stupider): “You should get a new apartment.”

Do not solve the problem.

You (stupidest): “Why didn’t you pay him?”

Do not criticize.

This is where the secret begins. Most men would have given one of the stupid answers. They seem perfectly reasonable from their point of view.

When a woman lets you in on a problem this way, the words she uses do not mean what you think they mean. Often a woman will frame a question or statement in a way that clearly begs advice or a solution. That’s just how you heard it. Remember this, she’s not stupid. She knows the answer already. There is something about the wiring in women that requires a kind of periodic verbal maintenance. She sounds like she wants advice, but really she’s going into this maintenance mode. Learn to follow the protocol.

Discipline grasshopper. When she presents you with the problem, close your mouth and think. Think about how she felt in the situation: angry that the landlord was late, annoyed that he’s lazy in fulfilling his agreement, and embarrassed that he keeps bringing up a past failure… Don’t let your curiosity about how she might have been out of work for two weeks distract you. I’d start with emotion of anger. Take a moment and empathize with her anger.

You: “Wow, that must have made you angry.”

Watch her face as you say this. Often there’s a look that will cross her face, kind of like shock and relief. You may be one of the first men in the world to actually listen to her.

She: “Yeah, I need to get a new apartment.”

Often she will solve her own problem. Really, there are three ways this can go. If she is just venting, she will solve the problem herself. If you guessed at the emotion wrong, she’ll correct you. You are still ok. You were listening.

The third option is that she will let you into a deeper friendship. The telltale sign is that she will immediately follow up this problem with another. The next one tends to be more personal.

I used to do this with a lot of girls. I don’t think it was a hot idea. Choose carefully.

Unless you are a therapist, don’t do this with married women. If her problem involves her mob-boss boyfriend, don’t do this. If you are married, realize that this seems to really poke a deep emotional nerve in women, and poking deep emotional nerves is something you should only be doing with your wife.

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51 Comments on “HOWTO Listen to Women: The One Thing Every Mangeek Should Know”

  1. That is one exellent piece of advice – and writing. Particularly the last two paragraphs. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

  2. David Says:

    I think you’d like _You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation_, by Deborah Tannen. It’s been a while; maybe I need to re-read it myself.

  3. mentalnoise Says:

    “When a woman lets you in on a problem this way, the words she uses do not mean what you think they mean. Often a woman will frame a question or statement in a way that clearly begs advice or a solution.”

    i see what you mean. i always get into trouble because i offer advice and solutions right away. thanks for this advice.

  4. Ralph Says:

    Is this from one of the Ephraim Gaston books? I have heard this before somewhere?

  5. Bjorn Says:

    You’ll find the same advice in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. It’s the one book I thought I’d never read, and once read, received the most unexpected benefit from. It truly is a HOWTO for relationships and women. And the girlfriends I’ve forced upon feel the same way. You’re both sitting there, shaking your head, laughing, thinking “wow, this other gender is SO weird, but if that’s all they want, gee, that’s the easiest thing in the world”.

  6. warrenski Says:

    A wise friend of mine once summed this up quite well: Don’t give a woman a solution, give her sympathy. How true.

    Another bit of advice from a different friend: treat them mean, keep them keen. In other words, don’t give in to her every wish the minute she vocalises it, don’t be a push-over. She’ll gain respect for you/recognise the challenge that you pose… and we all know, women love a good challenge: eg. “I just know can change him!”

  7. Lauren Says:

    If there’s one there’s one thing that irks me, it’s people who make sweeping generalizations after some disclaimer like “I don’t mean to generalize.” Personally, I think Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is one of the stupidest and most offensive books ever written, and every woman I’ve ever spoken to about it agrees with me. There is nothing wrong with the advice contained in this post, but why is it directed at men? Listening is not about talking to women, it’s about communicating with people. Every person, man and woman, has moments where we seek advice and moments where we just want to vent. If you are socially adept, patient, and a good communicator, then you will pick up on this. If you’re not — as many men and women are not — then you won’t. Turning communication issues into gender issues is just drawing lines in the sand.

  8. Corey Says:

    Good advice. One might need to be careful with this in the early part of a relationship to keep from being categorized as just her “listening friend” to whom she repeatedly vents about her lovers.

    Early on, I find that it’s important to demonstrate that you are capable of and good at listening, but also that you don’t always do it (something for her to fix). In combination with the advice in warrenski’s post, it’s vital that she knows that you are a good listener, a good sympathizer, a good provider, etc, but also that you are a good problem to solve.

  9. Aaron Says:

    because lauren, men need help communicating to women.

    men already know how to interact with other men. im sure if youre reading this and you’re a lesbian, you can probably take this advice to heart as well.

  10. Eric Says:

    I don’t agree with this at all. If you give advice or be sypathetic, you are being a wuss. A woman will never trade a best friend or advice giver for sex or a relationship. Be firm and let your wussy friend be the sensitive guy.

  11. Cen Says:

    “If there’s one there’s one thing that irks me, it’s people who make sweeping generalizations after some disclaimer like “I don’t mean to generalize.” …. Turning communication issues into gender issues is just drawing lines in the sand.”

    Wow, that must make you angry.

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Excellent point actually.)

  12. tapio Says:

    Maybe women just want to listened to more

  13. wp Says:

    I haven’t had a lot of experience in this area, but what limited experience I have confirms the following hypothesis of mine:

    (i) women are wired to constantly seek approval for their own feelings. They will say, on one hand, that they have the right to feel exactly how they feel, but deep down inside, they are still trying to convince themselves of it. Thus, the need for reinforcement, support etc.

    (ii) I think this approval-need starts basically at puberty, and is the reason why women travel in packs, to the bathroom in high-school, to night clubs, or whatever.

    (iii) not all women are like this stereotype, thank God, but a lot of women are. That’s what a stereotype is. It’s not 100%. It might not even be 90%. But it’s a big number that is north of 50% and south of 100%.


  14. Carlos Says:

    That is the same advice given to deal with children in a classic book called: How to talk so kids will listen, How to listen so kids will talk.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    I find in general that the “less is more” works all the time universally with women.
    The less you reveal of yourself the better.
    The less you say the better.
    The less you protest the better.
    The less you go overboard the better.
    All women claim that the little things in life and the “details” are infinitely important. Even monstrous women who you think care nothing about the details will surprise you by claiming that they consider details to be the most important. I find this to be very useful knowledge. I’ve been practicing the Lord Byron, Rasputin hypnosis stare whenever my lady friend goes into hysterics/theatrics. In the past I tried to reason logically and to defend myself against personal attack, but now I find solace in the reposed stare and mindful, good-listener mode.
    Remember that the best laid schemes of mice and men ALWAYS go awry with women, so if ever possible, inaction is the best choice. Most women rather have someone there to listen and support emotionally than to have the emasculated and antiquated patriarch man of the house commander-in-chief. Remember that God is dead and so is that gender role.

  16. vanjulio Says:

    I find in general that the “less is more” works all the time universally with women.
    The less you reveal of yourself the better.
    The less you say the better.
    The less you protest the better.
    The less you go overboard the better.
    All women claim that the little things in life and the “details” are infinitely important. Even monstrous women who you think care nothing about the details will surprise you by claiming that they consider details to be the most important. I find this to be very useful knowledge. I’ve been practicing the Lord Byron, Rasputin hypnosis stare whenever my lady friend goes into hysterics/theatrics. In the past I tried to reason logically and to defend myself against personal attack, but now I find solace in the reposed stare and mindful, good-listener mode.
    Remember that the best laid schemes of mice and men ALWAYS go awry with women, so if ever possible, inaction is the best choice. Most women rather have someone there to listen and support emotionally than to have the emasculated and antiquated patriarch man of the house commander-in-chief. Remember that God is dead and so is that gender role.

  17. Mike K Says:

    This article is for men because when you’re speaking to a man, don’t guess the emotions behind the story he’s telling you. Emotions aren’t of primary importance to men. When a man tells you that his car broke down for the 3rd time this week after he just spend 2 days fixing it, you do not respond by saying “Gee, I’ll bet the engine was dirty.” A statement like that is the same as trying to empathize with his emotions. Yes, it’s true, but who cares. 95% of him wants nothing more than to eliminate the problem so offer you mechanical knowledge or the name of a friend who’s selling a similar car.

    Here’s another big tip for listening to women… when you see the woman with the landlord problem 2 weeks later, say “How are things with your landlord working out?” The only thing better than listening when she’s in front of you is remembering her problems and showing that you care about them two weeks after.

  18. Kate Says:

    Mike, I have a problem with your little addendum. Do you not realize the woman who responds well to the “You must be angry” statement knows that her anger is obvious? More likely she realizes the limitations of the social encounter and is not really hoping for someone to solve life’s problems for her. If you think socializing is about solving problems you probably have few friends who can stand you, as the only time you want to deal with them is when you need something fixed.

    Here’s a tip for the men: if women continue to deal with you after an initial pity-party reaction, it’s probably because they find you “nice” and would feel “bad” if they were rude (these are kind ways of saying “pitiable”).

    I’m not condoning the premise of this post with my argument on specifics, by the way.

  19. Lauren Says:

    Wow. The reponses here have been truly eye-opening. This is ridiculous. Really!

    Dear men posting here: Women are not some crazy algorithm that needs to be figured out. We’re people, just like you. And we’re not stupid, by the way. Sincerity will get you everywhere, but just faking it and going through the motions will get you nowhere. And if you had any functional relationships with women, you would probably know this already.

  20. John Says:

    I’ve been married for 9 years, and it wasn’t until fairly recently that I got all of the “rules” straightened out. At least I think I have them all…. The point is – she (my wife) has a set of expectations of how I should respond to the things she says.

    For example, if she complains about politics, people and other general stuff, she wants empathy. If she complains about the kids, she wants empathy and usually for me to take on the “angry dad” mantle for a while to give her some relief. If she complains about computers or software, she wants me to fix the software or the computer.

    Women’s brains work differently from men’s. That’s not an insult or a criticism, it’s a statement of my opinion that I believe is fact. You are criticizing us for the way our minds work and the way we consider relationship issues as ‘problems to be solved’. Perhaps you are angry that we do not think in a way that is more ‘acceptable’ to you. I’m sorry. I can’t help you there. Understanding is a two way street.

    In any case, no one said women were stupid, and you are absolutely right that fake sincerity is manipulative, potentially evil and generally unpleasant.

  21. Ben Borges Says:

    Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, book by John Gray, suggest this particular approach all the time in his book..a bit too much in the end, but the book is worthwhile if in trouble :)

  22. Keith Says:

    Lauren and Kate-

    There are a lot of men who are very goal and event focused, who simply don’t understand how to communicate and listen to people with different viewpoints.

    Men and women have different viewpoints. As do people from different ethnic backgrounds. And religious backgrounds.

    Learning how to communicate is a skill. And while I agree – women aren’t an “algorhithm,” communicating sucessfully with women is a skill many men don’t have. When a women vent, it’s often phrased in a manner that many men assume is a question, not venting.

    What are “obvious communication skills” to you aren’t obvious to many people, men AND women. It is entirely possible to have a functional relationship with anyone and NOT know how to truly communicate on a deep level. Especially for men, who often communicate about technical things (fishing techniques, car repair, programming, etc) without ever talking about anything on an emotional level.

    You may want to learn how to communicate with men instead of assuming that we’re all just overgrown boys who want to play with our expensive toys all the time. The gender gap works both ways.

  23. Adam Fabian Says:

    Men and women have a different distribution curves on different traits. Lauren seems to take offense at the mere observation, bordering on undisputable fact, that, on average, guys are more systems oriented, and want a solution if they express problem, and women are more feelings oriented, and want empathy if they express problems. Of course certain individuals will fall at the far ends of the distribution curve for their sex and exhibit atypical behavior. Of course you treat everyone like a person in all cases whatsoever. But you treat everyone differently in light of personal information about them, and until evidence arises to the contrary, the most reasonable course of action is to treat some one in a manner that is most generally appropriate to the most broad categories that you know that they fit in, including culture, class, and sex. Far from it being disingenuous to do so, it is considerate, and behavior can be modified as appropriate as you learn more about an individual.

  24. Marshall Rosenberg documents a lot of this with Nonviolent Communication, at His book by the same title is excellent resource for communication and understanding empathy, which is what you hit here. Highly recommended.

  25. Carolyn Says:

    OK, you crazy kids. My observation is that men, for whatever reason, tend to be “fixers”, which doesn’t necessarily help them in relationships. What women do want (forgive me for generalizing) is a champion; not someone who goes out and fights their battles for them, but someone who is cheering for their side as they face their battles themselves (and maybe offers to punch someone out on rare occasion). So, offering em/sympathy is a good start; an even better one is to take her side. so, in this example, help her gang up (metaphorically) against the landlord, as in “what a jerk! that’s so manipulative! he should just do his job!”. she’ll be happy that you identified what was offensive about the landlord’s behavior. this is infinitely better than faking empathy, and yes, validates her feelings.

    one correction to some of the above replied: EVERYBODY needs their feelings validated, not just women. that’s what empathy is.

    let’s just go back to the old rule of thumb: open your heart and put yourself in the other person’s position. what do they need in a given situation? because maybe the answer is to just listen. maybe the answer is to try to find humor make her laugh (oh, yeah, 2 weeks late with the rent? this from the guy who walks around with his butt crack on display and eats onions for breakfast!). or, for you he-men above, maybe the answer is to offer to fix her apartment problem yourself while she works up the courage to move and/or confront the landlord.

  26. Jose Says:

    I think this advice is spot on, as long as you read it as I think it was intended. It’s not a manual, to be read when a particular event pops up, but a tool that we men can use to try and understand how the women in our lives think. look I’ve been married a long time and it took me years to figure out that most of the time when my wife comes to me with a problem she is usually not looking for me to fix it. And it has taken her years to figure out that I am not going to poor my heart out to her about all the bad stuff that happened during the day. The plane truth is that men and women are wired differently, men fix things, when we talk to each other we expect a dialogue about how to make something better, break something faster, do something bigger, or just how to be better then the guy down the block. In general we’re simple and have few emotions that we are willing to share except in the most intimate of relationships and times. Women however, like to talk about how things make them feel and share these feeling with there closest friends. I’ve seen my daughters fret over friendships/relationships in ways that men just don’t. So if a woman in your life picks you to share her deepest darkest concerns with, like how the landlord pisses her off, you had better learn to listen, because if you don’t she’ll find someone who can/will. And if in the end she picks someone else to confide in, well you are missing out on a much deeper understanding of what makes her tick as a person.
    Ladies reading this, the message goes both ways, men are not women, listening is hard for us and those of us who manage to do it have to actively practice to get it right. Also not that we generally don’t like to talk about our feeling, we’re not trying to hide things from you we just don’t talk about them. So when we talk to you about stuff that you don’t find interesting, like tools, cars, the ball game please try and make the effort to at least figure what we’re talking about.

  27. kathaclysm Says:

    I’m a woman, but this is definitely why I think I don’t have many female friends… I am a “fixer” of problems, despite being female. When I hear my friends describe their problems to me, I can’t help saying “break up with him,” “get a new one,” “try this,” etc. And while I understand a desire to be validated, I would rather get an honest opinion on my problems if I’m dealing with an issue, and if I’m still working on sorting it out myself, I usually don’t talk to others about it. I’ve had female friends tell me before “just hear me out on this,” because they know I can’t just sympathize.

    Yes, this article places a bit of a stereotype on women, but there’s quite a bit of truth to it, and I’ve seen this advice elsewhere. (Thou I also thought the Mars/Venus book was bad, the author’s divorced, you know that?)

    I’ve also seen general advice before that, if you ask people questions about themselves, they will find you absolutely fascinating. Most people are pretty self-centered that way.

  28. Thisistheproblem Says:

    The whole problem is that everyone is just too damned sensitive about Let men be men and women be women. It would be a much better world if everyone would just say what is on thier mind without regard to feelings and quit lying about it and don’t take it personally. If you don’t want to hear the truth then don’t freakin ask!

    She: Do I look fat in this?
    HE: Yes and don’t wear that any more!

    There done. If she gets offended then she is the wrong person for you.

    Men don’t go around asking other men about the look of their asses. Quite frankly we are happy with what we have been given. How can you improve on perfection? So who else is too sensitive about how they look? Get over it, grow some balls or tits and move on.

  29. Jennit Says:

    I am married to the wonderful man who wrote this article. I have to say that he is more than I deserve! When I have had a hard time with the kids at home, he will walk through the door and listen (most of the time) to what has gone on that day. When done listening he takes me in his arms and says something that is appropriate ex: You have had a really tough day, or that is really great. You are doing a great job with the kids.
    With Darrin I know I have been heard.
    He does this with most things in my life. I just need to talk things out, and a 4 year old, 3 year old twins and a 2 year old just don’t sit long enough to listen. I also get the feeling that unless I am talking about cookies they really don’t care. Darrin cares. He does this because he loves me and he wants me to feel special. This makes me feel as if I have worth to him. He could tell me all day that I have worth, but when he listens to what I have to say and lets me know that I have been heard he is telling me that I am worth his time. Some of you might think that this does not work. Good for you. For those who are willing to give it a try, you have one lucky woman.

  30. Julia Says:

    Whenever I hear the phrase “Women are different”, I always ask myself, different from what? The answer is most often “Men”. But the phrasing begs the question of what is normative. “Women are different” when compared to men implies that men are the norm and women deviate from that norm. Change the phrasing to “men are different” and it’s a whole different ball game. This presumption that women are somehow emotionally aberrant (as one post put it: “women are wired to constantly seek approval for their own feelings”) is what pisses women off, myself included of course.

    I find nothing offensive in the blog entry other than the implied disingenuousness of sentiment. It’s a lesson on how to be more emotionally adept, and I think men should be encouraged to try it. But how the hell do you think women become emotionally developed? They are taught to be attuned to others from the time they are born. Is there a genetic disposition? perhaps.. but we KNOW there is considerable environmental pressure.

    We also know of the considerable environmental pressure for (American) men to remain emotionally underdeveloped and detached. American men are censured for displaying vulnerability openly, ridiculed for showing affection and walk a razor’s edge in their relationships with other men (think “acting gay”). In an atmosphere so hostile to emotional intimacy, is there any wonder that men have trouble recognizing the emotional context of a conversation?

  31. Ben Says:

    “Lauren, you look really fat”, says your boyfriend.

    Do you like honesty still?

  32. Lars Says:

    The terminology here confuses me. We have this archetypical conversation:

    A: I have problem X.

    With the two possible answers

    B1: You could solve that by Y.
    B2: That must really make you feel Z.

    I get that the message is that B2 is often the more appropriate answer, bizarre as it may seem to me. But I don’t understand why the B2 speaker is thought of as listening, while the B1 speaker is not. To device a solution to X, you clearly have to have heard the problem description. The response of someone who was REALLY not listening would perhaps be

    B3: So what’s on TV?

    I’m guessing this is s different usage of “listening” than I’m used to?

  33. Fran Says:

    Dude, you totally ripped this off of “White Men Can’t Jump” ;)

  34. Lynette Says:

    I am a female fixer as well. And, no, I’m not a lesbian or even butchy for that matter. :) Most of my friends are male because I find they are easier to relate to.

    Speaking from my own personal experence, I’d say the advice written above is not too bad, and that goes for most of the comments, too. When I tell someone–anyone, be they male or female–about a problem I’m having, I’m looking for commiseration, and if they have a suggested solution, then that’s a bonus!

    Women need to be more direct with men; we think they should automatically know what we’re thinking, even though we don’t say what we mean.

  35. bagatelle Says:

    Her: I have a problem

    Him: [thinks: I need a new woman] [gets out phone & rings up girlfriend #6, #7, #8] and says ‘bye, see you around’ [thinks: but not if I see you first] leaves her alone with her problem.

    If a woman is incompatible with a man, that’s HER problem, go find another woman who is – NOW!
    Remain detached, don’t get too involved – leads to misery.
    There are loads of women around, no sensible man either wants or needs a psycho, and this one is a real psycho. There’s no future in being clingy with any woman, it’ll never work out. Just move-on.

  36. Ian Says:

    In general, women are more in touch with their emotions than men, and express them more. For (some) men, problem fixing is a way of avoiding dealing with emotions.

    The woman in the article is upset and angry, and wants to talk about those feelings. If the man doesn’t hear that, and responds with advice she doesn’t need, she’ll feel unheard and ignored and probably experience him as being self-involved. This isn’t good for a relationship.

  37. kathaclysm Says:

    I can’t help but comment again, first to this quote from Thisistheproblem:

    “Men don’t go around asking other men about the look of their asses”

    No, but men go around asking other men “hey, check out the deck I built!” and “look at the size of my BBQ!” The need for validation works both ways… you should see the look on a guys face when you tell him something he built with his own two hands doesn’t look fantastic, (or that is BBQ isn’t huge.) It’s the same as telling a woman her body isn’t perfect. Many people get pissy/offended when the truth hurts, and I do agree these people have to learn to deal with failure. But I’m gonna generalize here, men seek to be providers, and insulting their ability to provide tends to hurt them, women want to be good mothers and good wives, and insulting their ability to do either will hurt them, even if it’s true. (Of course there are men who just want get laid, and women who want to sponge off men who want them for arm candy, but we won’t go there right now.)

    And to Julia;
    Women will tell you “men are different”, men will tell you “women are different,” it all depends on who you’re asking. Men and women are different, and that’s cool cuz we’re made to compliment each other. (Except for those who are seeking someone of the same sex, but then I still feel they are looking to compliment each other, but we won’t go there right now either.) Every culture has different expectations for what it means to be a man or woman, and I can’t say that I think that having gender rolls is necessarily a bad thing.

  38. JadePhilosopher Says:

    Lauren says:
    “We’re people, just like you.”

    I take issue with your racist and genderist statement. I realize that you did not intend it that way, and I don’t intend to attack you – just that one sentence. It contains within it the idea “Everyone is just like me.” I disagree. While no one is less (or more!) valuable than I am, everyone is different from me. They are not better or worse on some simplistic single continuum, but different along a near-incomprehensible multitude of continua. There are people whose assumptions and world-views are so different from mine that it would take days or weeks of communication before we could begin to reason together.

    Now, permit me some of those broad generalities you earlier professed a dislike for earlier. All of us fear pain and death. All of us hunger and thirst. All of us enjoy intoxication. All of us need to belong to a group. All of us are changed by the responsibility for offspring. All of us feel love, hatred, awe, and fear. I clearly cannot deny certain fundamental similarities; but neither can I accept universal similarity.

    Men and women are different. It’s as simple as that.

  39. I second the recommendation of Nonviolent Communication (NVC). The videos are great – check them out at your local library.

  40. EJ Says:

    I feel men should be men. We should be gentlemen and listen to women. I do not think its offensive to offer words of advice in solving a problem. Why can’t women see that we are problem solvers. We analyze things and are stubborn about finding and solving a problem. It’s in our blood. We mean well. I am tired of people putting us down because of our manhood. I teach my sons to be courtious and respect women. But I also tell them to be boys and being masculine is part of being who we are. Boys will always be boys dammit!!!

  41. Carolyn Says:

    Lars- B2 is listening. However, there are a couple of problems with only offering someone solutions instead of just going “uh huh, gee, that’s too bad”:
    1- there is always the implication, if not indeed the fact, that if person A doesn’t accept B2’s advice, B2 may become frustrated and say something like, ‘well, what do you want me to do about it?’
    2- A often doesn’t want suggestions. A might just want someone to give a crap about how he/she feels.

    Very often, offering someone suggestions is just another way of saying “A, you’re throwing a problem at me that I now feel pressured to fix. This makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what else to do, so I’m going to keep offering you solutions until I make you feel its your fault for not accepting one of them.” So, A can end up feeling worse and wish he/she had never said anything to B at all.

    So, maybe one should ask if the other person wants suggestions or just to have someone listen.

  42. Paul Watson Says:

    “I’m not going to tell you how to have a woman in every port, be a ladies’ man”

    LOL Then why the advice? ;)

  43. DS Says:

    To EJ…

    “Boys will be boys” ?? Puleeze. “Why can’t women see…?”

    You don’t seem to have an equal sentiment that “Girls will be girls” Now, why is that? I would respond, “Why can’t men see…?”

    Maybe both sides need to shift their thinking and create some better “seeing” about their interactions…and lose idiotic phrases like “Boys will be boys.”

  44. alex Says:

    excellent article. comments prove your case.


  45. Relsqui Says:

    This got fairly long; you’ve been warned.

    Men and women are different from each other. I will not qualify that or claim it as my opinion. In fact, I’ll say it again: men and women are different from each other. Within each group there is a lot of variation (and there is also overlap between them), but most men are more similar to other men than they are to women. Likewise, most women are more similar to other women than they are to most men.

    Generalizations are important tools, as long as you use them carefully. It is not sexism to say that women tend to be more emotionally oriented than men; it’s fact. The “tend to” is important. I’m not forcing you into any little box, I’m making an observation combining firsthand data (myself and other women I know) and secondhand data (what I’ve heard and read about many thousands of women I do not know personally). If I had taken better notes, it would be a statistic; as it is, it’s a generalization, and if anything more true for the fuzziness of its numbers.

    All right, I’m done hissing about overzealous political correctness. That said, I like this post, and my fiance and I are a textbook example of this kind of communication barrier. He can’t comprehend why I’d bring a problem to him but not want a solution, and I’m heartbroken when I spill my feelings and get no sympathy. It’s happened enough times that we’re starting to recognize it and know what to expect from each other, but it’s taken a few years to get to that point. These are deeply hardwired mentalities, and it’s not easy to stop looking through them and start looking at them.

    There is one thing I’m surprised no one has mentioned yet: Why should it be the man’s responsibility to adjust to the woman’s way of thinking instead of vice versa? I’d love to say here that they can meet in the middle, but I haven’t seen it happen yet; instead, I think that whichever one you are is the one who should try to think like the other gender and react appropriately. I don’t take it personally when my fiance gives me solutions instead of sympathy; it’s just the way he thinks, and he honestly does want to help. The alternative is to bawl even louder, start playing mind games, and reinforce every negative stereotype about women. I have done that, and on bad days I still do that, but overall I’m really trying to break down my side of that barrier.

    It occurred to me while writing this that the next step would be to start responding to his problems in the way he expects: with solutions, rather than sympathy. I’ll try to keep that in mind for the future.

    Abandoning the big ideas for some little truths, I have to agree with whoever said that the real trick is to bring up what she said a while later to show you really cared about it. (I can’t find the comment now.) It’s not fake sincerity if you go to the trouble of remembering just to give her a warm fuzzy feeling! It would be shallow if you did that to try and get in good with someone new, but as has been mentioned, that would be stupid.

    Similarly, the guy who leaves listening to his wussier friends is missing the point. This is NOT a tactic for getting a girlfriend or making someone like you more. Didn’t you read the first paragraph? This is a way to get along better with someone you’re already close to. At least, that’s how I see it.

    I’m sure you’ve had enough of my 6:00am ranting, though. With your permission (read: barring your prohibition), I’m going to repost the text of the initial post as context for a repost of this response. I’d like to see what responses I get elsewhere. It’ll be here:

    (Finally, in case you’re curious, I got here from a link in the comments to this: where in turn I arrived from here: .)

  46. CJ Says:

    Men always think they need to provide solutions or fix something for women. Fact is, women can usually either fix things themselves, or are intelligent enough to ask for help or hire help to fix it for them. Generally speaking, just listen to the woman and know that she is very likely just looking to someone to express her feelings on the matter, and feel heard.

  47. Robin Says:

    So …

    The secret of listening to women is to actually listen to women.

    I like that … sounds obvious, but isn’t in a Zen kind of way.

  48. txdave Says:

    perb photos. I use great pics on my site, altho mine is all abt relieving back, neck and shoulder pain.

    Is it possible some of your pics are available for use on a site like mine?

    Please advise.



  49. […] Willowbend » Blog Archive » HOWTO Listen to Women: The One Thing Every Mangeek Should Know I am going to tell you how to respond to a particular kind of situation, one that is particualarly important to handle well. This seems to be a deep dark secret that few men know. Even now that I know it have trouble remembering to use it. (tags: women advice howto listening) […]

  50. Belfastman Says:

    My first wife died of cancer. We had been married 35 years. She tended to put things in such a way you knew it was a let’s-talk or request to fix. So I never struck this issue until I remarried, I did not even know it existed. My new wife, 5 years, always asks to fix in a musing way. “Do you think the lawn needs mowing?” This translates as “Please mow the lawn.” It’s a kind of politeness and an avoidance of ordering about.
    On the other hand, when she is annoyed at something, it’s plain that she does not want criticism, or answers or analysis. From the very start I just fought her corner for her no matter how I thought. Later she might do something the opposite of what might have been inferred from her earlier remarks. She would say things like – “I might have over-reacted there. I’ll give her (the offender) a little phone call now.”
    The whole point, men, is that in marriage you support – all the way, all the time. Sometimes you get it wrong but it won’t raise interest rates, it won’t involve death and destruction. But she will know that right or wrong, you are on her side.
    I perhaps had an unfair advantage in this. I also have five daughters. One of them gave me advice – when 14 year old –
    * Dont tell a woman she looks awful. She knows exactly how she looks.
    * Women are ready WHEN they are ready. A man should always be ready.

  51. ifeatu Says:

    I believe that, no matter which way this article is perceived; it is a dialogue that absolutely NEEDS to be had. There is an undertone coming from the two or three individuals who posted objections to this article that no problem exists because “we” (women, men that desire emotional empathy consistently in conversation, effeminate men, or such like) are all fine with the level of communication that we have with “you” (men, women that are “fixers”, women that desire to be male) . This, no matter how inflamed it makes you feel is no the case, I think Jose was correct in his premise that there is an infinite complexity between any two individuals…and to piggyback on that idea I would like to say that humans “must needs” categorize themselves (a bit of old English for you) by any means possible. Under most circumstances its an absolute necessity because of the paradox that because of the infinite complexity of our world (not to mention our universe) we must generalize and categorize because of our finite minds…

    Conclusively, I believe that the writer of this article is dead on center, I have had quite a bit of experience with women in my past and I’ve found that there is a little of that desire for emotional empathy in all of us, its just more prominent in a woman. Connecting with this similarity in myself allows me to come up with a response sprinkled with rationale, and the sentiments of my heart, which (under most circumstances) is that “I’m on your side”. I am a theorist and from a psychological perspective “theorists” tend to be less emotional and more inclined to offer advice then consideration, however opposites attract and as a result I am drawn to women that are more in tune with their emotions. As a result I MUST learn to sympathize in order to maintain a positive relationship…I expect as much from the women with whom I am to be. Although I doubt she’d consider it on the level that I would being a theorist…

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