This is an excerpt from Conscious Men, written by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh.
We have both seen, again and again, that a woman feels more relaxed, more loved and more connected when she can speak freely about her feelings and her man can listen to her. It is not always easy or automatic for men to listen deeply. Men have all kinds of conditioning—some of which goes back thousands of years—in the nervous system, biochemistry, and social conditioning, to want to withdraw and block things out.
Tell Him What You Want
Men take things more literally than women do and are not always so intuitive about anticipating another’s needs. When you want help—or anything—from a man, it helps to tell him what you want more than you might need to with another woman.
There is no greater gift that you can give a man than giving him a task that he can carry out for you or that he can accomplish. A man bonds through action, and he feels good about himself and inspired to give more when he is able to check off a task he has accomplished. This is especially true if it is one that has visibly made you happier. But he needs to know what will make a difference to you.
Talk about How You Feel
For many men, learning to become a deep listener does not happen overnight. Neither John nor myself started out with great listening skills. It took time to develop them. Even today, we both slip up sometimes and fall back into fixing or defending ourselves. Luckily, we both have very patient and understanding wives, who have supported us with some coaching and reminders along the way. If you like, and if your man would appreciate it too, here are some ways you can cheer him on to become an Olympian listener.
See if you can get in the habit of sharing what you feel for a few minutes every day rather than letting it build up until you feel frustrated and explosive. Take a few minutes to talk about your day, the feelings it has evoked in you, and what it is like to experience the world through your eyes. Give him an opportunity to practice deep listening. We call this a Venus talk. Everybody is a winner. Being able to speak freely about your feelings will release oxytocin for you, which will reduce stress and allow you to return to a flow of love. Listening like the sky for him will bring him centeredness and will allow him to return to feeling spacious and connected with himself. It creates a good foundation for both of you when you feel upset. John says: When we are done, Bonnie will often say, “It felt so good to share all that with you. I feel really you are with me.” Then she pulls me in for a hug. It makes me look forward to listening even more deeply the next time.
You can also support a man to learn to listen by recognizing that there is a gradient of difficulty. Of course, it is next to impossible for anyone to edit themselves in the middle of a fight or when feeling very emotional, so recognizing these hurdles is simply helpful for when you practice together.
The low hurdle would be, “I feel sad/irritated/discouraged/frustrated and there is really no reason for it; it is just how I feel.” It is easy for almost any man to hear those words easily, and he will probably immediately become empathetic and want to be there for you.
The middle hurdle would be, “I feel irritated because of what happened at work today.” This is a little more difficult because it triggers his “Phil-the-Fixer” identity. As soon as you illustrate your feeling with an external cause, he will tend to focus on how to fix the problem and give less attention to empathizing with your feelings.
For most men, it is much more difficult to empathize and hear your feelings when you attribute them to him as the cause: “I’m feeling really frustrated because you never clean the kitchen, you’re always late, and I just can’t rely on you because you’re such a wuss.” For a good man who aspires to become a deeper listener, this is the advanced course. Much more than for a woman, men quickly get defensive and want to argue about the cause-and-effect logic of what you are saying.
When you practice talking about your feelings and listening, you could buffer your statements by reminding him, “You don’t have to say anything or fix anything. I just want to share my feelings with you so you know what’s going on. Then I feel closer to you.”
The feminine in all of us wants deep connection, inclusion, and a fair deal for everybody. So it may seem only fair to you that if you are able to share your feelings for a few minutes, he should be able to do the same. But it does not really work exactly the same the other way. Sometimes people have great difficulty accepting this. If he wants to share his feelings as well, and if you want to listen, it will bring you more intimacy. But it is not really necessary. If you share, and he listens, and you do not switch, this is also great. It will increase the polarity between you and allow you to feel more alive with more chemistry and attraction.
From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon here.
Visit consciousmen.com to learn more.