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Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

James 1:19

Empathetic listening is one of the easiest and most important ways to keep women happy. Women feel validated in a relationship when they feel understood. They are quality-driven in their relationships. They share their feelings simply to be listened to.

They talk about problems without looking for solutions (because it makes them feel better, which is more important than actually solving the problem). Women communicate with the hope someone will empathize with them.

Kristin’s Story:

I have a friend who struggled with when to add a child to her family. We had casually discussed our thoughts and feelings on that topic before, but one day things were different.

I found myself putting in my own two-cents but slowly discovered that wasn’t what she needed. Whenever I interjected my own thoughts into the discourse she did not exchange or connect with me as she usually did.

It was like I was placing detours in the conversation, and my friend just impatiently listened before continuing down the road she was on originally.

Shouting at Brick Wall.PinkTagI paused to take an objective view of what was going on. Suddenly I could tell that this was no longer a far away issue — my friend had reached a point where this internal conflict needed to be resolved.

She was agitated. Struggling with this decision caused her mind to wonder from immediate tasks. I could almost see the knots inside of her, twisted upon each other.

Kristin’s Analysis:

Here she was, baring an intimate part of herself, and I was turning the conversation into something about me (my views; my opinions), which was making matters worse.

She needed to have the opportunity to release all the toxins this conflict was creating, and that release was through the use of words.

So I became slow to speak and tried to let her know through short words and body language that she wasn’t alone — that I supported her in whatever the decision ended up being.

I didn’t try to solve her problem; I just listened. And later, I shared in her joy when she shyly told me she was pregnant.

It is hard to find something greater than a friend who is willing to unselfishly listen. When a trial is overwhelming you, a friend who sacrifices time and energy in order to listen is a true companion.

Eric’s Story:

Last week, right after Kris and I finished hashing out what this article would be about, she started sharing what was being discussed in her Bible study group.

They were discussing fellowship, and Kristin was upset.

She asked questions such as, “Why isn’t there more fellowship in churches?” and, “How can the sixty seconds after the Pastor says, ‘Go greet someone you don’t know’ be considered fellowship?”

She went on (“Fellowship should be about accountability and friendship”) for a couple more minutes.

Because she was excited, I began answering. “You can’t expect real fellowship the first time you attend a new church…. Relationships take time to develop…. Friendships don’t happen overnight….”

And right in the middle of my tirade, it hit me. I said, “…for children. Isn’t that what it means to be an adult — to be responsible for your own life? [This is where it hit.] And I’m having a typical male reaction, aren’t I?” We both laughed.

Eric’s Analysis:

The truth is that Kristin wasn’t really complaining about fellowship. She knows relationships aren’t instantaneous. She knows churches hold numerous functions to foster friendships. She knows sixty seconds of “how are you?” isn’t considered by most pastors as fellowship.

Kris didn’t want my advice. She didn’t need my solutions. She needed someone to listen, and as her husband, I should be the safest person for her to go to in order for her to get the empathy she needs.

Aside from the amusing story above, I’m usually pretty good at being an empathetic listener to Kris. I’ve grown accustomed to holding my opinions to myself and giving her undivided attention when she needs it.

Unfortunately, listening with no response isn’t always what’s needed. For all you men out there, here’s a piece of advice that will help you steer clear of a common pitfall.

When I’m unsure if Kris wants me to offer advice or solutions (because sometimes she does), I ask, “Are you looking for advice, or venting?” Nine times out of ten she responds, “Just venting.”

But this is where so many men fail in communicating with women. Guys think that because the woman is “just venting” that they don’t need to listen.

When a guy vents, he doesn’t care whether or not anybody is listening. When a guy vents, he is usually thinking out loud.

But when a woman vents, and you want to see that woman happy, her venting better be the most important thing in the world to you.

Oh, and guys, empathetic listening is much easier than most of us think.

When Kris comes home frustrated over something at work which I can’t solve (this happens a lot with Kris as an officer in the military; most of her frustrations are caused by “classified” problems), all I need to do is give her my full attention, attempt to feel her pain, then give her a hug and a kiss when she’s done. Problem solved.

The next time you find it difficult to communicate with a woman, simply listen. Do your best to place yourself in her shoes, consider what she says, ask questions in order to understand what she is going through, and validate her feelings.

She’ll trust you more, you’ll be happier, and your relationship will deepen.

Image: ©iStockphoto.com/PinkTag

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