“Experience is the best teacher.” A person named “Latin Proverb” wrote that. A person named “Todd”, learns it. Over and over. Sometimes, frustratingly so.
The concept is pretty simple, right? An attempt is made by someone to do something – perform a skill, communicate a thought, express an emotion, etc., – and the result of that imperfect attempt forms an overall experience, and that experience, if considered next time, points to improved future attempts.
Now, all this sounds pretty straightforward and understandable, but here’s where we can get stuff jumbled up – in the most significant areas of life, especially relationships with loved ones, comprehension is only half the battle. Simply put, good communication, and peace in the home, is a combination of knowing and doing. So, for us married folks, guys, it’s knowing how our wives think, and responding to their communication in a way that let’s them know we understand (and appreciate…more on that later) how they think.
But enough of the theory…here’s a lesson I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from being being married for a few years and living with three females in my home. By the way, you might want to write this next part down somewhere, get it tattooed on your hand, save it as the background on your phone, say it out loud to yourself several thousand times in a row, or commit it to memory any other way that seems appropriate:
When a female loved one shares her heart about something, she’s not looking for us to “fix” whatever it is that’s the concern. She just wants to know that she’s being heard and that her concerns are valid and appreciated.
(necessary pause for contemplation)
Now, for a lot of us with two distinct chromosomes (guys, that’s us), this is a really hard lesson to learn. Why? Because, it’s been my experience that we tend to be wired to be “solvers.” We sometimes interpret our wives’ emoting as a problem in need of an answer. But, more often than not, what a woman needs and wants from us is an active heart and ears, not a busy mouth and brain.
Here’s the beauty of getting better at putting down the tool belt…as we work hard at listening more, affirming emotions however different they are from ours, reflecting back rather than reacting to what’s being shared, and very simply, talking less, all of this signals to our loved one appreciation, and emotional validation, and genuine love. Trust grows immensely when our loved ones repeatedly know that love for them isn’t predicated on them being like us. We didn’t marry ourselves. (that’d be a good one to write down, too). Different is good.
So the next time she starts to share something (and it will happen, probably today), let her talk. Stifle the need to sand the rough edges, re-measure the logic, or straighten a frame of mind that seems crooked. Just listen. If she really, really wants a solution, she’ll ask for it. But chances are her sharing really isn’t a request for help. It’s likely the expression of a heart needing to be heard.
And finally, from the “keeping-it-real” category, thank you to my wife, Brenda, for helping me remember this, this morning. That sound you hear is just me putting my tools away, again. I love you.