The Missus: Would you like to head out to Easter Brunch with some folks after church?
The Missus: Why not?
Me: …[Long Explanation]…
This happens quite a bit. Not only between me and The Missus. It happens in lots of interactions with lots of folks. It seems the short answer doesn’t suffice.
It’s too bad really.
More often than not the long explanation gets you into an even longer conversation about what you meant by your long explanation. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or get wrapped up in talking about what you would rather do. Inevitably, you do and you have to tap dance or back pedal or whatever to make sure what you meant is understood in the most benign way possible.
Worse yet, the “I don’t want to talk about it.” or “I just don’t fee like it.” or “No particular reason.” isn’t enough to get you off the hook. There is no way to just say yes or no to something. You always have to explain why.
Recently, my wife came up to me with a problem. It wasn’t really a big problem. It was more of an oversight or organizational shortcoming.
As I listened to her “venting” I immediately saw a possible solution to her problem. A way to avoid the oversight in the future. It was a solution, I thought, that might not totally relieve her guilt for not implementing a similar solution. But I was wrong.
My wife had no desire whatsoever to learn about a solution. She just wanted to vent.
This venting and my response to it is a common interaction between men and women. Documented in hundreds of “personal relationship” type books, it seems women don’t want men to solve problems beyond those requiring power tools or taking out the garbage. Women want to talk things through. Women don’t really look to men to solve problems. They want someone to listen, nod sympathetically and say nice things completely unrelated to solving the problem – now or in the future.
The sad part of this interaction is that men never learn they are not being asked to solve a problem. Men never learn that when women vent it is just to “talk it through” or some such other thing. Men never learn that when they offer solutions it makes the women angry and frustrated and reinforces the myth that “men never listen”.
Of course, if we weren’t listening we wouldn’t have a solution to the problem. We weren’t listening in the right way. The way where we just look concerned, brow furrowed and when it’s all over go back to the game where our team has probably thrown for an incomplete.