Twenty-nine-year-old Janet Muriithi speaks highly of her boyfriend who she lives with.
They connect emotionally and intellectually, and they are both heavily invested in the relationship.
The only disconnect is that she feels that most times, he doesn’t listen when she speaks. “Sometimes when I ask, he hardly remembers anything I said,” she says.
This means that she sometimes has to say something more than once, an act which he interprets as nagging.
Janet describes herself as an extrovert who enjoys conversation and her ideal relationship is one where she can talk to her significant other any time regarding anything.
She is worried about the communication gap in her relationship and confesses that she sometimes wonders whether it is a sign that there is a problem.
Janet’s predicament isn’t unique. Many other women in relationships complain that the men in their lives have a hard time paying attention when they speak.
Men have been painted as having bad listening skills, and so women have an uphill task putting across their wants and needs to their men.
Experts believe that effective communication in a relationship setting requires effort from both parties.
This means that a woman’s attitude and the way she chooses to go about talking with her man will significantly determine his response.
He may have an issue with listening but your approach could be what is triggering the fight or flight response.
Saturday Magazine spoke to a few men in a bid to shed some light on this age old problem, gain insight regarding communication tendencies which prompt a man to tune out when his love interest is trying to communicate something and to hopefully help bridge the communication gap in romantic relationships.
Ben Mirichi, a university student, suggests putting yourself in a man’s shoes before opening up.
If you were him, would you listen to what you have to say?
His advice for that woman who will not get her man to listen is to also listen when he speaks.
Listening to him will show him that you are unselfish, and it also invites him to give an ear in return.
“Most people assume that men do not want to be listened to. It is unfair for her to expect me to pay attention to something that interests her yet not be ready to listen when I want to talk about something from the man’s world,” says Ben.
Get his attention
Before you accuse your man of not listening, think about whether or not he is the appropriate audience for you at that moment.
If you try to initiate a conversation with your man, or any other male, when he is otherwise occupied you are more likely than not to get a negative response.
“It’s hard to concentrate on a conversation if I’m distracted, stressed or exhausted. If what you want to speak about can wait, choose a time when I’m not distracted. If it can’t wait, capture my attention,” says lawyer John Bunei.
With him, the easiest way to do this is by calling out his name.
Make sure that he looks up and acknowledges you before you start.
If you need a man’s undivided attention, it also helps a great deal if you tell him that you want to speak and that you need his attention.
This will give him a sense of responsibility and he will tune into what you are saying.
Men aren’t known for their concentrations span and if you take too long to get to the point, chances are that he will miss it.
Try to to get your point across in the shortest possible time.
“It can get frustrating trying to follow a conversation when a woman goes into so many varying details before getting to the point. If it’s something is important, begin with the point,” says William Amutete.
Talking to your man becomes more effective if you talk in a way that he can relate to.
Use direct statements to avoid the event of your point getting lost in the details.
Engaging him in the conversation will trigger his interest and prompt him to pay attention. Instead of giving a one-sided lecture, try asking for his opinion.
Men tend to be problem solvers and when the woman in his life speaks about a problem, he immediately begins to think of a solution to it.
If you need to vent or simply get something off your chest, you will have a better response if you state so from the onset.
Be clear at the start regarding the reaction you expect from him.
This way, you will have your needs met and will not leave him confused, racking his brain for a solution that you do not need. “When I meet your needs to be listened to, show some appreciation,” says Denis Thitu.
The 31-year-old marketer shares a tip that his girlfriend uses which, he says, has made him a better listener.
When she feels that she has gotten through to him with her issue, she will tell him that she appreciates it and him.
“This way I know that it is important to her and it motivates me to do it again. Even an appreciative smile will suffice,” he says.
Sign of bigger things
Sometimes, his inability to hear you is a sign that the relationship is in trouble.
Charles Kinyanjui who is in between relationships at the moment admits to having been accused of not listening in a previous relationship.
“If I’m invested in a relationship, I will make a conscious effort to keep the lines of communication open and this will include listening to her,” he argues.
The way he sees it, rather than say it outright, a man will switch off or become defensive when his significant other begins talking so as to push her away.
Your man could be failing to listen because he lacks the motivation to work on the relationship, or it could be his way of avoiding your feelings.
Your man’s apparent lack of listening skills could be an indicator of underlying problems in your relationship.
As much as the responsibility of effectively communicating with your significant other falls on both of you, it is important to keep in mind that when it comes to talking, men and women are wired differently.
While men talk to pass on facts and information, a woman will talk to connect, share emotion, relate experiences or discuss problems.
While a man’s talking is goal-oriented, a woman’s is a way of negotiating intimacy and closeness.
Understanding these differences in ways of communicating will help know what exactly to expect from each other and avoid disappointments.