Important Listening Skills In A Relationship

I got about two words into a story the other day when my wife stopped me.  “I’ve heard that one before.” She said. “Three times.”  I know we have been married a while, but I didn’t realize just how familiar my material was getting to her.  It made things very awkward for a moment because I realized that I may actually have to impress her anew in order to gain any real appreciation.  While I know that that should be my goal every day, it still made me wonder why I liked to retell stories of my past exploits.

We all do it, reminiscing about our greatest victories and craziest experiences.  But for guys, this has a particular value.  We like to be looked up to.  If I can tell you about the time I met some important person, or pulled off this great feat, I hope for just a brief instant there will be admiration in your eyes or awe in your voice.  I think at heart we guys know how childish this is, but I never said we were complex or clever!  It is just that we retell these stories to reaffirm our value with those close to us.

Amongst guys, anecdotes are fuel to the competition we are always in with each other and ourselves.  We want to outdo the last guy, or contribute meaningfully so we don’t feel like a social spectator.  However, with the women in our lives this becomes the equivalent of hanging a mammoth head on the cave wall – evidence that we are suitable mates, capable and desirable.  So to have it waved off as old news can hurt just a little!

What I guess I am saying is not that you should sit doe-eyed through all the same old stories, but recognize why we want to tell them.  When a guy starts a story that you have heard before it is because he either forgot he already told it, or because he wants to impress you all over again.  Probably both.  Consider it a compliment!  If you can’t bear to hear it one more time, help him finish it, but do so with enthusiasm.  Make sure that he understands that you appreciate him for whatever it is that he is trying to communicate to you.  Stroking his ego just a little is about the nicest thing you could do, and he will be grateful even if he doesn’t totally understand what just happened!


Dan Kelly

5 thoughts on “Important Listening Skills In A Relationship

  1. Georgia
    May 11, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    That all sounds good, but what happens if you’ve literally heard it being told every few months over a period of 10 years and they are totally living in the past and you want them to push themselves and go for great new things for the future?

  2. quinn
    May 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    i find it’s more of my husband saying that to me, rather than me to him. does that mean i wear the pants in the relationship? 😮 but seriously, if guys need to retell their stories, how come the ladies can’t? isn’t that double standards?

  3. May 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    @Quinn by all means a woman can retell her stories as many times as she wants.

    @Georgia As for getting him out of the past and pushing him into the future, try picking out important skills he has acquired from his past experiences. Sometimes men tell these stories but we forget why we were successfully. It just takes somebody else reminding us.

    Also try giving him newspaper clippings or forward emails about different jobs or activities he would be good at. Remind him about his story and how he would be so good at this new position. Many times a man just needs a little push in the right direction.

  4. Jenniczyk
    May 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    So sweet of you to be always thinking of impressing your wife. I agree with you – just a little bit of mutual admiration goes a long way. Although remember, girls liked to be ooed and awed at from time to time as well!

  5. Jen
    May 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    I know a lot of guys going the same way. Telling of stories or jokes a couple of times tend to be irritating but I never butt in in the middle of it. I understand that it’s a guy’s way of putting the show on the road. Guys are naturally not talkative so when they talk and tell stories, there’s a great possibility that they’re just re-telling it.

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