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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sometimes...You Need to Listen to What is Said and Not Said

I know people like to talk, I'm one of those people. I really do like to talk and women on average use about 16,000 more words a day than men. We can talk, we talk about emotions, feelings, we gossip, we talk funny stuff, we talk sad stuff but we as women and men neglect to do is listen. Most people don't listen to a thing you say, I'm guilty of that too. Most of the time when people are talking to me I'm thinking I really don't care. The other part of this is that many people aren't listening more than they're waiting to talk. Listening is a lost skill in this world of narcissitic self-involvement. The reason we twitter, facebook, and blog is because we love talking about ourselves and we want someone to listen. We love it so much we've dedicated whole websites to self-involvement and promotion. Now you may disagree but after having been a paralegal for 10 years, I'll tell you one thing that I definitely learned. People love to talk, you set them up and they'll knock them down. As a paralegal one of the most important jobs was to listen to people and when I say listen I don't mean just hear them but to actively listen. Which means you take in their words, dissect them, make conclusions and go from there. Most people are dying to tell you their story but some people just want to hide the no so good parts. In law it's lying by omission and to me not saying something is just like outright lying about something. It's not different, not mentioning that you're marrying is just like lying about being married. I've been wanting to write this blog for awhile because as women we are notorious for not listening the things that men say and don't say to us. We live in perpetual fantasy of inferring what we think men mean when they say things or don't say things. Most men when they first meet women are trying to put their best foot forward or at least the foot they want you to see. This means he's telling her only the good parts of him, which I can certainly understand until you move forward in your relationship no one need know all your dirty laundry. But in those first couple of meetings, dates or phone calls you can glean quite a bit about a man without him ever knowing that he's giving up information. When I had clients I wanted them to tell me everything, I worked in defense and the one thing you didn't want in a defense strategy was for opposing counsel to pop up with some news about your client you had not knowledge of.

Well, how does active listening begin on the dating scene first of all it begins with you. In a past blog called 'Sometimes...Well All the Time, You Have to Know What You Want' I talked about how women who are out in the dating world should know what they want and be specific about it. Now if you don't know what you want, how do you know what you're actively listening for? Now all women want different things when it comes to relationships, so those are your parameters to set up as you see fit. Knowing what you desire in a mate, is a great way to eliminate those that don't cut the mustard. Now figuring out if a man is cheap or car-less or whatever may be pretty easy but the deeper issues he may have may be harder to find out. I'm going to say this, if you don't like asking questions this may not be for you. Because you'll have to ask questions and I don't mean grilling under the hot lights like on Law & Order but you need to be okay with asking questions, many times benign questions will get you the information you need. You want to be as nice as possible when you ask the questions, you want the person to feel comfortable and relaxed about revealing things. Don't react negatively when they say negative things, just let them talk, if you react negative they'll shut down completely. Now I'm going to give this example, I was looking for someone that was close to their family. Family is important to me and really it's hard to date/mate with someone who is not close to their family when you are, they may not understand your close relationships and may resent them, my ex-husband did. So I needed someone that was very close to their family because I'm very close to mine. So I ask questions about their family, now you may get all kinds of answers 'they live in Arizona but I go back to see them as much as possible' or 'they live here in Seattle but we don't see one another that much'. I always ask about brothers and sisters not just parents, people may see their parents but issues with brothers and sisters is sure sign to me of family issues. I don't like family drama, so I needed to steer clear. If you're concerned about a man's money habits you may bring up a recent shopping trip you had, you may get a reaction of 'oh yea what did you buy?' You say what you bought and see how he reacts, he may look confused or agitated which may mean he doesn't like spending money on frivolous things. He may tell you he doesn't shop much, he's got everything he needs in his closet which may mean he's cheap. He may tell you all about all the things he's bought over the recent weeks trying to brag about his money but to me that just means he likes bills way too much and is little too loose with his bread. It depends on what you want in the man to know how to read the signals. Watch the man's eyes, his hands, if he laughs at things nervously, and always watch if he's about to say something but stops quickly and starts to say something else, I guarantee he's lying. But I'll tell you this, DO NOT ignore signals. A man that may be divorced talking about his ex is in too negative or too positive tone means trouble for you, hit the ground running. Don't start thinking that if he had your love he'd forget all about her, you're fooling yourself. Also be ready to ask follow-up questions if you're looking for clarification or better understanding, don't let things go that are bothering you when the guy answers. You need to be quick with follow-up questions and non-threatening. Much of this depends on you being non-threatening.

Another indicator is the family dynamic. If you ever meet the family. I don't think people, men or women, get that when you meet the family on some level you're being introduced to a part of the person you date. Now this may not happen till much later but it shouldn't be more than a couple of months. If he won't introduce you to his family I'd be wary. That means he thinks something is wrong with you that they won't approve or something is wrong with his family which is even worse. But if you do get the chance to meet his family observe how they interact with one another. Watch the way his father treats his mother, believe me that's the way he'll be treating you. So when I met Matt's family and noticed that his father adores his mother, that was a good sign that Matt would treat me in a like manner. Watch the dynamic among brothers and sisters, if they have any, tension in those relationships is not good. Also please know that his friends are a reflection of him especially if he spends a significant amount of time with them.

The things I learned I learned from working as a paralegal and questioning people for so long, but you there are tons of books out there on the subject of 'reading people'. Now can I guarantee this will work all the time, heck no, but I can guarantee that if you ask questions you can make some inferences from the answers and really that's all you have. Unless he's a really nice guy that meets your standards you may never go the distance to find the whole truth about him. But I believe that God gave us instincts for a reason, listen to them.


  1. Great post! The idea of active listening is waaaay important to help women quickly sort through losers and winners. Guess what? You're in the book. Love ya!

  2. Active listening would have probably saved me from my first marriage. But I was young and didn't have that skill just yet. But when I think back on some conversations we had when we first started to date, if I had been actively listening I would have realized he was narcissist early on. It's worth doing.

    And thank you for including me in the book, I'm honored. Anything I can do to help people avoid some of my mistakes, I'll do.