Unlock the key to marital harmony through the art of passive listening. Discover three simple steps to transform communication and deepen your connection with your spouse.

Husband listening to his wife talk.

You’ve heard it said before; “there are only two guarantees in life: death and taxes”. I would argue that whoever made up that proverb wasn’t married. I for one would like to add one more guarantee for us men lucky enough to be married; domestic confusion.

Embracing Competence and Continuous Learning

We men admire competence. It is a part of why we like professional sports. It’s why we hate our government. Our pursuit of competence likely informed our career paths to some degree. We found something we were good at, or were willing to become good at. Good men like us never stop learning new skills.

We see, we learn, we conquer. It’s how we have by and large tamed the entire world. There is nothing wrong with being industrious, after all it was God’s charge toward Adam to subdue the earth. It is why we admire to some degree captains of industry such as Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. Stories of visionaries who defied the odds inspires us on a level we don’t often talk about out loud.

I for one, am an advocate of all men struggling to become the best versions of themselves. I believe it benefits all of society. Being the best versions of ourselves require us to be the best versions of the leaders of our homes as well. We ought no to neglect, in pursuit of conquering our world, the people who matter the most to us.

Herein lies one of God’s greatest mysteries: our wives. There is no adequate way to really sum up the nature of the relationship between a husband and a wife. We won’t let the mystery stop us. In an effort to ensure some domestic tranquility; in its most literal sense, I am here to help teach you how to make your wife feel heard.

We are going to explore together the art, and it is an art form indeed, of passive listening.

Navigating Conversations with Your Wife

We have all been there before. Your wife, after a particularly stressful day or event, comes to you and delivers a soliloquy that would make Shakespeare reconsider his chosen profession. You, being the hero that you are, do your best attempt at keeping up with the new information like the most seasoned of court stenographers.

When she finally takes a brief respite from her opening remarks you find the perfect opportunity to do what all men do best and naturally. You, in your proudest moment of inspirational genius, offer her: a solution. No, my friend, not just any solution. This is a solution that makes perfect sense. You have masterfully crafted a solution, in mere seconds, to all of her day’s troubles.

You try not to laugh in light of your own quick wittedness and problem-solving ability. You quip; “Just don’t go back” or “I wouldn’t even talk to her anymore” or some other brilliant one liner that can only come from years of being a man and basically never talking to anyone about your problems.

What happens next, to your dismay, is an utter lack of appreciation for all of the craftiness and effort you have elatedly executed. She looks you in the eye; all 5’4” of her, and tells you that you weren’t listening. Excuse me! She follows it up with, “you never listen to me!”. The nerve of that girl! Did she not just see that performance you put on.

Knowest her not, that some guy would have paid for your dinner to get that level of problem solving from you. No one told her that you are the guru of the friend group, and that everyone comes to you for advice. She literally has her own Dr. Phil standing in her kitchen and she is going to tell you that you never listen. The unmitigated gall!

What went wrong? Something with her obviously. No, my friend. This is where that domestic tranquility is going to come in handy. I am about to change your life. If you are sitting on the can reading this, try not to fall off. If you want a bit of shalom in the home, this is where you are going to have to master the art of passive listening.

Implementing Passive Listening

I will break this down into three easy steps that you can implement right away. Don’t ask me how, but your wife is going to love you for this.

Step 1: Shut-up

Let’s start with the obvious. It is nigh impossible to listen and talk at the same time. Multitasking isn’t exactly a strong suit for us gentlemen in the first place so we are going to simplify.

When she comes through the door and you see the signs that she has had a rough day you are going to actively engage with a simple question. “Rough day, huh?” or whatever variation you are comfortable using. Now, culture will tell you that this is poking the bear. That is true for weak men who don’t know what you are about to learn.

The end game is you are going to apply this husband magic and get that sweetheart back that you love, almost instantly. Trust me. After you ask about her day, shut up. Most women need very little encouragement to begin sharing. Resist the urge to interject no matter how obvious your solutions to the problem should be to any and all of God’s creatures. These women are diverse from everything else He created… trust me.

Step 2: Affirm

Repeat this after me: “her feelings are valid”. Don’t keep reading this until you say it out loud. I want you to actually believe that. Women and men are allowed to have rough days, equally.

Here is what you are going to have to learn in step two; affirming phrases. You are going to tame your mouth to say things like “really?” and “oh wow!”. Find you some kind of dictionary if need be. I can give you a few here, but I have to keep this concise.

You need to really master this step because you will need to change it up. “Is that right?” and “I would be mad, too.” Will become your best friends. Nothing too complicated, but you need to encourage her to get it all out and let her know she has the right to be upset.

Simple sentences work best. She ain’t trying to hear you right now as much as she wants to feel heard. You read that correctly; feel heard. Don’t ask me how hearing is an emotion. I’ve hacked the system, I didn’t write the code, ok? Take that up with the Man Upstairs.

Step 3: Summarize

This will be perhaps the toughest step to master, but once you have done it marital friction can be reduced upwards of 50%. In steps one and two I want you to actually hear what she is saying. It is called passive listening because you are offering no active solutions, not because you are ignoring her and pretending to listen.

When she has completed her diatribe in its entirety it will be your turn to talk. This is critical, gentlemen. You can completely negate steps one and two and ruin the entire process if you screw up at step 3. If you have done well in steps one and two, her body language will have changed up to a more receptive posture. With her eyebrow slightly less furrowed you will understand this is you sign to land the plane. You are going to, in as few sentences as possible, repeat a summation of her soliloquy back to her with a few broad affirmations of her emotions regarding the entire issue.

Here is what that looks like; “I can’t believe Suzy would do x-y-z like that. I don’t blame you for being put off.”. Be sincere. I know you would just tell little miss Suzy to take a long walk off of a short pier, but this isn’t about you. Thinking about you is the reason you need my help in the first place. After you make that last statement just be silent and look her in the eye.

In a negotiation the first one to speak loses. She will have a follow up, but you leave it at that. What generally comes next is a mystery as great as the workings of the heavens themselves. She will likely change her entire posture up and tell you some variation of thanks for listening. I know you don’t believe me yet, but after you master the art of passive listening you will be writing me letters on how I saved your marriage.

Reaping The Rewards of Passive Listening in Your Marriage

 I know it is counterintuitive. I understand that it goes against everything we men are taught to believe about the inner workings of the universe. I understand that much of this may be uncomfortable for you initially, but this will help your wife see you as the best listener she knows. When all the other ladies get together and talk about how their husbands don’t listen, your wife will be left with no choice but to acknowledge your mastery of the craft publicly and often. Soon, listening will be just another challenge that you’ve conquered on the road to being the best version of yourself. Step up to the plate gentlemen. I love you, and you can do this.  


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