photo by EfrankE

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Men Don't Listen

Last week, while leaving from a pre-workday meeting at my friend’s garage, I walked through his kitchen as his wife and daughter were there getting ready to leave for work themselves. Apparently the two of them had been talking over the day’s plans.

“I hope our talking didn’t disturb you,” his wife remarked.

“Of course not,” I replied, “Men don’t hear women. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”

I know that it’s hard for women to grasp why this is. It’s generally a mystery to men too, but some research indicates it’s somewhat due to the way men’s minds are biologically wired.

According to this ABC news report, men hear women’s speech differently than the way they hear the speech of other men: “The research shows men decipher female voices using the auditory part of the brain that processes music, while male voices engage a simpler mechanism [of the brain]…this causes a more complex range of sound frequencies [in a female voice] than in a male voice…”

Am I reading this right? It takes more brainpower to listen to a woman talk than a man?

The report also notes that, due to the greater complexity of the structure of women’s vocal chords and larynx, they have a “greater natural ‘melody’ in their voices.”

So that explains it. Absent focused concentration - perhaps even with it - men’s brains have a tendency to hear women’s talking as innocuous music, I assume much like what is played in an elevator or supermarket to relax patrons. So sometimes instead of hearing the facts of what women are telling us (not to mention the unspoken, emotional subtext), our minds subconsciously just start humming along to whatever it is they're saying. I’ve noticed, myself, that this phenomenon sometimes even produces a soothing, lullaby affect.

So, women, what can you learn from this scientific revelation?

Perhaps this: If you want a man to "hear" you, keep your message(s) short, simple and stick to the main point(s). If it's really important, don't speak at all; write it down and pass him the note. That's your most effective communication mode. You also may find it helpful to refer to this chart I’ve created.

You’ll note from the chart that even if you limit yourself to one subject only in your communication, statistically, the likelihood a man will remember it is no better than about 80%, and it decreases exponentially as the number of subjects in your statement increases.

So, please don’t blame me(n) anymore for not hearing you. A man's brain just finds it too easy to hum along to the sweet song in your voice.

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