As a man with a story of many failed relationships, these words played like a broken record throughout the course of my past. It would get so frustrating when I’d sit there and listen to every word she said, only to hear…
You’re not REALLY listening.
It didn’t matter that I could recite it back to her word for word. She still insisted I wasn’t listening. I remember thinking, this woman is crazy (usually I substituted the word woman for something else).
It wasn’t until I began my coach training that I realized I never learned how to really listen. Carl Rogers describes it in great detail in his book Active Listening. I highly recommend it for all men. If you’re like me you’ll discover things they never taught you about listening that could change your life instantly and forever.
Once you’re able to listen with your heart instead of your head you’ll probably find that what your woman is asking for goes beyond just listening. More than likely, she’s asking you to step up as a man and hold space for her.
Holding space is another one of those skills they never taught you in school.
As a man who strives to be a strong provider for his lover’s needs, you may be leaving out the one thing she needs most; an emotional bucket for her to dump her unwanted trash in.
Your absolute presence.
As simple as it sounds, most men struggle with this. We like to fix things. So we listen just long enough to see the problem through our clouded lenses and go right to the solution. We start offering advice by sharing our “infinite wisdom” and the whole thing blows up in our faces.
When it comes to working through some difficult shit with my wife, sitting back, keeping my mouth shut, and providing an empty container for her does not come naturally to me. That’s why I have to prepare.
If you’re caught off guard in a restaurant or driving in a car and your woman needs you to hold space for her, here’s what you do. Find the nearest restroom and lock yourself in a stall. It may not be the most pleasant olfactory experience for you but you just may come out smelling like a rose to your woman.
Then whip out this cheat sheet that I learned from some wicked smaaht people.
- Find a quiet spot to center yourself and breathe. The first thing you need to do is center and ground yourself. It’s very likely that some of the shit that comes up will trigger your own shit. After all, you are soulmates. It’s important that you have a plan to keep yourself grounded and remember your role as the container. If you abandon that role by making it about you, there’s no container left for either of you and you become like gasoline on her fire.
- Create an anchor. An anchor is a trigger you create for yourself to stay grounded. Something, like grabbing your ear lobe or scratching your palm, works well. Use it when you sense yourself getting distracted, wanting to puke up advice, or anything that would indicate your own ego is popping up. If this is going to end well your ego needs to be in time-out.
- Practice deep listening. Deep listening is using all your senses. Notice her tone, pitch, and volume when she speaks. Watch her body language for what she’s really trying to communicate to you. It’s often something very different from the words that come out of her mouth. Feel what she’s saying with your heart rather than hearing with your head.
- Trust her ability to work through her own shit. Her process is different than yours. She may appear that she’s losing her mind or going around in circles and getting nowhere. It’s up to you to let go of your preconceived judgments about how the process should go and remember you’re just the bucket. The fact that her process is so different from yours may be the very reason you make beautiful music together.
- Use the power of touch. A gentle caress of her hand or a properly timed hug can make all the difference. Use your intuition to guide you on this one. Always make sure it’s for her and not you. A good indicator is if you feel the little guy stirring in your pants it might be your ego popping up too. If done right, you’ll get yours later.
- Acknowledge, appreciate and validate. Let her know how much you admire and respect her courage to be completely vulnerable with you. Then express how grateful you are that she trusted you to be that container. You may also ask her if there’s anything more she needs from you right now. IF SHE SAYS NO, SHUT UP!
- THE END! More than likely, this experience will stir up some shit in you that you need to talk through. I highly recommend that you do; JUST NOT NOW. Call on the warrior that lives in you and put it on a shelf until you can get with a brother or group of brothers as soon as possible. Right now, you’re the lover.
Previously published on Life Beyond Clean
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