So, the other day I was working…and Julia came in the office and started talking with me about something that was bothering her. I was in the middle of finishing something up, so my thoughts were…”doesn’t she realize I’m working? How does she expect me to have a meaningful conversation now?” In order to balance to two, I slightly cheat my head toward her (never taking my eyes off the computer or fingers off the keyboard) and engage in deep conversation along the lines of… “yeah….uh huh…yeah…hmmm”. After a bit, it’s obvious to her that I’m not really paying attention or communicating with her. So then she feels hurt and leaves.
This was NOT an isolated incident unfortunately. It happens all the time. Sometimes it’s while I’m working. Sometimes it’s while I’m watching something on tv. Sometimes it’s doing something on the computer. But, it’s always the same…I’m doing something…Julia comes up to try to talk with me…I don’t care enough to stop what I’m doing and give her my attention…she feels unimportant and hurt.
As a result…I usually don’t remember anything about what she’s said, and she feels like I don’t care about what she has to say. Both of these are bad. The good news is, this is an easy problem to avoid using my handy two-step process.
Step 1 – Stop what I’m doing: Seriously…just stop. There is very little I could be doing that is SO important that I can’t stop for one minute.
Step 2 – Give her my attention: Make eye contact, listen, and contribute to the conversation.
That’s it! BOOM! Welcome to the awesome.
Now, it’s possible that I may actually be in the middle of something important and time sensitive. Ignoring her and hoping she catches the hint is NOT the best way to communicate this though. A much better way to communicate it is…WORDS (imagine that)! It’s actually pretty easy to say, “Hey, I really want to hear what you have to share, could we talk in a few minutes instead? I really need to finish something up first.” I’ve found this approach goes over much better.
This is a problem that I’ve had a tough time with for quite a while, but I’m working on it. I find that the more I think about it, the more likely I am to apply it. And when I have a win, it helps reinforce what I want to do.
My advice to you:
If your wife has something to tell you, it’s for a reason. She’s not just exercising her vocal cords. Take a moment to stop what you’re doing and listen. Maybe that means pausing the tv, turning to look at her, or closing the laptop. Remember she is your wife and ask yourself, “is what I’m currently doing more important than my wife and her feelings?”