You know those times, when something falls out of your mouth, and without looking up, you just know you said the wrong thing!
As guys, women spend years telling us to listen. When we offer a retort, we’re told “I only wanted you to listen, why’d you answer me? How could you possibly understand?” So, we get wise, and the next time we listen…we say nothing…smile proudly…and then hear “So, you have nothing to say?”. In time, we begin to understand that the rules change every day…and there’s just no right thing to do. Years of trial and error(mostly error) have led us to end up with “Yes dear”, “Really?”, and my favourite, the “non-vocal sympathetic shake of the head whilst trying not to look at the T.V. manoeuvre”!
One thing we try to do is to relieve the situation. I was recently confided in by a friend. I listened politely, assured her I was actually hearing her by interjecting with brief, but relevant questions, clarifying any points that might lead to an accusation of non-understanding later. The conversation continued and I began to realise that my attempts to relieve, console and show my understanding were starting to fail. Grabbing my mental notes of “1001 things not to say in this situation”, I sailed straight over page 2 and did exactly what it states not to do…I made a small, perfectly crafted witticism. It was expertly dismissed by my friend, in fact, completely unacknowledged! Taking the time to listen again, I was starting to panic. I was still NOT making anything better. When will I learn that I don’t always have to?! “Don’t say anything stupid” I told myself…and two seconds later…did exactly that! Another two seconds, and the conversation was over!
Another friend of mine surprised me once after asking me an awkward question, and pointed out that my fake cough was just a way to find time to get that elusive correct answer. She was mostly right!
For those of you who don’t know me well, and those who think you do…but don’t, and of course those who either now or very soon will wish they didn’t….(did I cover everyone?), here’s the problem…
I’m loved or loathed for my honesty. Replace honesty with “a complete lack of diplomatic or sympathetic interjection, combined with an astounding ability to give the truth, no matter how hard or hurtful it may be”. Now you see my issue! However, given the right circumstances, and some small respect or affection for the person in question, I will try my very best to keep to myself any comments that could result in the “goldfish with mouth open” impression, the “walking out of the room whilst trying to hide tears” impression…and of course, it’s always good to avoid physical violence!
So, now I add in the little “two-cough” routine…expertly giving me time to NOT say the first and completely truthful thing in my head. Instead, the time is used to come up with something humourous, witty and pertinent in order not only to show a continued understanding and empathy, but to try and cheer up my friend in need. “But why do you do that?” I hear you shout…and the answer is simple…I just don’t know when to shut the hell up, well I do…but I can’t….I just can’t!
However, when the same friend in need accepted my apology, and continued to confide in me, I was proud. After telling me of an ideal situation where her soul mate would “finish her sentences”, I was proud not to have interjected and replaced “sentences” with anything like “dinner”, “crossword” or “vodka”! So, you see, I learnt! In those split seconds, I listened, I remembered, declined the opportunity for poorly laid humour, expelled my two coughs and when my mouth opened, it said “awwww….that’s so lovely!”
Patting myself on the back, I went back and contemplated page 2 again…