My wife Marcia and I were on a cruise in the Irish Sea, headed to Dublin a few weeks back, killing time until the announcement to go ashore was made. Sitting with us in the buffet area was a couple from Hawaii. Actually, only the wife was at the table, her husband was wandering around with a plate of food, looking for her. He finally shuffled over and sat down with a sigh. “I couldn’t find you,” he exclaimed. She glared at him, rolled her eyes and replied, “I told you I’d be at the table under the picture of the Titanic,” and then turned to us and said, “He never listens!” We knew she was right, my wife more aware of it than I, but even I’ve been around long enough to know it’s true. My wife responded to the woman from Hawaii, but I don’t know what she said. I wasn’t listening.
It’s not our fault. We try to listen. We’re positive we hear everything our wives tell us, but we don’t. I think it’s a right brain, left brain thing. When somebody talks, we are all ears, for about ten seconds. Then our brain switches to a sports mode. It drags up an image from our high school days, scoring the winning basket as the clock winds down to zero. Technically, it doesn’t drag up an image; it invents one. We never had a moment like that. The sports mode of the male brain can’t distinguish between fact and fiction.
It’s not just our wives we don’t listen to; it’s everybody. It’s why we get in so much trouble. We’re in a conversation; the other person talks and talks and then stops and looks at us and says, “So, do you think it’s a good idea?” We have no idea what they are talking about, but we never admit it. “Sure,” we respond. “That’s a great idea.” Then we discover that we just loaned our car to our neighbor’s teenage son for the prom. “How could you do that?” our wife asks. “It sounded like a good idea at the time,” we lamely respond. “You had to be there.”
I’m so glad women are getting into leadership positions in business and politics. It was a tough road without them. If a woman had been in charge of Ford Motor Company in the 1950’s, when the sales team made the pitch to introduce the Edsel, she would have listened to them and then listened to the engineers that said it was too soon; the bugs hadn’t been worked out. As it was, Henry Ford the 2nd, who, may I point out, is a man, was daydreaming about the Detroit Tigers when the discussion took place. When asked if they should move ahead and introduce the car in the 1958 model year, he said, “Sounds like a good idea.” (It turned out to be the biggest lemon in automotive history.) No, we don’t listen. And everybody pays a price. It’s why the world is in such a mess these days.
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