Listen to This
When my wife tells me I need to become a better listener, I have half a mind to do what she says.
Written by: Dr. Michael Weiss
In fact, I have exactly half a mind - not a brain cell more, not a brain cell less.
At least that’s what a medical researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine is trying to tell me.
He hooked an equal number of men and women up to a machine that measures neural activity. Then, he read to them from a John Grisham novel and found out that men tend to listen with half their brains, while women tend to use the whole thing.
He didn’t say what men where doing with the other half of their brains at the time -thinking about golf, perhaps? - but that hardly matters at this point. Science appears to have confirmed what women have been saying all along: Men are lousy listeners.
At least, that’s what I think they’ve been saying. I can’t be totally sure because, after all, I have the brain of a man, so I may only be capable of catching every other sentence.
Anyway, the researcher - a man - was quick to note that his study doesn’t indicate that men tune women out 50 percent of the time. Rather, he said it shows that the different sexes merely process verbal information in different ways, so members of one sex aren’t necessarily better listeners than members of the other.
(I could be mistaken, but I think that half my brain just heard a couple of million women holler, "Yeah, right!")
The researcher also pointed out that more study in this area is clearly needed before we can draw accurate conclusions about whose minds are partially-versus-fully engaged.
So, in the interest of science, I decided to do some research of my own. I conducted a field study to see if perceptions among individuals in the general population jive with the machine-generated findings.
I can sum up my results this way: If you define the general population as women, then the answer is, "Yes, the general population strongly believes that men listen with only half their brains."
The women didn’t actually say the word "strongly." I just of kind of inferred from the comments below:
- "I can watch TV, read a magazine and hold a conversation. My husband can’t. It’s like his head will explode if he tries to focus on more than one thing at a time."
- "I’ll tell you how bad it is: We were watching a show about Miami that mentioned the name of a restaurant we used to enjoy. My husband said he never heard of it. I don’t think he even remembers that we used to live in Florida, let alone what I told him yesterday. Isn’t that right, Mike?"
On that note, I figured I better expand my research beyond my own house. So when I left home and got to the office, I also wrote down some of the things that the women there had to add:
- "When I finish telling something to my husband, he nods his head, looks deep into my eyes and asks, %91What did you say?’"
- "Do you know why women use their whole brains? Because we have to remember all the stuff that men forget."
- "I can always tell when my husband’s half a brain is filled up."
You get the picture. The consensus among all the women I interviewed was that we men didn’t really need to go to all the trouble of researching this subject.
They could have told us a long time ago that we pay exactly half a mind to what they say.
In fact, most of the ladies I talked to for my project mentioned that they already have. The problem was, we just weren’t listening.
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