As a meeting I attended wound down, I excused myself early and waited outside for my carpool mates, a man and a woman. One eternity later, only the woman emerged. And she was irate.

“He’s having an idiotic conversation,” she said, “even though I stood next to him and then loudly announced, ‘Goodnight, everyone!’ Ya think he might pick up on a cue?”

Now, this is a very bright and, usually, very reasonable woman. So I opened my mouth to ask, “Why don’t you just tell him we have to get going?” Until a voice in my head warned, “Woman upset. Must…resist…temptation… to…offer…obvious…solution.”

Cuz, you know: Women only want to vent, and men must never break the No Solutions Allowed rule.

I wonder how this rule got onto the list of Things Men Do Wrong. Because, really, if I complain about, say, squirrels invading my garden and eating my tomatoes, and one of my Packers-watching buds says, “Put chicken wire around them,” I don’t get offended. I start calculating how much chicken wire I’ll need to put around all those damned squirrels.

Being notoriously focused on solutions, men have a particularly hard time with the NSA rule. Some researchers and philosophers suggest looking for solutions is in our DNA.

What makes it even harder is that, apparently, sometimes you ladies are looking for solutions—and when you are, not getting one also pisses you off. Arrrrrgh!

Fortunately, I have access to the Internet—a great tool for people who want solutions or just someone to listen. And I found this gem, from an InterDating.ua post titled “How to understand women”:

Women die for attention, breath with care and need “Love” – sentimental, romantic, weepy, about which you whisper on her ear…I imagine you saying: “Such a new woman. She is not stupid to bite all this!?”…” Don’t worry- she will! Let she be the most cool and new one, you can’t resist feminine nature.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that, but I also found this, from a blog called Shrink4Men:

When a woman says, “Men need to be more sensitive and in touch with their emotions,” I hear, “Men need to be more like women.” If women want to be with men who can talk about their feelings like their best girlfriend, why don’t they just get together with their girlfriend?

Women use words to process their feelings, often wallowing in emotions without reaching resolution. Men state their feelings and use words to achieve resolution. For the record, a glut of feelings without resolution is meaningless. Society doesn’t tell women, “Hey, instead of blathering about your feelings and problems all day, why don’t you get off your ass and do something about them?”

The author of this sage passage, Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD, goes on to say she sympathizes with men because women don’t listen to them correctly.

Hmmm.

Maybe the real issue is that offering solutions doesn’t make men stupid or evil, and not wanting their problems fixed doesn’t make women stupid or evil. We’re all just being ourselves.

That doesn’t solve anything. But this picturesque post from the blog of dating coach Evan Marc Katz moves us in the right direction:

Alison holds out her arms into a hula hoop sized ring in front of her body. “This is a toilet,” she says. “Your job, as a man, is just to hold her hair and rub her back as she vomits her story into your toilet. As long as she’s speaking, you just hold her hair back. That’s all you’re expected to do. That’s all she WANTS you to do.”

My advice is to listen to her until she’s done, and then ASK her if she’s open to hearing your thoughts. By getting her permission after a venting session, she knows you’ve fully “heard” her and have nothing but her interests at heart.

The Power to Change website goes further, offering men these listening tips:

• Tune out distractions and focus on her.
• Refrain from giving unsolicited advice or blame.
• Offer to solve problems with and not for her.
• Ask questions.
• Demonstrate that you get what she’s saying.
• Offer solutions with humility.

Which means I don’t necessarily have to wait around with a woman who has steam coming out of her ears while some dumb ass delays our departure. I can hold back her hair while she pukes all over me and say, “Wow, that guy’s a dumb ass.” And then, maybe, suggest I go back inside to tap his shoulder and tell him we have to get going.

Or, I can just wait it out and offer a different solution later. Like suggesting we boot the fool from the pool.

Woman’s feelings heard. Man’s solution effected. A win-win, for sure.

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