by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
June 26, 2005
I'M SORRY - WERE YOU SAYING SOMETHING?
SYRACUSE, Ind. - Ask anyone what the key to a successful relationship is, and they'll tell you the same thing: communication.
This is true whether you're talking about business relationships, friendships, or marriage. Although if you're OJ Simpson or Robert Blake, some might say that not killing your wife is more important. However, they were both found not guilty by the courts, so I'll leave the validity of these jokes up to you.
But ask those same people (the other people, not OJ or Robert Blake) to define communication and it gets a little harder.
"Umm ... talking, listening, er... sharing feelings, and you know... uhh, just communicating. Oh, and not killing your wife."
Not only have entire books been devoted to communication, but weekend seminars, college classes, graduate degrees, and entire careers have as well. So what makes me think I can deal with such a gargantuan topic in a single 755 word column?
Actually, I don't need to. For one thing, I've already spent 161 words getting this far. And I'm going to skip that whole "sharing your feelings" business, which will save me about three years worth of work.
That also means I can spare you the traditional "wives want to share their feelings during football" jokes that have become a staple of stand-up comics everywhere. They've become such an overused topic of humor that even the mountain dwellers of Nepal know the jokes, and they've never even seen football.
But if I had to pick one important area of good communication, it's listening. Listening is the most important thing you can do in any relationship, because it does a number of things.
First, it's how you gather information. Second, it makes the other person think you care about what they have to say, whether you really do or not. And third, it lets you watch that thing in their nose flap in and out as they breathe.
Of course, you could also fake listen while actually listening to the announcers discuss how Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis just went medieval on the opposing team's quarterback. But this will lead to problems of its own, like missing important things your wife is trying to say.
Wife: The kids are asleep. Do you want to go upstairs, and ... you know?
You: No, honey, those pants don't make you look that fat.
Football Announcer #1: Oooh, nice hit. He didn't see that one coming!
Football Announcer #2: No he didn't Al. She really plowed him over with a ferocious tackle. His head snapped back like a broken Pez dispenser.
Announcer #1: Jeez, John, that just looks painful. Uh-oh, I think he's really hurt.
Announcer #2: He's not moving. He's not moving at all.
Announcer #1: They're bringing the stretcher onto the field. The other husbands are just standing around on the field, slowly shaking their heads. You hate to see that kind of thing happen.
Of course, there are those people who would rather hear themselves talk instead of listening. So even though they hear the old "we have two ears but only one mouth" quote, they launch into a 15 minute diatribe about how the ears are redundant since they both do the same thing, and our mouth is much bigger than our ear holes, and blah blah blah until you just want to punch them in the nose.
Your best bet in dealing with this person is to tell your wife he thought she looks fat in her new pants.
So what's the key to good listening techniques? Well, not talking, for one thing. Unless you're a guest on a cable news show, you shouldn't talk while the other person is talking.
Second, concentrate on what the other person is saying, rather than formulating a response. Try to really pay attention to the other person. Unless that thing in their nose is threatening to fly out. Then it's okay to make mental bets with yourself about where it will land or how far it will fly.
Third, paraphrase what the other person said, and repeat it back to them. Again, it shows you were paying attention, and it lets you double-check whether you heard the other person correctly. You weren't really paying attention after that thing finally flew out of their nose, and you had to watch to see where it landed, so this will let you make sure you're on the right track.
But the most important secret for a successful relationship is this: Always remember to - What an incredible pass! 47 yard touchdown!! Woo-hoo!!