What Women Want: Listen with Your Heart

Written by Dr. Gary Smalley

1. Make and keep eye contact. Few things assure your loved one that you are listening closely more than making eye contact. Without making it seem like you are staring through her, lock your eyes on hers and listen to what she has to say.

2.  Cease all other activity. When your loved one wants to talk to you-when she has something very important to talk to you about and needs your undivided attention-make sure you can do it in an atmosphere free of other activity.

3. Let your loved one know you are being attentive. In addition to keeping eye contact, let her know that you are listening closely and attentively by acknowledging what she’s saying through head nods and other signs of attentiveness.

4. Speak occasional words of agreement or understanding. While you listen to your loved one, it is good to interject words that communicate that you understand how that person feels. Simple statements such as, “I can see how you would feel that way,” or “I would feel the same way myself” can do much to communicate that you are listening with you heart.

5. Ignore all interruptions. Sometimes a man and his loved one need to get to a place where there is no chance they will be interrupted so they can just talk. When you take the time to listen with your heart, try to do it where you won’t be interrupted.

How women say men can become experts at listening with their hearts:

  • Solve problems with me, not for me.”
  • “Just listen. Give me a chance to voice my inner thoughts and feelings.”
  • “Listen without offering unsolicited advice or blame.”
  • “Teach me your problem solving skills.”
  • “If you don’t understand what I’m saying, ask me questions.”
  • “Offer feedback that says you understand what I’m telling you.”
  • “Be compassionate as you listen.”
  • “Resist laughing or mocking me in what I have to say.”
  • “Offer me advice with humility.”
  • “Use facial expressions and body language so that I know you’re really hearing me.”

15 Responses to “What Women Want: Listen with Your Heart”

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    Good one Celeste! So sorry that you had that kind of experience! Definitely not what a depressed woman needs to hear.

  • Celeste65 says:

    The one thing a man should NEVER say to a depressed wife who comes to him for emotional support?
    “What the F—(rhymes with truck) do you want me to do about it?”
    Keep your lips zipped, LISTEN, put your arms around her and reassure that this too shall pass…with your love and support.
    Speaking from experience here.

  • Brenda Miller says:

    winher, I do agree with you that communication needs to be balanced to be successful, and most of all, both parties need to respect one another. Emotions are God-given, winher, and vital to acknowledge on both sides of the relationship. While they can get in the way if we allow them to control us, I believe emotions are not more female than male; it is more a question of a difference in how men and women are conditioned in our society to express our emotions. Acknowledging one another’s feelings in relationship, I believe, is vital to healthy communication.

    Zach, I am glad you enjoyed Dr. Smalley’s article. I also gained a great deal from this submission.

    Lorna, I am so sorry to hear about your painful work experience. It is very demeaning and humiliating to be dismissed and treated in the way you were under any circumstances. I would love to hear how you are doing and if you were able to improve your communication with your supervisor and manager.

  • Kay says:

    … ^^^^^ Oh dear… typo alert I am sure, my pc randomly sent off my last message before I got to edit anything or cut things out I type fast but usually take down my wordiness. lol. Oh well.

    point being though, I was just going off about my thoughts on entering a marriage. Feel free to let me know what you think. Ill maybe write more later.

  • Kay says:


    No biggie I am soooo used to my mans sarcasm and jokesthat I figured it was a possibility, :)

    and I absolutely agree with you. SOoooo many people hop right into getting married because tthey are in love. And obviously that SHOULD be present when tying your life down to someone, but a marriage requires soooo much more. Any relationship does. If more people entered even dating and casual relationships properly, there would for sure be less women claiming that all men are dogs, or cheat, and less men saying that all women want is money.

    It is horrible really because I DO know men that also date women for money, and know more women that cheat then I do men… In my opinion, its all about the individual. But because of how the common media depicts relationships, people end up more focused on the bad things to look for than the good. And in return, assume that they need to become more tactful about “controlling” the bad.

    I think its scary to live that way. In my opinion, you (not literally you, just generally speaking) can only give what you have to offer now, or what ever eventually comes to you through life’s growing process. So give that, and assist your mate in doing the same where necessary by being open… and from there do what you can to make it work.

    (Random here) Growing apart is worth fighting for, but I have seen people that pretended to be someone else until they got married then their mate realized they were not what they wanted… this makes for an unfair marriage for the other person, because they didnt even give their mate a fair chance at knowing them, she made him fall for a different character then said that he needed to work it out if he really loved her or she would take him for all he had…. I was heart broken for the guy… He married a monster as seen it.

    By assuming what all men wanted she became someone else. But in my opinion, if you are with anyone for a while and no real problems occur, they might immediately assume you’re the one, not because she did everything he wanted, because I think most men enjoy the company and being the superman for their woman, the exact situation did not matter, I bring this up because psycho wife, of whom I am no longer friends with, was convinced that if she was herself, if she hadn’t pretended to be super house wife, that he wouldn’t have liked her… I told her that in my opinion, he was alover and liked saving her from things, and that she was already broken in so many ways that if she was honest with him… he would have saved her and kept her all the same… Now he is off in the world assuming all women want money and an obedient man… so he does not want marriage. (They broke up).

    Anywho, sorry about my random stories, I just look at everything as a learning experience. I never want to give my guy the wrong impression about who hes with.

    Also I should clarify, I am not married yet, Neither of us can afford it, and I am more financial savvy so I have him building his credit and such before mine takes him down… He doesn’t mind but, when I was younger I was in the military and used all my credit cards to buy things for my family members that they needed … long story short, never paid off and bank of america took my credit score with it … over 10 years ago and they still are not over it… I am great with people and relationships, not great with my own… finances, but I do make my own money. My man does what he can to help me save money and build bck my credit. We had to turn it into a sort of game otherwise it just stresses me out but… again he is great at somethings I am horrible at and vice versa.

    In my opinion, according to my studies,the key in at least us starting off a marriage when we do is to not change anything other then our title and commitment level. I think what scares most people, men especially, are the changes. Most people move in with each other right after marriage. I think (even when not engaged in sexual activity) people should try living together first. And that if there is a big move around wedding time, maybe it shoud be just before. Both men and women, sometimes, have issues with thinking things will change when they get married and new homes, jobs, and locations cause stresses that are often blamed on the marriage.

    I usually help advise friends, co workers,and family members that are both married, or thinking about it. And I think,both from experience studies,and trial and error, that if something is not broke, do not fix it. What ever someone marry’s for, no need to start changing it because they get married. Just keep going on normally. There should not be this huge change, faithfulness needs to have already been present.
    Humans are the same individual and a marriage does not magically change them if they are not a good fit.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    That makes a lot of sense Kay. I think one of the values of having counseling before a couple gets married is that if they haven’t worked out some of the things that you talk about, the counselor can help them see the importance of it and start some of those things going. I think a lot of people jump into marriage without considering those kinds of things and then life happens and the wheels fall off.

    PS Sorry about the sarcastic comment about being so demanding. I guess I should have clarified that I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek as I typed that. I think the things you described are basic building blocks of relationships and are not at all “asking too much”. You and your husband sound like a great couple to have as friends. I am sure I could learn a lot from you guys.

  • Kay says:

    *** Jamie ,
    Forgive me… I am about to get wordy, you got my mind thinking and now I want to share my point of view if that is okay :-D

    It may seem like a lot to you, but I am soooo ocd and there is a logical science to it… It shouldn’t be and is not something thing for my man to put up with, I dont want to have to change the person I am with. My man is naturally my best friend, I began dating him ‘Because’ we were interested in the same things and had a lot of the same goals. Where one falls short, the other can fill in. Most men find it far more frustrating to feel like they are so misunderstood, or that they have to put up a façade on how they want to express themselves.

    Men DO like keeping their women happy (unless they are tarnished, paranoid, or immature). Being able to feel like they can protect us and make us happy is a big deal and every guy does so in different ways. My man happens to be a serious comedian type and that’s one of the things that attracted me to begin with. He was a nice guy with amazing sense of humor and is very witty, and we share like interests.

    Maybe I worded it wrong before but my point was that there is no need to be demanding. My man fits me like my closest friends do, and should. “It just works” and we get along, so we are together and we have fun. No need to fix and change. By the time people fall for each other and are out of the “honeymoon phase”, they should already “get” each other, know how they react to most things, likes and dislikes, and naturally if you love someone, they will see when they hurt you and fix it, and vice versa. But that comes with building a particular level of understanding, trust, security, and love.

    A good listener is nice, but my point is that a good listener should go without saying, but likewise we should all be great “understanders” (<— made up word), men want to be understood just as much as we want to be heard. If you have them, haven’t you ever heard how pleased male or female friends and family members get when you understand them genuinely in a conversation or when handing out a gift that is “soooo THEM”? And doesn’t it feel great for someone to say exactly what you were thinking, get you a gift based on your personality, or when your man realizes you have had a rough day and takes care of a chore that perhaps you usually take care of just to show that he wants you to feel relieved?
    Understanding is great, and for example, I already know that my man does not care about the person that made me upset at work, but he will listen to me anyway but I usually make a joke about how I know he’s totally not interested but Ill make it quick and painless, and for some reason, that gets him more interested. He gets relieved of the duty of having to pretend to be interested, he thinks its funny and awesome that I understood what he thinks like, and I make it brief which shows that I am considerate enough to spare him lengthy details while still enjoying my moment of verbal word vomit.
    I mean great advice about listening, but I think most men CAN do this just fine, my man seems to, but a lot of men don't, and thats often because they expect that most humans in general have different likes and needs to approaches. In any relationship both parties need to make their needs and want clear in a respectful way of course and that is all it takes. So in the beginning, I think its necessary for people to discuss how they like to communicate. It sounds odd but truly it gets good info out there so that listening and speaking about anything is almost never an issue. From day one, my man was a little confused by me asking what he likes/ prefers in conversations, so I gave him an example and said “Do not ever curse at me or lay your hand on me to get your point across. He kind of game me the ”duh” look, but laughed and pointed out that he does not like condescending tones, or screaming or voice raising because it kind of “turns his brain off” from wanting to pay attention. We even pointed out that sitting close, holding hands, or laying our heads on each other should be a rule just cause. I am pointing out by the way that if preferences in communication are thrown out there right away then over time, it becomes reality as people are together over the years.

    Sounds simple because it is, most men if asked what the best way is for a woman to get what she wants, say that all she has to do is ask… no beating around the bush, playing games or attempting to manipulate them into becoming someone they are not or behaving ways that are foreign to them. They just want women to say it… I held my own random researches and men are surprisingly honest about what works. I also love studying human behavior and relationships and have applied much of what I know into relationships, and eventually realized that no trying was necessary at all… I am just being myself, say what I think or want, and my man is free to do the same, up to the point where it is just fun for both of us.

    How can it be seen any other way, we are all human and have needs or wants and that is natural. But if people start a relationship off with someone that does not fit what they actually need and want in life, how can it ever be expected to work? The other thing is that the majority of humans assume that they "DO KNOW" what they want in life and in a mate, but they dont. Which is why I also always advise for people to get to understand and know themselves better first before bringing someone else into their world/ life. Did that all make sense?

    Sorry I ramble lot about what I have seen or know to work, and I am soooo used to advising people based on their specific issues that I cant keep my mouth shut about it sometimes but just thought I would share my point of view, though everyone is clearly of course welcome to have their own :-p
    Pardon the typos.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Wow Kay, you are really demanding! I don’t know how your husband has put up with all the things you want from him. :)

    Actually, as I have read Dr.Smalley’s books he says many of the same things you do. I don’t think this article is trying to say “the only thing women want” or even “the most important thing women want”. He is pointing out something that many men don’t get, and that is listening with your heart rather than listening with your head. Many men are not naturally good at listening like this and it can be a real source of problems in marriages. If a husband can start training himself to listen like this he is going to be much better equipped to do some of the other things that you address.

  • Kay says:

    So um… Don’t get me wrong, these are great pointers, but these are important to ANY conversation you ave with anyone you respect or care about. But I wouldn’t really see this as a “what women want” thing as much as it is a “How to effectively hold important discussions/ conversation”. Did I misunderstand… if so ignore the following, I am just rambling off a bit…

    Maybe I misunderstood but if this is What women want it should definitely say something more than how to hold a successful conversation, That can be anyone.

    I personally want (and have) someone to converse with of course, but I also want someone that is compatible with me emotionally, physically, interest wise, or that is at least willing to meet me in some of those areas as I would do for them. I want someone that strives to keep me laughing and smiling as I attempt to do the same (even though I am not really too funny).

    Of course there is a lot more but I was pointing out that a great listener might be nice but thats not even a fraction of what I want… I want trust and honesty out of my relationship, and of course respect, because when all these things are present, you can feel open and comfortable to ask for what you want, say how you feel, share things verbally, or do anything really, and you should be able to trust that the other person hears you and will be there if you need something, work on problems with you, or reciprocate loving acts, etc…

    Either way, just saying, I was a bit shocked that some women felt like this nailed it on the head… really, we just want a guy to work hard at listening attentively? sounds like thats what any friend is supposed to do anyway, definitely not all I want… my man giggled a bit when I read through this and said something along the lines of “haha, so babe, all you really need is for me to listen to you talk and your happy, hahaha doubt it” … in general, everyone needs more then that, me personally, I need my man to be my best friend and other half, we should complete each other, and the better we know each other, the more that makes sense to me….

    Just a thought.

  • Andrew says:

    It is amazing what we learn when we are quiet and say nothing!

  • Larry says:

    Well said. A woman has many wonderful facets, I’ve learned: understanding how to give her your undivided attention, lead, provide for, and protect, while showing her love, admiration, and respect. Is the center of all she wants? Show her these things and you will have a commitment for life.

  • Brenda says:

    Great post, Dr. Smalley, and I agree with the comments: there is terrific advice given in the article, and relationships are definitely two-way and need balanced communication. Both the man and the woman in any relationship have got to give freely of themselves and not expect one partner to put more effort into the building or maintenance of the relationship for any reason.

    I appreciate all of the comments given, and I would like to offer anyone who would like to talk to a mentor in private the following link: http://powertochange.com/discover/talk-to-a-mentor/

    By clicking on this link, you can get connected free of charge with a mentor with whom you can share privately who cares and will walk alongside you to talk and share your burdens.

  • winher says:

    Women are more emotional than men in general which makes it difficult for men to talk to them sometimes. It’s not all one-way traffic though, and women need to make an effort to understand the man too. After all, there are two people in a relationship and it needs to be balanced to succeed.

  • zach says:

    Communication with women is far different than man to man communication especially to our love one. But never take advantage. The women are so strong in their heart but not physically. Good article you got here… simple & sweet.
    Bookmark & will come again.

  • Good evening, Dr. Gary Smalley, I am able to use this advice as a plateform to bridge better communication with a female supervisor and male general manager. After I recieved a five day dismissal over a communication experience.
    At this time I wish to improve an open
    communication. I was invited to talk with them when I was hired. This, “closed experience”, tote me to shut up and get behind him. I must admitt,”I don’t get to speak up for myself and others often enough”. Please send a comment anytime concerning this matter.

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