How Does Your Brain Light Up During Passive Conversation?


“Did you hear me tell you…?” How many conversations do the General and I share where I intuitively find myself on the defensive? Whenever she says to me: “Did you hear me tell you…?”, I know that I’ve messed up. Actually, that isn’t totally true. There are times when I figure my perception carries equal weight as hers. Consequently, I don’t always cave-in and say, “No Ma’am”. However, the six, short, one-syllable words strung together in a question always give me pause for concern.

Most of the time when the General perceives that I’ve purposefully ignored doing something she’s asked the to do, she has no aversion to prodding my memory and ensuring there is no miscommunication. In other words, she’s fairly intent on helping me know her expectations. Are they unreasonable? “Probably not,” represents my best answer, but her time frame for wanting something done doesn’t always coincide with the priorities I have for the moment.

Saturday is absolutely the one-day of the week when my “To Do List” doesn’t have to compete with work demands or other obligations. The General likes to plan. I like to “play it by ear” and keep my options open. How many Friday nights does she ask something like, “Why don’t we clean out the garage in the morning?” What kind of response am I supposed to make? Telling her that the “me” part of “we” doesn’t want to spend “my” (oops, I mean our) Saturday doing that, carries with it the potential need for compromise. We are not always on the same page.

I was almost in a state of disbelief when I arrived home from work yesterday and saw the kitchen counter. The General had gone through kitchen cabinets and stacked scores of things on the countertop. She said something like, “If we don’t do something with this stuff now, our kids will have to deal with it after we’re gone.” I responded, “I’m not going anywhere. What are you talking about?”

Maybe thoughts of attending my 50th high school reunion next week is weighing heavily on her mind. She’s never referred to me as “her old man”, but who really knows what she’s thinking? On the other hand, she’s only two years behind me. Before you know it, it will be her turn. Maybe that’s the catalyst for her thinking there is no time like the present for getting rid of clutter.

Of course, my job was to be delighted over the fact that she’d invested a portion of her day cleaning out cabinets. I’d really hate for our kids to be inconvenienced after we’re gone. Who knows, maybe she’s more thoughtful than I am? When she subsequently suggested: “Why don’t you go ahead and take the stuff that needs to be thrown away down to the trash container”, I knew there was only one correct answer. Of course, I’d gladly do so.

In a workshop earlier this week, a neurologist provided some clarity related to men and women exchanging verbal information. I guess we can thank neuroradiology for the discovery, but MRI’s have scientifically determined that women demonstrate a higher degree of bilateral language representation in temporal lobe regions than do men during passive listening. What I can’t figure out is how the General already knew that. She has alleged on more than one occasion that, “I don’t half listen.”

According to the study, the General might be right. MRIs taken on men during passive listening reflected the brain lighting up on only one side of the brain’s hemisphere. Wouldn’t you know it, the same testing on women reflected activity on both sides of the brain?

The neurologist cut to the chase. He said, “Men hear what you say and women hear what you mean”. He went on to provide a personal example. He said, “My wife can make the statement, ‘I’m hungry’ and then I have to decipher what that means. Does it mean, “She wants me to bring something home for dinner? How am I supposed to know? However, I do know that she isn’t simply making a statement of fact without the expectation that I play a role in some kind of outcome.”

If you enjoy the spin on family life that I generally write, you’d be absolutely mesmerized by the doctor. He obviously enjoys life and has a delightful personality. I also had the distinct impression that he is always good for a laugh and wise counsel. Actually, I know that to be true based on this week’s experience. He shared his wisdom with us. He said, “When I’m in trouble with my wife, my level #1 response is an automatic default. I say, “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” It usually works like a charm. If that doesn’t work, I take it up to level #2 and tell her, “You are beautiful.” If that doesn’t work, I go for the third level, I ask the question: “Are you losing weight?” That is guaranteed to always work.

Okay, guys, you’d better be putting some of the doctor’s thoughts to memory. I’ve made more than a mental note. Why else do you think I clearly identified levels 1-3 in my blog? I don’t want to lose the information.

All My Best!



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