Ever since seeing this video, I find myself saying this to my husband several times a day, “It’s not about the nail’. It is the quickest and most painless method I have ever found to clue him in and remind him that I just want to be heard and understood, and more importantly, that what he thinks I am talking about often has very little to do with what I am wanting to communicate.
If you have not seen this short video, take a moment to watch it. Rarely have I seen a metaphor that so aptly explains a core and very challenging relationship issue that most of us encounter.
When watching this, it is really clear how completely insane women’s behavior appears to some men. To the person listening, the problem and the solution seem completely obvious. The need to simply FIX the problem (remove the nail) can be overwhelming. From the listener’s perspective, it may seem that the obvious goal of the speaker is to feel better, and the sooner the better. Why in the world would someone be talking about a problem, whining about the symptoms, complaining about things that are just side effects, when all they need to do is remove the nail? It seems clear that if the speaker just took action, they would be able to move on to something much more fun and interesting than continuing to babble on in a tedious, frustrating, and time wasting conversation about everything but the DAMN NAIL!
Many men understand, at least in theory, that women don’t want to be ‘fixed’. But when the problem seems as obvious as a huge nail in her forehead, not only does the need to ‘talk’ about her ‘feelings’ make no sense at all, the compulsion to say something about it wins out. An even better solution would be to simply yank the nail out of her forehead so that she feels immediate relief and gets what the problem was all along. Right?
It would probably shock some people to know that at times, I am aware that there is that metaphorical nail sticking out of my forehead. Seriously. And I don’t need anyone to tell me to take it out. I will do that when I am good and ready. For me, and I know that I speak for other women when I say this, the fact that I have a nail in my head (or whatever it is) is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect. I want to share. I want to feel loved. I want to feel understood. And most importantly, I want you to hear and listen to what I WANT to talk about, not just the parts of the conversation that interest you!
Often, when I am talking about something that is important to me, I am wanting my husband to pay attention to the part of the conversation that I am interested in gaining clarity about. At some point, I might want some input that is directed at helping me to understand my experience better. I do not want the listener to get distracted by some word or topic in my introduction, my buildup to the real issue, or any side topics that I am using to tell the story. I do not want the other person to jump in and cut me off, and then start talking about some tangent that has nothing to do with what I am wanting to share. I do not what to hear closed ended questions that focus on irrelevant details. When these behaviors occur, it is clear to me that my listener has jumped to conclusions about what the topic is, well before I even clearly state what my point is.
For many women, feeling heard and understood is the primary reason we are talking. Before even entertaining the notion of having a conversation about the ‘problem’ (the nail), we are looking for relationship, connection, and respect. We may never want to talk about the ‘nail’. Ever. When the conversation is over and our needs our met, we might just pull it out, put it in a scrapbook, and say ‘thank you’ for the lessons learned.
Most of us have heard the concept that women just want to be heard and understood rather than fixed. I know that I feel loved, seen, cared about and respected when I feel truly heard in the way that I want to be. After watching this video, it got me wondering, why? Why is it so important? What is the connection between feeling seen and heard and feeling loved and valued?
I think that for many women, and in our culture, our voices have been suppressed. We have been told both verbally and nonverbally to stay small, to tone it down, and to not speak our minds. Women’s opinions just don’t seem to matter. Over the years our concerns and considerations have been viewed as not as important as those of men; we are frivolous at best, and downright stupid or idiotic at worst.
Many of these myths have been debunked with time, in theory anyways. But on a day to day basis, truly listening to what matters to us and respecting a woman’s need to have her voice, is a vital way that you are demonstrating to her that you value her as a human being who is equal to you. You are showing her that you care about her thoughts and feelings, and that you know that she is worth your time.
Women have transformed themselves. A woman on some level knows that she matters. She is not going to put up with someone who does not give her the respect that she deserves for long. When you are able to put aside your own need to focus on the ‘nail’, and when you are able to listen to what is important to her in a way that she feels deeply heard and understand, you are telling her in a very core way that you honor, respect, and value her opinions, concerns, and considerations.
When you listen to her feelings, her wants, her needs, and her ‘experience’, rather than give in to your need to talk about the nail, you are letting her know that she is valuable, that she matters to you, and that you respect her thoughts and feelings. You are communicating that you trust her ability to solve her own problems and make her own way in the world. You are telling her that you truly care about understanding her values and beliefs and that you can learn from her. When you are able to listen to the underlying rhythm of her words, you are letting her know that you truly want to get to know her on a soul level.
In the face of that, who cares about the frackin’ nail?