Adam Rants #13

I have decided to change the name of this series of blog posts from No Girls Allowed to Adam Rants because I think women need to hear some of this stuff…and they are reading it anyway. Remember you can always say in your own defense, “That guy is a chauvinist pig.”

Today’s topic is…male selective hearing; myth or reality? It depends on who you ask and, of course, if they are listening. The difference between hearing and listening is at the center of the decidedly male phenomenon known as selective hearing. Hearing happens when sound waves are picked up and channeled to the eardrum but listening requires a modicum of both interest and attention. That’s why selective hearing really is a man thing.

Women may wish for equality in this area, but it’s never going to happen. It’s not that women don’t hear as well as men. It is that their inquisitiveness does not allow them to let the sound go unidentified to which almost every man I know will attest.

Men, on the other hand, have the natural ability to hear an unidentified sound and continue what they are doing without the slightest interest in making an immediate identification. This ability is the core ingredient of selective hearing and women just do not possess it. The difference is much like the right to remain silent and the ability to do so.

Additionally, the male “fixer” drive activated by unknown sound works alone first. He will simply go investigate a sound that piqued his interest without querying those present for a consensus as to what produced the sound. Once the sound is identified, unless it is immediately life or wallet threatening…problem logged and mentally scheduled for resolution at a future date. Whether or not he shares his findings as to the source of the sound depends wholly on the degree of probability that he will be asked to do so. The same can be said of his intention to do something, beyond identification, about the sound in question.

I think it important to mention here that selective hearing can be confused with selective obedience. There are some men, like me, who hear poorly, but well enough to catch most conversations. I may hear a request, decline to do the action required by the speaker and continue about my business as if I had not heard. The reason for this is that it is sometimes advantageous in postponing the battle that “No, I’m not doing that,” might generation. Of course, that conversation will inevitably come accompanied by the charge, “You never listen to me.”. The hope is that this conversation will not happen until the game is over.

As I alluded to earlier, male hearing is filtered through interest (and stray ear hair as we grow older). Does this conversation apply to me at this moment? Will I hear this again? Can it wait and for how long? These are the unspoken, internal questions that drive male listening. A “yes”, followed by two “no’s” will generate enough interest for him to hear, make a mental note, and respond appropriately–that is, to actively listen to what is said. A vacant stare and nod generally indicate hearing without listening.

This process sometimes causes interpersonal friction when the speaker’s anticipated answers to those questions do not jive with the valuation of the man doing the hearing. Should this happen, a follow-on question is needed.

     “Are you listening to me?” Will generally bring about an agreement to listen.

The severity of an individual’s selective hearing can be easily determined. Stand five or six feet behind the man being tested and in a conversational voice, first say:

     “Let’s go shopping.”

     If there is no response, follow this with any of the following questions:

     “Want a beer?”

     “Want to go fishing (hunting)?”


     “Is she naked?”

If any of these questions fail to elicit an immediate response, this is true hearing loss. Consult your primary care physician as soon as possible. If, however, the follow-up question produces an immediate reaction, this is selective hearing at work and a relationship counselor might be a better choice.

 One last note. Selective hearing is a male defense mechanism. Once they become comfortable, men are somewhat resistant to change. Selective hearing guards against change.  Doing or thinking “nuthin” are real male pastimes. If a man says he is thinking about “nuthin’, take him at his word.

Reading, watching TV, or staring at Facebook are “tasks” on which a man may be focused. To entice him to change operations, a speaker must use the right keywords. Words which each man has programmed his hearing to detect (these vary depending on the man, but beer, sex, and food are always good choices). Selective hearing is like a Google search, the proper keyword word will get the right response and he will look up ready to listen.

Contrary to the assertions of feminism, the male of the species is a thinking, feeling creature. However, his processes are his own and they are foreign to those of the opposite sex. Trying to “improve” men by making them effeminate is a path to the dark side. Anger, frustration, and ultimate enmity await those who walk that way. Guys, celebrate your manhood. Ladies, get over it. Learn to live with us in the same happy manner we are told to live with how you work. Life will go so much smoother when we recognize our differences, accept them, and function without demanding one side be “right”. 

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