How My Husband’s Videogames Made Me a Better Listener

By Sarah Agan

October 2, 2012

I came to terms with the fact my husband likes to play Xbox.  I resisted this for a long time and finally accepted it’s something he enjoys. He often tells me about the games he plays - and I listen. Well, actually, I really don’t listen.

We were having dinner at our favorite restaurant last week and my husband was talking to me about a game he'd played earlier, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. His enthusiasm was palpable and I was, to be honest, totally uninterested in what he was saying. I sat there, sipping my wine and pretending to listen. You know, the occasional head nod and “um-hum” that we seem to think passes as listening. As I’m pretending to listen the voices in my head are saying: “you are a hypocrite…you preach that if you are really listening to another and being curious there isn’t any topic you won’t find interesting.” 

"Honey," I said. "I want to apologize to you--I’m not really listening to you and I’m sorry." 

"It’s no big deal," he replied. "It’s not like it’s an important topic, it’s just about a game.” 

"That may very well be," I said back,  "And, I love you and this is something you enjoy and I don't want to disregard something that brings you enjoyment.” 

In that moment, I committed myself to listening with intention to what he had to say and that is when things got really fascinating.

I wasn’t curious about the mechanics of the game he was playing. What I was interested in knowing was what it was about the game that he enjoyed so much. Now I was really listening. My husband started to talk about the game in a totally animated and different way that caused me to lean in and be even more curious. Eventually our server (also male) joined the conversation, and then a second server. I watched as these three men talked about what they enjoyed so much about Xbox. Their vigorous exchange included:

Listening to these comments helped me understand that perhaps at a deeper level, Xbox represents the opportunity for people (yes, I would say men more so than women) to act out innate needs all in a space of absolute and total anonymity. I also realized that when I committed myself to listening to something that I had previously found uninteresting, all the sudden it became really “juicy.”

Authentic listening is generated from curiosity. Pretending to listen – especially to someone for whom we care – is a disservice.  When we make listening a gift of our attention, and not a tactic, our conversations become exponentially richer.

The tips below can help you check for when you are actually listening or really being listened to:

You Know You Are Being Listened To When:

You Know You Are Listening When:

What tips do you use to catch yourself when you are not listening?

(Image via Wavebreakmedia/

By Sarah Agan

October 2, 2012