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Selective Noticing

Pauline tackles selective noticing, cousin of selective listening.

You've no doubt heard the term Selective Listening (SL). Kids are experts at this ("I didn't hear you ask me take out the garbage! Honest."), and husbands come in a close second. I'm ok with this; I've found ways to overcome SL. It's simple really—after I've asked them to do something, I inquire: "Did you hear what I just said?" or "Do you understand?" or "Hello?! Are you listening to me?" or "Please take those things out of your ears and listen to me." Sometimes I forget to follow up for confirmation of message received—I'm in a hurry or being forgetful myself, so on occasion I still get: "What are you talking about?" or "You asked me to do what?" or "I just must not have heard you." or the very wise, "If I would have known you wanted that done, of course I would have done it!" or the one about the garbage. Anyway, like I said, when I'm on my toes, I can prevail over SL.

What I haven't figured out how to directly deal with is Selective Noticing (SN)—sometimes also known as (in my own mind) Selective Seeing. So, what is SN, you ask? Note: I hate to typecast, but after speaking with quite a few women about this, they all, 100%, related to what I was saying. So, I'll go ahead and lump all women together and all men together for the sake of this blog. Many of you probably know what SN is—after all the title is pretty much the definition, but do let me clarify.

Like SL, this mostly affects kids and husbands (or male partners). Sometimes you (the woman is you here) think that perhaps they are losing their sight, but you don't see them running into things and they still watch TV just fine. So it must be that sometimes when they see a thing, they just don't notice that thing. The message gets stopped on the way to the brain—or rather the brain uses some kind of sorting mechanism to select what is actually noticed. An example: You do the wash and fold the clothes while watching TV. You put your own clothes away but leave your husband's on the back of the couch. You go to bed forgetting to grab the clothes. You go to work in the morning and don't think about the clothes. You get home, they are still sitting exactly where you left them, and you think, mmmm—why weren't these put away? So you leave the clothes (yes, guys, this has now become a test—so what?) just to see how long the pile will stay there. Another day goes by—the clothes haven't moved but the pile is a bit lop-sided from people brushing up against them. Another day—now a few on top aren't folded anymore because they have fallen off the pile, picked up and set back down (yes, kudos for picking them up off the floor, I think). And so on until you figure it will never be done, and you either put them away yourself—or, like I do, you ask your partner, "Do you know how long your pile of T-shirts has been sitting on the back of this couch? I mean, I know you don't think it's my job to do this just because I'm the woman, right? But if not, how did you think they'd get put away?" And he replies, so very sincerely, "I guess I didn't notice them there." How can this be, you ask? He walked past those clothes probably 50 times in those 4 days they sat there. How is it possible? But yet their denial-of-noticing is so damn heartfelt, you can't help but believe them. So what can you do? The only thing I've figured out is this: tell him that his clothes are on the couch and ask him to please put them away. Then, if I'm on the ball, I'll say, "Honey, are you listening to me, did you hear what I just said?"

This concludes another view from my married life.


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