How to Be a Good Listener When You’re Actually Thinking About Iron Man Suiting Up

Being an attentive, sympathetic listener is one of the most important skills to have in a relationship. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest to master, thanks to the 2008 release of Marvel Studios’ seminal blockbuster: Iron Man.

How can you possibly focus on your girlfriend’s story about how she almost missed yoga today when, somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an arc-reactor-powered exoskeleton is slamming itself plate by plate onto Tony Stark? Clank clank clank, ratchet noise, charging sound!

Luckily, you don’t have to be a superhero to be a super boyfriend. Listen up to these three tips on being a great listener even though you just spent 45 minutes watching YouTube supercuts of Iron Man suiting up:

  1. Sympathize. Women don’t talk because they want men to offer a solution to their problems; just listening is the solution. Show that you’ve heard her when she complains about whatever it is she seems upset about by uttering two simple words: “That sucks.” If you’re having trouble remembering what to say because you’re mentally summoning a laser-guided Mark VII heavy combat suit onto your back after jumping off a skyscraper, try this pneumonic device: “That Sucks” = TS = Tony Stark!
  2. Ask questions to stall for time. If she starts to suspect you might be thinking about stretching an Iron Man suitcase across your chest and arms just in time to fight Whiplash at the Monaco Grand Prix instead of her high school friend’s wedding invitation, you might need to ask a few questions to catch the details you missed. Try asking all-purpose questions like “What do you mean?” or “Hmm, how so?” and enjoy another 15 seconds of you-time. Think of it like fending off a charging Hulk with a continuous laser beam from your right Hulkbuster arm to give your new Hulkbuster arm just enough time to assemble into a devastating left hook. WHOOMP!
  3. Be a mirror. In the listening game, facial expressions are key. Frown when she frowns, smile when she smiles. Above all, maintain eye contact! If she catches you glancing at your watch, she’ll know you’re actually thinking about Tony Stark’s watch, the one he peeled open and ripped overtop of his knuckles to form an emergency Iron Man gauntlet before fighting the Winter Soldier in Civil War. How badass was that?!