Learning to Listen

Men are poor listeners, alleges gaming observer Richard Schuetz. He urges them to take the time, sit back and actually listen to the things that mean most to women. It will change their lives, he says.

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Learning to Listen

“The world is giving you answers each day. Learn to listen.”—Unknown

I have been living alone in the northwest of Florida of late assisting my partner in resolving a reasonably complicated estate resulting from the death of her brother. The house here is on a large plot of land and is secluded and hidden by trees. On May 7th of this year I walked up a long driveway to fetch the trash cans I had earlier in the day placed by the roadside. I was met by a pack of four very large pit bulls traveling down the street and approaching me very aggressively, rushing at me and both growling and barking.

As I turned to head back down the driveway to seek refuge in the house, I was attacked by the leader of the pack, receiving a bite on my butt that should indicate I was in full retreat. The wound hurt and the bite drew blood that immediately began running down my leg.

Being attacked by a pack of aggressive pit bulls was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Within the last year in this community a six-year old male child was attacked and mutilated, so a pack of dogs traveling with malcontent is to be taken very seriously. When I was attacked, I was concerned I might be killed.

This was not the end of it. As a result of this attack, it became necessary for me to go through rabies treatment 12 days later. This included receiving antibodies injected directly into three different locations of the wound, and a further series of four vaccinations over the next month. Moreover, after all of this, the police came by with a mug shot, so to speak, in an effort to identify the dog, which I was able to do. That evening I received a call from the police and was instructed not to answer my door, and should anyone unusual show up on the property, to call the police immediately. All in all, this was an incredibly unpleasant experience.

Our experiences in life often shape our lives, and this was certainly true with this dog attack. One of the noteworthy adjustments to my life is that as I now walk out of the front door of the Florida home, I listen very carefully, and I listen for dogs. I believe if there is a dangerous dog or a pack of dogs cruising about the neighborhood, almost all of the dogs within the hood will be making some noise about it. If in listening it seems there is an unsettledness in the dog world of the neighborhood, I make sure I have protection.

I am also fascinated by what is known as the Law of Unintended Consequences, and it held true here, for while I was busy listening for dogs, I also heard other things. One of those things is birds, and because the home in Florida is covered in very mature old-growth trees, there are an abundance of birds about the property. What a wonderful thing it was to discover the world of bird sounds, and it just proved to be another reminder of how I can go about life totally oblivious to much that is around me.

I bring this up because not only am I listening for things like dogs and birds, but starting a few years ago, I began listening to how men talk to (or at) women, and that experience has also been quite the revelation. It has been something of a personal eye-opener, for I understand that many of the ways men communicate with women that I now find so repulsive are ways I talked and probably still talk at times to women. This bugs me sometimes and I force myself to understand I am a work in progress, not perfection. The most important thing I have learned in making this effort toward what I am calling progress is that I need to practice the skill of shutting my mouth and listening.

A language is developing to address how men communicate with women and a sample of that language is the term “mansplaining.” Unfortunately, this is often used as a punchline more than it is as an expression that addresses a fundamental problem that characterizes what men do with incredible frequency. How do I know? I started listening.

When I began to write about women’s issues several years ago, women began to talk to me, and they told me what to watch for, and I have certainly learned from this guidance. I also learned that women do not always think that the way men speak to them is cute, funny, or impressive. In fact they often resent it in spades.

Here is my advice to men—STFU up for a bit and try to listen. I know this will be a struggle for some men whose egos need to be fed by constantly hearing the sounds of their own voices, but give it a try. My guess is you might find what I found and that is we men talk way too much, often beyond the close, and women have great insights if they are given an opportunity to speak.

Men also might want to try and read a bit on the topic and learn the many ways that women feel put-down, demeaned, marginalized and simply disrespected by how men communicate with them. There is a ton of written material on the subject of both the short and long read variety. No matter what you read you should have a few “I get it” moments, that is, if you are actually paying attention to what you are reading.

A great laboratory to watch the interactions between men and women is on the conference panels that have become such a part of our industry. It has been clearly documented in panels that men spend a higher percentage of time speaking vis a vis their female counterparts. If that reality surprises anyone, well, you are clearly lost.

Then, of course, the problem of men monopolizing the conversation on panels is often eliminated by not having any women on the panel, or ensuring that the only woman is the moderator. And if the guilt or shame of excluding women builds to an extreme, there seems to be this tendency to solicit from a very small population of women who we see at conference after conference speaking on topic after topic.

I was recently requested to act as a judge for a publication across the pond to determine the ten most influential women in the iGaming space. I will note our request for nominations was met with 250 candidates. That is 250 nominations for being one of the top influential women in the industry. That is a message.

The point is, there are a great many talented, articulate, and insightful women out there and maybe if you men were to just shut your mouths for a bit, you might be able to identify them. To continue to push this male supremacy thing that is so commonplace in the industry is a fool’s errand. It is unethical, it hurts the industry and it hurts your organizations. Maybe you should just quiet down for a bit and listen for a change. Otherwise, it may bite you in the ass.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.