Your Wife: "Hey, could you make sure you check out those pediatricians tomorrow. We just need to decide on one in the next few days. We need to know if there is a wait list and . . . Do you want me to write this down."
You: (Playing Xbox) "No, no. I got this. Call the pediatricians, (still playing Xbox) check online reviews, see if they have a wait list (still playing). No problem."
Your Wife: ". . ."(Visible annoyance)
Sometimes listening isn't enough. It doesn't matter if you can mentally multi-task and listen effectively without showing it. You need to show it.
Why do I need to show my wife I'm listening?
Let's say on Monday your wife tells you to do three things: pick up Kerrigold Irish butter from the store, toss those old leftovers in the fridge, and wash the dog. While she is speaking you are checking Facebook. You forget to do one of those three things. She will not be upset that you didn't remember, she will be upset that you didn't listen. Not listening is much worse than forgetting. Everyone forgets sometimes. But only turds don't listen. No one wants to be married to a turd.
On the other hand, if you are listening intently to your wife, using the strategies below and you forget one of those three things, she will be much more understanding. She will know that you simply forgot. You were listening, but you just forgot. Totally understandable.
Here's how to show your wife you are listening.
It's the first step. Really lock in. Don't lock in too hard though, she may think you're mocking her. Throughout conversation, feel free to look away periodically but remain focused on her eyes.
Comments and Questions
This makes eye contact so much more. Even if you know the answer to your questions, ask them anyway: "Do you want the salted Irish butter or unsalted?" You know she wants salted Irish butter. She's a warm blooded American who needs her delicious Irish butter chock full of as much salt as they can cram in there. And you wouldn't get unsalted butter even if she asked. You're asking this question to express to her that you are engaged.
Write It Down
This is a basic for anyone. Every motivational speaker in the universe discusses the 'list making' strategy. I bet Zig Ziglar writes "Wake up." at the top of his to-do list every night before he goes to sleep. So, it's a good thing to do anyway.
Remember though, you're not taking notes here. Just a few words to let her know you have listened to what she said. Leave this list out on the counter or underneath your wallet so she is aware that you are going to take this list with you throughout the day.
You want to touch her anyway. Keep it limited to the hands or shoulders though. She doesn't want you getting too feely while she's telling you how to prepare for a visit from her parents. If she giving instructions while you're walking, put your arm around her as you look at her. If you're eating dinner, touch her hand a bit.
Forgetting will be much more forgiving if you use these basic strategies to show your wife you are listening.