For the last three and a half years, I have been a high school sports reporter with my local newspaper. While I’ve covered a breadth of different topics, my longest tenure has been the volleyball beat, of which I am now finishing up my fourth season. Being a reporter — more specifically, a beat reporter — has taught me a lot over the years, but one realization I came to this morning (the morning I’m writing this article, that is) is that being a journalist has taught me a lot about being a better lover.
Now, before you go all “Confused black girl” meme on me, let me start off by saying that when I use the term “lover,” I don’t specifically mean it from a physical standpoint. There are other aspects of a relationship — outside of sex — that make one a good lover, and being a journalist over the last three and a half years has certainly made me become a better one. Here are some examples how:
1. You become a better listener
I’m a talkative guy, I know this; and I have the tendency to ramble; but the majority of your job as a journalist requires you shutting the hell up. Most of it is listening; not asking a question and then aimlessly nodding along, but actually listening. That’s where you get your follow-up questions — that’s how you find the nuggets of information others don’t get.
In a relationship, however serious it may be, communication is key. It’s great if you’re both able to talk about your feelings and/or have a conversation with someone, but if nobody is really listening to what either person says, what are you really learning about one another? I know the scene in White Men Can’t Jump said we’re supposed to “hear” something, not “listen” to it, but I think it’s the other way around — you can hear somebody talking, but are you really listening to what they’re saying?
2. You learn how to ask questions
Obviously one of the most important abilities you have to learn and hone as a journalist is asking questions, more specifically, asking good questions. Asking dumb questions will get you dumb looks and dumb answers; asking good questions will often (because nothing is guaranteed in journalism) get you informative, detailed answers and will increase the comfort level of your subject. If you appear interested and/or knowledgeable about that which you are speaking, you earn respect from said subject, as well.
As I said, communication is key in a relationship; and the more serious you get with someone, the more you will want and need to know about someone. There will come times where you have to ask tough, but mandatory questions. One of the most important being, “Have you been tested?” Can it be a mood-killer? Yeah, sure, depending on the person, but your health is nothing to mess around with. When you talk about your pasts with one another, the possibility of marriage, kids, etc. — you need to be able to ask these tough, but mandatory questions.
3. You learn how to develop a relationship
One of my favorite parts of being a beat reporter is having an on-going relationship with coaches and players — learning about them, establishing a rapport. Reading about how journalism was back in the day, I wanted to be that kind of journalist who asks about the coaches’ kids, how former players are doing, and getting to know them on a more personal basis; not just, “I’m here for the interview, now talk to me.”
With players, it’s much more different because some of them I only cover for one year and then they’re gone. Others are on varsity for four or more years, in which case, you get to know them better. You learn who their parents are; you have conversations with them and the parents, both on and off the record, just shooting the breeze. It blurs the lines between reporter and subject, but in a good way. Like I said in my second point, a subject becomes more relaxed and, over time, respect and trust are established. Even if you ask good questions, you still need time to develop a good relationship — whether that’s professional, platonic or romantic.
4. You learn self-control
As you might expect, there are times when a journalist may have something he or she may want to say, but can’t. So, for the moment, we keep quiet; either we let it go, or we wait, formulate a calm, respectful response, and then engage. People, let alone journalists, should not be arguing in a professional setting (or any other setting, for that matter). Shouting matches are barbaric; most of us are civilized human beings and we should act like it.
There will come times in your relationship where you may see a fight coming on between you and your friend, significant other, etc. and you’ll want to fly off the handle. Personally, I know that if you shout at me, more often than not, I will completely turn off and ignore everything you’re saying.
I don’t mean like in a childish, “I can’t hear you! Na, na, na, na, na, na!” kind of way; more of a, “I’m not dealing with this,” kind of way. Again, we’re civilized human beings. You should be able to communicate with me and express how you feel without making a scene; and the same goes for me.
5. You pick up on the little things
Easily one of the parts of my job I enjoy the most, probably because it encompasses almost everything I’ve already listed. I like learning about people — whether that is an 18-year-old standout volleyball player, her 45-year-old parent, or a 70-something subject I have to interview for another story. People fascinate me, and I like knowing their stories, but you need to develop a relationship in order to learn the subtle nuisances of what makes them, them.
You need to really listen to what they are saying so that you’ll know how to steer the conversation with questions and/or when you hear the “money quote,” as I like to call it — the turning point in an interview or conversation; the moment you realize you’re about to go off on a tangent and delve into what makes them unique.
Little things can be something as simple as who likes being called “Steph,” instead of “Stephanie,” who loves dogs, who likes Chipotle (there are many), what they’re hidden talents are; those little things make a biggest difference, in my opinion. Maybe it’s a toxic mixture of being a natural hopeless romantic and having seen maybe one too many romantic-comedies, but I love the small things in a relationship — whether I’m giving them or receiving them.
If you read the ‘Fell For A Girl And Her Best Friend Fell For Me’ two-parter, it was the Swedish Fish; you listen for what they’re favorite movie or song is, so that if you’re channel surfing and see or hear it, you instinctually know to stop. If you’ve read some of my other stuff here, you know that I love it when a girl’s hair is in a ponytail or messy bun; I don’t why, but it’s like kryptonite to me. One of my ex-girlfriends met up with a bunch of us for pool one day (years ago, when we were dating) and she looked incredible.
When I told her how good she looked and hugged her, she said in my ear, “Well, I know you like ponytails…” and for whatever reason, it drove me wild. She was a gorgeous girl to begin with, and she looked great that day; but something about that comment — the fact that she wore her hair like that because she knew it was something I liked — was amazing. Again, it’s the little things.
Obviously you don’t need to be a journalist to apply all of these to your daily life, but you should consider it. You also certainly don’t need to be a male to apply all of these; as I stated in the last paragraph, one of the biggest turn-ons is knowing that someone is actually listening to you and/or doing something to show they’ve been listening. It’s been widely known that a way to a girl’s heart is to listen to her, but here’s the thing people probably haven’t been telling you — it works on guys, too.