How To Get Your Partner To Listen

Do you really want to know how to get your partner to listen? 

First you have to decide what you want from your partner.  Do you want them to just listen and understand where you're coming from? Or, do you really want them to agree with you? If you really want them to agree with you, consider that the art of persuasion is a different tactic than just sharing your feelings.  

Here are two rules to follow:

  • Do not start the sharing of your concern as an attack, criticism or blame.
  • Let your partner know that all you need is for him/her to listen and try to understand your point of view. 

First, when you start out sharing your frustration/hurt in a critical, attacking tone, it only sets up your partner to react defensively. This is a natural response and all you have to do is see your own response when your partner starts out on the attack. You must start out softly, saying things like, "I know you probably didn't mean this but I was really hurt by... and what I really need from you is..." In other words, express your feelings and say what you need without attacking, blaming or criticizing your partner.

Second, what often prevents good listening is when your partner starts to feel overwhelmed by your feelings or feels the need to fix the problem. Your partner may not have a high tolerance for negative emotions or s/he may have a tendency to take on other people's problems as their own. So, in order to help your partner to better listen, it's helpful to remind him or her that you just want to be understood. You can also add, if you know they're sensitive to strong emotions or particularly prone to get in "fix it mode", that you'll feel better if you can just share and that you don't need your partner to do anything but listen.

Here's what that might sound like: "Honey, I'm really upset with you right now. I just want you to hear me out and help me make it better. I didn't like it when you... and I just need you to understand where I'm coming from. Can you just listen to me as I try to talk this through?"

For the most part, when our partners understand us and they don't feel attacked, they want to move toward us to make the situation better. You can create the best possible chance for that when you don't attack and you ask for exactly what you need.

This takes practice. When we're upset, we don't always remember to do these kinds of skills. Heck, sometimes we don't even want to when we're really mad. But, it is possible to master these kinds of techniques to make communication go more smoothly. See my next blog post on tips to calm down before you talk to your partner about what's bothering you.