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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 getting your partner to listen.  Maybe you want them to listen AND change their behavior.  Being clear about what you want is the first step in learning how to get your partner to listen. 

Three Powerful Strategies for How to Get Your Partner to Listen

  1. Do not start the sharing of your concern as an attack, criticism or blame.
  2. Let your partner know that for the moment, all you need is for him/her to listen and try to understand your point of view. 
  3. If you need him/her to change something, make a clear, direct request and then follow up.  

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.  If your partner starts becoming defensive quickly, speak softly but firmly and say things like, "Hey....I'm not trying to make you defensive. I'm not saying you're a terrible person. I just need you to listen to me about this."  If s/he still won't listen or seems irritable and defensive, it's best to stop the conversation by saying, "It looks like now's not a good time to talk about this. I just need you to listen and you can't seem to do that right now, so I'll try again later."  And here's the kicker, give it a day or two or a week, but DO bring it up again. 

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 feel that everything is their responsibility to fix. 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 that you'll feel better if you can just share your feelings 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 what we want in the moment and they don't feel attacked, they want to listen and try to make things 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.  But, it is possible to master these kinds of techniques to make communication go more smoothly. 

Lastly, if you want your partner to change something, even after they've heard it (and even agreed that it needs to get better), you need to follow up.  You may wait a week or a month or a few months, depending on the issue, but change often takes repeated conversations and habit changes for it to stick.  Don't give up on trying to get your partner to listen or change something that really isn't working for you.   

If you need more information on how to get your partner to listen, read Save Your Marriage By Yourself for powerful strategies.