“He never listens to me!”
“She only hears what she wants to hear!”
“It feels like I'm talking to myself all of the time!”
Does it seem like your spouse tunes you out when you're talking to him or her? As clear and straightforward as you think you were with your request, your partner claims to have heard something else from you..or maybe even argues that you didn't say it at all.
Communication is essential to a healthy and happy marriage or love relationship. If you consistently feel like your partner is either blatantly ignoring you or is too distracted to hear what you're saying, this can cause serious trouble.
Irritation and resentment can build as a result.
You might get the impression that your partner doesn't care what you think or what you want. Your spouse may seem to be withdrawing from you more and more. And, the number of misunderstandings, mistaken assumptions, arguments and hostility can grow.
Yes, the communication problems in your relationship may largely be due to your partner's habits. The internet, home and child care responsibilities, the sports game on tv, financial or career worries, texts from friends or countless other things can distract your mate and make it difficult for him or her to really listen to you.
There are certainly improvements in listening that your partner could and hopefully will make.
There are also some changes you can make. The way you make a request and the way that you communicate in general has a big effect on whether or not your partner will listen or will close down to you.
The next time you want to truly be heard, remember this...
#1: Truly make a request-- don't issue a demand.
There can be a fine line between a request and a demand. If there is an element of threat or manipulation, it's a demand. If you find yourself saying “Either you _____ or I will/won't ____” you're making a demand in the form of an ultimatum.
Issuing ultimatums or making demands tend to put your partner on the defensive. There are a few occasions in which you might deliberately choose to make a demand, but this should not be a frequent occurrence if healthy communication is what you want.
Instead, make sure you phrase your request as a question and mean it as a question too.
“Are you willing to____?”
“Will you _____?”
“It's important to me for you to_____. Will you agree to do that?”
If your partner seems busy or distracted, before you make your request you might say something like this: “Will you take a break from that for 5 minutes so that I can ask you a question?” or “Can we set aside some time in an hour to talk about ____?”
#2: Be time and action specific.
Don't be vague or wishy washy with your request. Be as specific as you can be. This takes the guesswork out of it for your partner and makes it more likely that you'll be satisfied with the results.