3 Tiny Ways To Get Any Man To Listen Better

How to feel heard in your relationship.

Last updated on May 15, 2024

Effective communication in love life Vlada Karpovich | Canva

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds oh-so-familiar: You've had a bad day. Maybe there was drama at work, or perhaps you butted heads with your best friend. You're steamed, stressed, and desperately need to talk to the one you love. But, when you unload on your partner, the response you get is, "You shouldn't feel that way."
 Really? Ouch. Few phrases shut down a conversation — or drive a wedge between significant others — quicker than that one. Here's why:

  • It makes you feel invalidated. Having just spilled all your pent-up frustrations, you're already in a vulnerable state. Hearing "You shouldn't feel that way" pretty much comes across as, "Your feelings don't matter and your concerns aren't valid, so shut up."
  • It feels judgmental and condescending. Even if intended as a soothing, "There, there now," almost all "should" statements run the risk of sounding judgmental and putting you on the defensive. You feel attacked for reacting the way you are and the implication is that your feelings are totally unjustified.
  • It's downright demeaning. Who does he think he is telling you how you should or shouldn't feel? Instead of hearing "You shouldn't feel that way," you're hearing, "Get over it," or "You're overreacting," which does nothing to dial down your emotions.
  • It feels like a betrayal. Wait, is he on the opposing team? Aren't people in love supposed to have each other's backs?

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In most cases, guys blurt this hurtful phrase with genuinely pure intentions that come from a loving place. When your partner sees that you're upset, he gets upset, too. He may rationalize that if he doesn't make a big deal out of it (you know, by shrugging it off with a quick, "You shouldn’t feel that way"), he is, in a sense, "protecting" you. Another reason he says this is because maybe his brain is experiencing mental gridlock. He's desperately trying to figure out how he can help you, but he's clueless about what to say, or he's afraid to say the wrong thing.

Finally, he may utter this phrase, then follow it up by rattling off a list of reasons why you shouldn't feel the way you do. This may get your hackles up, but stay calm about it (if you can). This is merely a guy's way of trying to "fix" things and help you ditch the stress you're feeling. So, how should you respond when slapped with a "You shouldn't feel that way?" What you crave most is someone to listen. You just want to feel heard.

Here are 3 tiny ways to get any man to listen better:

1. Ask him to tune in

Get him to focus on the fact that the emotions you're experiencing exist. The last thing you need is for him to analyze if your feelings are "right" or "wrong," agree (or disagree) with what you're saying, or share how he would feel if he were dealing with a similar situation. Empathy is a powerful relationship glue. Once he makes an effort to see things from your perspective, magic happens. Not only does he validate your feelings — which comforts and assures you that you're not alone — but the negative emotions you're feeling tend to go poof.

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2. Know how to respond

If he says, "I know just how you feel. I've had that happen to me before," ... remember, he is trying to demonstrate empathy. Of course, it's the last thing you want to hear because it makes your conversation all about him. Worse, whether or not the situation upsetting you would make him feel the same way is irrelevant. You feel how you feel, and when your partner denies you that, it feels more like his effort to just shut you up.

Shift the spotlight back to you by gently telling him, "I appreciate you sharing that, but right now my feelings are unique to me, and what I'm looking for is love and support." Once a guy knows what he needs to do to help you, it takes the pressure off. Then, he can feel good about listening to you and not worry about having to add his two cents or try to fix everything.

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3. Help him help you move on

Remember, he's not a mind reader. Once you've vented, spell out what the love and support you've requested from him should look like. Do you need to hug it out? Crave a distraction? Need space to sort out your emotions? Be specific, and not only will he be happy to grant your wish, but your discussion will end with the two of you on the same wavelength. And when that happens, you'll feel heard, understood and more deeply connected to him. Feeling heard and understood is so important in a relationship, but it requires a little bit of work. I hope these tips help you and your partner connect on a deeper level.

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Coach Todd Reed, CPC, has expertise in communication and relationships. His book, Conversation is Sexy, offers tips, tools, and techniques for couples to discover the joys of being in love.