Getting through to a partner who doesn't listen is frustrating, difficult, and likely to seem like an exercise in futility once you get exasperated enough. It's not necessarily that your partner doesn't want to listen to you; he or she may simply lack active listening skills. Sometimes, of course, there are deeper issues at fault. Every relationship is different, so you'll have to consider why your spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend isn't listening to you. Whatever the case, getting through to a partner who doesn't listen isn't impossible – it just requires some dedication and patience.
1. Consider Your Delivery
How do you talk to your partner? Do you stage a frustrated ambush at the end of the day? Start complaining about something days after it happened, after it's had time to build up and blow up? If you want to start getting through to a partner who doesn't listen, you have to think about the way you approach the situation. Every person is different, and your partner may do better with a different delivery method. Think, too, about how you like to be spoken to, and try to approach your partner the same way.
2. Talk, Don't Lecture
Similarly, you need to watch the way you talk. Think about it: when someone is talking at you instead of with you or to you, how do you react? You can't talk at your partner and expect him or her to actively listen. That's insulting and condescending. This is your partner, not your child. Try not to lecture. This is about communication, it's not about being right or wrong.
If you want someone to listen to you, then you have to listen as well. I know that when I'm feeling like the Better Half isn't listening to me, I sometimes get all smug and self-righteous about my own listening skills. You can't get on that train, because it won't take you anywhere you really want to go. You need to listen to the things your partner says and the things your partner does not say – sometimes you can learn a lot in those silences.
4. Don't Beat a Dead Horse
Do you always try to discuss the same things? If your partner has a bad habit – never listening, being selfish, not doing the dishes, never putting down the toilet seat – and you're not seeing improvement, it's tempting to just keep coming back to that subject. However, then you get back into lecture territory and it's likely that your partner will shut down. You definitely need to discuss ongoing issues, but don't make it a constant topic of conversation. Even if you have to write a letter to get your feelings out, just avoid the temptation to lecture.
5. Think about Your Timing
When you talk is just as important as how you talk. As I briefly mentioned, starting in on something after you've both had long days just won't work. You shouldn't do it when your partner's in the middle of something he or she enjoys, in a public place, or around friends or family members either. As with any other meeting, read your audience first.
6. Stick to One Subject
Don't kitchen sink your relationship, ever. That's not good for anyone. When you need to talk about a certain issue, stick to that issue. Don't let a discussion about dividing the chores spiral into accusations about emotional unavailability, in-laws, or that time your partner forgot to pick you up from the office. Then you're just letting resentments fly free, and you'll both end up shutting down and getting angry.
7. Make Time for Dialogue
Back to timing and knowing when to speak, you might have to schedule some time for a discussion. That's fine – great, really. You aren't dropping a huge, unexpected bombshell, and you'll have time to put your thoughts together first.
I know it's hard when you don't feel like you're not being heard. If it's a chronic problem, you may have to decide if you really want to pursue your relationship. If you know that you and your partner work, however, then it's more than worth the effort – and with these methods, I promise you'll see improvement. How do you and your partner communicate? Do you listen to and really hear each other?