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I wish my spouse would just listen to me!: Tools for listening and being heard

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By Grant Stenzel MS, LCPC

This is one the most common complaints I hear as a marriage counselor.  There are very few things in this world that are as infuriating as not being heard.  Not being heard makes us feel unloved, uncared for and disrespected.  When we argue with our spouse and they don’t listen to us we feel demeaned and unimportant.  Worse off we get angry at our spouse for being a selfish narcissistic jerk!!!

Slow down.  It is not as bad as you think.  Effective listening is not just the responsibility of the person being spoken to.  The person giving the message has responsibility also.  These are just a few tools you can use to help your spouse listen to you and for you to feel heard.

1.) Do unto others… The golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated.  Listen, and communicate back to the person talking to you that you understand what they are saying and the message behind it.

2.) Don’t expect to be heard in an argument.  No listens in an argument.  Two people yell, repeat, and explain their side without truly listening to the other person.  Take a one hour break and come back to the topic once both parties have calmed down.

3.) Use “I” statements.  No one likes to be scolded or lectured.  Don’t say “you never take out the garbage,” or “you never listen to me.”  Using I statements and saying how a particular behavior made you feel can help communication in a relationship.  Try “I feel hurt because when you interrupt me it communicates to me that you are not listening.”

4.) Never use Never.  You want an argument?  Use “never” or “always” in a statement.  What will happen?  Your spouse will cite the one time they actually did/didn’t do that action.  Instead use “often,” “seldom,” etc.

These are just a few tips on how to improve communication with your spouse.  Hopefully as you practice these listening techniques your spouse will catch on and both of you will feel heard.  If not, bring them in to see me.