How To Talk So Your Partner Will Listen
I’ve been married to my husband for two years and we’ve been together for more than six. As we’ve grown as individuals and within our relationship, our communication has evolved, taking on a form that is productive and supportive.
It wasn’t always this way and we’ve worked hard with intention to improve how we approach fights and discussions. I can honestly say it is one of the strongest elements of our marriage. Reflecting on how we approach conflict, here’s what seems to work for us:
Bringing up something while you’re actively triggered is most likely not going to go over well. We all want leeway when we are upset, but there are benefits to taking some of the acute feelings out of the equation or waiting for the right moment to have a difficult conversation. For one, you lower the risk of saying something hurtful that you may not mean and will likely regret later. Dialing the emotions down can foster a safe space for your partner to be honest with their opinion, especially if it differs from yours.
Be honest about what you hope to get out of the conversation – whether you actually want to solve a specific problem or whether you are just looking for a sounding board. Your partner may think they are being helpful if after hearing you out, they start brainstorming solutions. If you just want to vent, let them know upfront so they know how best to be there for you.
Try to stay within the scope of the issue at hand. You’ll start losing your partner’s attention and patience if you list a litany of complaints or resurrect past arguments. Also, steer clear of ad hominem or personal attacks. Instead, focus on the present situation and frame the conversation using specific actions or behaviors that you want to address.
No one wants to feel unheard and all relationships are a two-way street. Take the time to listen to your partner’s side of the story — actually listen, without mentally planning your rebuttal — and verbally acknowledge their experience. It will keep their ego from getting hurt and encourage them to give you the space you need to share your truth. An added benefit of learning where your partner is coming from could be a shift in your own perspective that could help you both move toward a solution.
Give your partner and the conversation the respect they deserve. Keep your phone away. Sit next to or across from each other. Make eye contact or even hold hands to establish a physical connection. Anything that adds some intimacy to the moment to remind you both that you are a team and that your goals are the same – to support one another and to grow.
Bio for IG @humanbeingwell
Dr. Akshata Pandit is a board certified internist and new mom. She lives with her husband and daughter in New York City where she practices as a hospitalist. Akshata was born in Mumbai and immigrated with her family to the U.S. at the age of four. Later, she attended The Ohio State University for her BS, MD and MBA and completed internal medicine residency in Cleveland. Her hobbies include dance, reading, writing and watching TV. She is passionate about mental health awareness and motivating others to prioritize self love and wellness. Follow Akshata on Instagram @humanbeingwell.