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The Art of Being Heard

Have you ever found yourself saying, "You don't listen to a thing I say?" Have you ever felt like you were talking to the wall? There are some things that you can do that will improve your partner's willingness to "hear" you:

First, words may not break your bones, but they most certainly can break your heart. Carefully consider the kinds of words you use in your relationship. Have you ever said anything hurtful to your partner? Has your partner ever said anything to you that wounded you to the core?

Avoid Sarcasm

Rude, cutting remarks, sometimes disguised as humor, may pass our lips and land on our partner. Sitcom sarcasm should not be the model for your communication. The origin of the word sarcasm goes back to the Greek phrase, "to cut flesh." The dictionary describes sarcasm as "a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain." When we use sarcasm, we make it painful for our partner to listen to us.

Humor is a wonderful part of any great relationship. But the humor should never be at the expense of someone's feelings. It is only funny if both of you can laugh and enjoy it.

Be Honest and be Tactful

Sometimes people justify what they have said to their partner by saying, "I was just being honest." The truth is that when you say things to each other that hurt, it is often much less about being honest than it is about being spiteful or insensitive. If you love and care about each other, you will take into account each other's feelings before blurting out a "truth."

Honesty is an essential element in your relationship. Respect your partner enough to be honest with them, but you need to be intelligent and tactful as well as honest. Perhaps when put on the spot with a question like, "Does this make me look fat?" you could answer with something like, "The other outfit is much more flattering."

Use Sugar not Vinegar

Think about how easy it is to listen to critical, judgmental or unkind comments. The famous psychologist, B. F. Skinner demonstrated through experiments that it was easier to train animals by rewarding them for good behavior than by punishing them for bad behavior. Further studies have shown that the same applies to people.

At times partners may repeat the same negative messages so often that their partner learns to simply tune out that particular frequency. They in fact don't "hear it" anymore. We may think that if we point out our partner's mistakes frequently enough that we will motivate them to change. The reality is that complaining is one of the worst ways to motivate your partner to change. In fact what it really does is build resentment and encourage them to tune out.


It is interesting that the answer to the question, how to talk so your partner will listen, starts out with a reminder. You have two ears and one mouth for a good reason. If you want your partner to listen to you, you should listen respectfully and carefully to them. Make sure that you understand what they are saying, before you expect them to listen in that same manner to you.

When you talk to your partner do so respectfully and whenever possible positively. Hearing what we are doing well is so much easier to listen to. Positive comments make much better motivators than negative comments.