How to address one of the most common relationship complaints

Arielle Tchiprout
Photo credit: Gearstd - Getty Images

From Red Online

If you constantly feel like you're talking to a brick wall, then you're not alone. People not listening happens in meetings, colleagues interrupt and repeat exactly what was just said – and they happen at home when we ask our partner to take the bins out for what feels like the 50th time.

In fact, feeling like your partner doesn't listen is one of the most common relationship complaints. But that doesn't mean we should accept it. If you constantly feel like you're not being listened to, you'll carry around a bubbling undercurrent of frustration that can chip away at your self-esteem.

'It can lead to a sense of disconnectedness, loneliness and isolation, all of which, experts warn, are at epidemic levels in the UK,' says Kate Murphy, author of You're Not Listening.

So what can we do to ensure people, including our partners, tune in? The first step is to acknowledge we're all pretty bad listeners – yes, even you. It's symptomatic of the fast-paced world we now live in.

'Our tech devices have made us distracted and unable to focus on one thing,' says Caroline Goyder, voice coach and author of Find Your Voice. This means we all have to make a conscious effort to be better listeners. 'Listening and speaking are part of the same flow,' says Goyder. 'If you listen more, you can tailor what you say accordingly. Plus, if others feels heard, it makes them more likely to reciprocate.'

We can also make practical changes to the content and delivery of our speech to increase our chances of being really, properly, listened to. Relate therapist Peter Saddington has these suggestions to ensure your partner hears you...

1.Get their attention

Do you shout questions or demands at your partner from across the house, then feel frustrated when they haven't listened? The problem is, they won't be concentrating if they're preoccupied with something else. Make sure you have their attention first. We would do this in almost any other situation, but with our partners we often feel like we have a right to their attention at all times. Say their name and wait for eye contact before they talk.

2. Start sentences differently

With partners, when we raise issues or disagreements we often start sentences with 'you', as in, 'You haven't done the washing up.' As soon as you say 'you', they'll assume whatever you say next is some kind of criticism, which can cause them to shut down or become defensive. Instead, start sentences with 'I' – for example, 'I've noticed' – to start on a more positive footing.

3. Speak like an adult

Conversations with couples can sink into a parent-child dynamic. One person sounds like a critical parent and the other becomes defensive, like a child. Ensure you're both speaking like adults – calmly and rationally. Think about how you'd speak in a professional setting as a guide.

Relate offers counselling for every type of relationship nationwide. Find out more here.

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