September 14, 2020

How to get your partner to listen

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Ever wonder why communication is so hard? Have you felt like you and your partner were speaking different languages when you talk? Have you felt stuck on how to get your partner to understand where you are coming from?In this podcast episode, Elizabeth Polinsky discusses how to get your partner to listen by understanding what makes communication so hard.

IN THIS PODCAST

SUMMARY:

  • Communication is hard because 93% of communication is tone of voice & body language–only 7% is what you actually say.
  • Communication is hard because people listen to respond instead of listening with the goal of listening and understanding. 
  • Communication is hard because we don’t say what we really mean or what we really want to protect ourselves from potential rejection. 
  • The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse discussed by the Gottman Institute are ways we try to protect ourselves in relationships that actually ruin them. These include:
    • Criticism
    • Defensiveness
    • Contempt
    • Stonewalling 
  • To get your partner to listen:
    • Match your tone of language, body language, and words.
    • Listen to understand and confirm understanding before responding. 
    • Say what you mean and what you want in a kind way. 
    • Be brave and get vulnerable. ​

“Communication is actually really hard.”

Communication is hard because 93% of communication is tone of voice & body language–only 7% is what you actually say. No wonder there are miscommunications! Only 7% of your words get a cross to someone else. We all need to learn to make our body language and tone of voice consistent with our words for greater success at communication.

Communication is hard because people listen to respond instead of listening with the goal of listening and understanding. People are often in their heads worrying about how to respond to what their partners are telling them. Because we are all in our heads so much, people often miss the emotional content because they are listening for the logical content of conversations. But love relationships are all about the emotional content of a conversation.

“Most people listen to formulate a response to the other person.”

Communication is hard because we don’t say what we really mean or what we really want to protect ourselves from potential rejection. People avoid discussing difficult and emotionally risky conversations. If they do discuss it, then sometimes people will hint at what they mean or want but the real message never gets across because people can’t pick up on hints! Avoiding altogether or hinting at things is often due to wanting to avoid the riskiness of starting a fight or the riskiness of feeling rejected by a partner. So instead of being direct, people often develop protective ways of communicating. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse discussed by the Gottman Institute are ways we try to protect ourselves in relationships that actually ruin them. 

  • Criticism is attacking someone’s character instead of stating that you don’t like their behavior.  Instead, try to use I statements and talk about your feelings. 
  • Contempt is a feeling superiority that comes out as sarcasm, sneering, name calling, eye rolling, and hostile humor. Contempt is the greatest predictor of relationship failure. Instead, focus on building a culture of respect and appreciation in the relationship. 
  • Defensiveness is similar to righteous indignation or playing the victim; it does not solve the problem and it is often an underhanded way of blaming a partner. Instead, make sure to take responsibility for your part in a conflict, even if it’s a small part,
  • Stonewalling is withdrawing and shutting down. Instead, try taking a 20 minute break to calm down and then return to the conversation.

“Stonewalling happens when things get too heated and too intense.”

The Gottman’s at the Gottman Institute can predict with 90% accuracy that relationships will fail if these communication strategies aren’t changed.

How to get your partner to listen

  • Match your tone of language, body language, and words.
  • Listen to understand and confirm understanding before responding. 
  • Say what you mean and what you want in a kind way. 
  • Be brave and get vulnerable.

“The first step in getting your partner to listen to you is for you to actively listen to your partner… is for you to stop and think with some intentionality about how you communicate with your partner.”

ACTIONSTEPS:

Just listen to your partner. Repeat back to them what they said. Don’t try to form a response. Just make sure you got what they were saying.

Liz’s Useful Links: 

Podcast Sponsor: The Relate Assessment is the most comprehensive relationship assessment in the world and is based on 10 predictors of marital stability. It’s supported by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is the one my husband and I used during our premarital couples counseling. To get 20% off the assessment, go to https://relateinstitute.com/ and enter “POLINSKY20”.

Thanks for Listening!

     

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    About Author

    Elizabeth Polinsky is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist (EFT) providing EFT marriage counseling in the states of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada. She also provides EFT training and supervision to therapists looking to become certified in EFT Couple Therapy. As a military spouse, she has a special passion for working with military and veteran couples, and is also the host of The Communicate & Connect Podcast for Military Relationships.

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    My podcast, blogs, videos, newsletters, and products are general information for educational purposes only; they are not psychotherapy and not a replacement for therapy. The information provided is not intended to be therapy or psychological advice; and nothing I post should be considered professional advice. The information provided does not constitute the formation of a therapist-patient relationship.

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