5 Ways To Be Heard
Are you listening to me?!?!”
Sometime soon after “I do,” this phrase tends to make its way into a marriage—and stays there. And while it’s common to feel like your spouse isn’t really hearing you from time to time, it’s not something you should brush off as a fixture of long-term commitment. According to a new study from the American Psychological Association that looked at 156 couples in the Boston area, women report feeling more satisfied in a relationship when they feel like their spouse understands when they're angry or upset.
In other words, feeling like you mate is actually listening to you will make you feel less like choking him.
But how do you get your man to exercise his empathetic ear? Here are five tips from relationship experts on how to turn hearing into listening and reap the relationship satisfaction:
Look each other in the eye. Body language is extremely important in couples’ communication, and one of the first steps to listening empathetically is to make eye contact when you’re talking, says Michael Bridges, PhD, from Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. Locking eyes will often lead to your partner nodding or giving you other subtle communication signals, which tips you off to the fact that he’s engaged in what you’re saying.
Take away the blame. Even if you’re upset about something totally unrelated to the relationship, it’s common for your guy’s first response to be “she’s upset with me,” says Gary Stollman, PhD, a relationship expert in Beverly Hills. This makes him defensive right away and automatically escalates the tone of the conversation. Instead, try prefacing your statements with something along the lines of: “This isn’t your fault, and you didn’t do anything wrong; I just need to talk to someone about this,” says Dr. Stollman.
Turn the tables. Another finding from the study shows that women feel more satisfied in a relationship if their spouse opens up about what’s bothering him. Make it known that you'd like to hear what’s upsetting him lately. “Once men know it’s safe to express vulnerable feelings to their partner, they come to appreciate and value it just as much as their wives,” says Dr. Bridges.
Give him a job description. Be very clear about what you want his reaction to be. If you just want him to hear you out, say so, says Dr. Stollman. A good way to do this: When you're venting about your horrific day, say something along the lines of, “All I want for you to do is listen; I don’t want you to fix it—please just listen.”
Show your appreciation. Guys get an especially big boost when their wives express positive emotions, according to the study. So make sure you don’t just yak his ear off about the coworker who's driving your crazy with her annoying speakerphone habit. Remember to let him know how loved you felt when he brought you coffee this morning or that you really felt appreciated when he took care of dinner last night.
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