How to listen so they’ll talk and talk so they’ll listen

As a licensed marriage and family therapist and dating coach, I see couples become cold, withdrawn, or disconnected simply because they do not know how to communicate in a way that makes men feel trusted and respected and women feel safe and secure. The end result—they do not feel heard, and they stop listening.

To talk in a way that your partner will listen, and listen in a way that your partner will talk, follow the five steps below.

Women, before you make a complaint or express a need:

  1. Smile and act confident that he will respond well and that you both will work the situation out.
  2. Touch him.
  3. Express your gratitude for what he does right.
  4. State your faith and trust in him and in the goodness of his intentions.
  5. Tell him what you would like him to do.

For example, if he arrives twenty minutes late for the third time that month, greet him with a soft smile, warmth, and confidence. Express your appreciation for a few of the things he is doing right. Then, later that evening, touch him on the arm and say, “I know you would never intentionally hurt my feelings. I also have faith that if you did hurt my feelings you would want to know. I believe in the goodness of your heart, and I trust that you want to make me happy. So I thought you should know that it makes me feel less important when you arrive late. Will you please work on that for me? It would really mean a lot to me. Thank you.”

Men, when communicating your needs:

  1. Sit down, lean back, lower your voice, and keep your cool so that she will feel physically safe.
  2. Avoid sarcasm, jokes that demean, criticism, moping, brooding, or the silent treatment, so that she feels emotionally safe and so you don’t appear punishing, rejecting, or manipulative.
  3. Be straightforward and direct, with a combination of emotion words and logic; you’ll look strong and confident, and she will feel connected to you by your emotions rather than just pressured by your logic.
  4. Touch her and affirm the qualities you admire in her so that she feels valued and loved independent of your requests or complaints.
  5. Express faith that you will work it out together so that she knows she is not alone in facing the problem or at risk of being abandoned.

Do these things whether you’re requesting that she make more time for you or complaining about how her behavior toward you is hurtful and disrespectful. In any conversation, these steps are critical in getting her to listen and for keeping her talking. Men often believe that if they’re not physically threatening a woman, she should feel safe and secure. But for a woman it runs much deeper than that. She needs to feel emotionally secure as well, or she will pull back, stop sharing, deal with problems alone, put up emotional walls, lose faith and trust in you and, in time, fall out of love. Not only will these steps help her hear you better, they will build her respect for you and make you look more strong, confident, and worthy of her trust—a win-win situation for you both.

4 ways to learn more

  • Schedule a free 30-minute consultation

    Alisa Goodwin Snell is a dating and relationship coach who spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist. She’s written 7 books for singles, created numerous audios, videos, and articles, is a popular public speaker, and has been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide. Learn more.

  • Get Stage 0, which will lay a foundation for you to move forward

  • Get the Relationship Package (if you are already in a relationship) so you can lay a more solid foundation while also learning how to enhance your current relationship
  • Get Everything, because you are not currently in a relationship and need to learn how to lay a solid foundation and navigate all 5 stages of the dating process.

5 thoughts on “How to listen so they’ll talk and talk so they’ll listen

  • I really can use and apply your examples given in this article. It empowers me to read and see examples of specific statements that I can say to my boyfriend in our relationship. Very helpful! Thanks!!!

  • Hi Alisa,

    Last night my husband and I talked with you after your presentation at our Logan 18th Mid-Singles Ward.
    I talked with my husband and he said he would like to get the combination kit for his use. Your presentation was amazing. You certainly gave us lots to think about and we’ve been married for 26 years.
    If you could let us know how much it would be to do the combination kit we will send you a check or do it by credit card, whichever you prefer.
    Many Thanks,
    Carol and Roger Johnson

  • These are great techniques to begin. Once you enter a relationship it is very important to help your partner understand what you are trying to communicate. We all have different filters through which we communicate with each other. Learning those filters on both sides will help you understand the other person better. The more intimate you become you will learn what your partner likes, dislikes and how they respond. You will be tempted to use this very intimate knowledge to manipulate or hurt the other person. But, love is knowing this information and protecting it from yourself and others. Use this information to strengthen your communication by avoiding the mine fields and walking down a path that strengthens the couple.

  • If only anything at all similar to this was taught to me and my wife 20 years ago… I was so naive and unskilled even though my eyars were not too young. Of course, this wouldn’t ahve totally fixed the issues… BUT it would ahve been about 50% of it.!! Now are a both miserable divorcees with five kids and a failed 20 year marriage that ended when she decided to ahve a fling with the hired yard help !

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