As a dating coach (who also spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist), I see couples who become disconnected because they don’t know how to communicate in a way that makes the other partner feel respected or secure. The end result—they don’t 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:
- Smile and act confident that he will respond well and that you both will work the situation out.
- Touch him.
- Express your gratitude for what he does right.
- State your faith and trust in him and in the goodness of his intentions.
- 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 some of the things he is doing well. 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:
- Sit down, lean back, lower your voice, and keep your cool so that she will feel physically safe.
- 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.
- 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.
- Touch her and affirm the qualities you admire in her so that she feels valued and loved independent of your requests or complaints.
- 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.
This article first appeared in LDSLiving.com in October of 2011.
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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.
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