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Effective Communication: How to Speak So Your Partner Truly Listens and How to Listen so Your Partner Feels Heard

Do you ever feel like you are talking to a brick wall when trying to talk with your partner? You spend the whole day thinking of what to say, pour your heart out to them looking for comfort, only to be met with a blank stare. It sucks. Relationships rely so heavily on communication, yet so many people have lost that skill.  

As the speaker:

  1. Consider your timing. Many of us think that just simply sitting down to have a conversation is enough to get a message across. Considering your partner's availability to have that conversation might help encourage listening. During our busy day to day lives, we often don't think twice about the importance of timing and we are often conditioned to believe that our loved ones should always be ready to give us attention. We often overlook that our partners are experiencing life differently from us and may not consider their thoughts, feelings, or concerns at any given moment. Taking a moment to ensure that our partner is fully available to listen may initially seem uncomfortable, but it can significantly increase the likelihood of getting the undivided attention we desire.

2. Focus on one issue at a time. While you might have several related topics to discuss, it's best to avoid overwhelming your partner with too many issues at once. Addressing one concern at a time allows for a clear response to each individual matter. It's unrealistic to expect our partners to process an overload of feedback on desired changes or improvements and to act on them promptly.

3. Use X, Y, Z and “I” statements. When pointing out a certain issue or behavior your partner exhibits, a way of putting less blame on them is by using X,Y, Z and “I” statements. When pointing out a certain behavior in your partner, pointing out a behavior (X), in a situation (Y), makes you feel (Z). Using “I” statements is an effective way of taking away the “blame”. Saying “I feel upset when you poke my nose” is a lot more gentle than saying “you piss me off when you poke my nose”. 

4. Validating your partner's feelings. Although we may not agree with everything our partner is saying, acknowledging their feelings makes them feel heard and loved. Asking further questions to truly understand your partner's feelings will help guide work together to find common ground. 

Many people struggle with sitting down and truly listening to the words and feelings of their spouse or partner. As a listener:

5. Clarify the conversation. Although we spend a lot of time with our partners and many of us feel like we understand them so well, it is so helpful to clarify what they are saying. Clear communication with your partner is crucial, so seeking clarification to prevent misunderstandings or ambiguity is perfectly acceptable. Use phrases such as:

"Can you provide an example of ___?"

"Could you clarify what you meant by ____?"

6. Paraphrasing can help. A big part of making sure you understand what your partner is saying, you need to make sure it is clear to them that you “get it” too. Paraphrasing your partner's words can demonstrate your engagement in the conversation. Useful phrases include:

"So, you're suggesting that..."

"It seems to me that you're feeling..."

"In essence, your perspective is..." followed by the question, "Is that correct?"

7. Be patient and let them speak. Having a conversation with your partner shouldn't feel like a debate. When listening to your partner, it is essential that you let them finish their thoughts, and convey their message before you speak. Interrupting or talking over your partner will only lead to increased frustration. Letting your partner finish their thoughts can also give you time to gather your thoughts and respond in an empathetic way.

8. Note your body language. Maintaining an engaged posture is crucial during significant conversations with a partner. If you find yourself slouching, fixated on your phone, or tapping your feet while your partner is speaking, it's likely they don't feel heard, indicating a lack of active listening on your part. Maintaining eye contact, leaning forward, avoiding distractions, and providing comforting facial expressions can help you and your partner achieve better communication. 

Working with your partner on better communication requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to be vulnerable. Encouraging your partner to listen to you involves more than just sharing your thoughts; it's also about fostering an environment that feels safe and comforting for both individuals. Setting aside time for conversation and discovering the techniques that work best for both you and your partner, whether speaking or listening, can lead to a deeper connection and a fortified bond.

Want help with communication with your partner? Call us to arrange a free meet and greet with one or more of our couples therapists today. 416 949 9878 or


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