Have you ever been talking to someone you know isn’t paying attention to what you have to say? Their eyes sort of glaze over and they tend to respond with a very stale "mmm-hmm," or "yeah, totally." Maybe you’re guilty of this yourself every once in a while. Truth is, nothing is more frustrating than when this person is your partner, and they do this on a regular basis. Knowing how to get your partner to listen is important, but equally, if not more important, is understanding why they’re not giving you their full attention, and deciding if that’s something you’re OK with.
If your partner doesn’t seem to listen to you during specific parts of the day, like in the morning or during dinner, ask yourself if it’s not due to them being tired or stressed out. This isn’t an excuse — you deserve your partner’s attention all the time — but it might be helpful in understanding why they aren’t giving you their focus. "In all reality, it is impossible to be 100% plugged into life 100% of the time," sexologist Martha Tara Lee tells Elite Daily. "Most of the times we are going through life in hypnotic (semi-awake) states and don’t even know this, like during your morning routine or commute," she explains. "Hence when your partner speaks to you during this time, you’re not listening and have no recollection of the conversation!"
Anita A. Chlipala, tells Elite Daily that it’s "a common complaint of my clients." But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with, or acceptable. Before you start playing the blame game with your partner, try to do some self-reflecting first. "Rather than blame your partner for not listening, ask yourself if you can be a better communicator yourself first," Lee advises. Think about the times when you were annoyed with your partner for not listening, and make sure you were communicating with them in a way that’s healthy and clear. That’s not to say you should take full responsibility for your partner’s lack of attention, but it may be helpful to reflect on whether or not your communication styles are clashing. If, after this reflection, you can’t find an answer to their lack of attention, it might be time to start having a serious conversation. According to Lee, there are four ways you can approach the subject:
1. Be open and honest.
"Take ownership," Lee says. Initiate a better communication style with your partner by bringing it up yourself. Say something like, "I want us to try a few new things so we are better in communicating and have less misunderstandings. Is it OK?" she suggests.
2. Ask them for more attention directly.
"Ask for their attention and time," Lee adds. In order for your partner to truly listen and pay attention to you, you might have to ask them to. Simply say, "May I have your attention for five minutes?” as Lee recommends, and go from there.
3. Use light physical touch.
"Establish touch or eye-contact," in order to truly communicate, Lee says. "Use your intuition to sense that they are present (not in their mind or distracted in their own thoughts) when you speak." If they need a little nudge, look them in the eyes or gently put your hand on theirs. That way, they’re definitely paying attention.
4. Highlight the important information.
To end the conversation, ask for them to "Repeat back to you the critical information," Lee suggests. This is active listening, and it will ensure that your partner is truly hearing you. If they can’t, "don’t pounce on them and blame or shame them," Lee says. "It takes time to be a good listener too! You do not want to alienate your partner, only to be more effective in communicating with them."
If they’re still not really paying attention, try to be their sole focus. "Be present and eliminate distractions," Chlipala says. She recommends putting your phones away and turning off the TV to ensure they have nothing else to pay attention to other than you, and you only.
At the end of the day, having a partner who listens to you is important, and something everyone deserves. If your partner can’t give you that, don’t give up right away. Try to implement these practices and see what comes of it. You might emerge from as better listeners and communicators, together. And if they still aren’t giving you the attention that you need, it might be time to have a slightly more difficult conversation.
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