Communication Clinic – 5 Ways to Get Your Husband to Listen
What motivates someone to listen to another person? Understanding this question will help you work on listening more effectively in your own marriage or relationship.
1. Clear message, favorable outcome
Clearly communicating your needs is the foundation of effective communication and a healthy relationship. Marriage counselors often focus on improving a couple’s communication skills; a breakdown in communication often leads to significant problems in marriage and relationships.
Unfortunately, many couples have found that clearly communicating their needs, while necessary, doesn’t always work as planned. Unless, of course, you found that mythical creature, the altruistic listener–the kind of listener depicted in romance novels and movies. The altruistic listener listens to a message once and responds as you expect. He is always responsive, interested and concerned about you and therefore interested in what you have to say. (If he finds such a person, he may want to hold on tight and not let go.)
Most of us end up in a marriage or a relationship with the egocentric slow listener (SSL). They really mean well. But they’re overworked, overloaded, overwhelmed, and like most of us, have their own emotional baggage to sort out. When communicating with SSL, sometimes sending a clear message leads to a favorable outcome (what you expected); at other times, it doesn’t. That is why other methods of communication are often needed.
No matter who the listener is, you should never abandon the clear message principle.
2. Give a little, get a little
This is the communication from the carrot to the end of the suit. This kind of “give and take” is a natural part of any relationship. This communication approach is effective for two reasons:
First, it shows your partner that you are a generous person, and this may arouse your own desire to give back (generosity is often contagious);
Second, this type of communication underscores the importance of fairness and compromise in relationships. For example, say, “I’m going to run out and buy us dinner, can you clean up the house a bit until I get back?” implies that it would be only fair for your partner to do their part since you are taking the time and effort to get dinner.
You can rely more on this approach when it’s clear that your spouse/partner needs some incentive (a nudge) to listen better and kick your sloth into overdrive.
3. A little appreciation goes a long way.
Despite the complexities of the human mind, many of us respond like Golden Retrievers when it comes to receiving a little praise. In other words, when you make her husband feel good about something he has done, you increase the likelihood that he will repeat that behavior.
Parents do this all the time with kids, and you may already do it instinctively. For example, her husband mows the grass and you say, “Wow, the grass looks great!” In that simple statement you showed gratitude for the job he did, and gratitude will make him feel appreciated (which, in turn, will make him more likely to mow the lawn next time…).
Contrast this kind of appreciation to not getting feedback or saying something like, “Good thing you finally mowed the lawn, it looked like a jungle.” In this case, you are highlighting the negative; essentially, the message is that he ought he cut the grass and his laziness made the grass look terrible. But when you comment on a job well done, you make him feel appreciated, thereby reinforcing his mowing behavior.
It’s part of human nature to feel good about yourself when someone you care about shows gratitude for something they’ve done. He can never heap too much gratitude and appreciation on his spouse/partner, unless of course he isn’t sincere. For many couples, the danger lies in not showing enough I appreciate that you have come to expect certain things from each other.
A little praise goes a long way in getting someone to listen.
4. More flies are caught with honey than with vinegar
I can’t stress this point enough: the way you say something (how you package your message) can make all the difference in whether your words reach your partner (and have the intended impact) or end up unheard, collecting dust on your filter. of mind spam.
As a speaker, your first priority is to get your words heard, to prevent the listener from becoming defensive or disengaging. Ultimately, he wants his message to impact the listener in such a way that he/she has been alerted to her needs and motivated to follow through and meet her needs.
Example of vinegar:
“Can’t you see I’m up to my elbows in this mess? Don’t you think of anyone but yourself? At least take out the trash!”
Example of honey:
“Life is so much easier when you help. Can you take out the trash?”
It is usually best to use the caring approach or the appreciation approach when trying to get the message across to your spouse/partner.
5. The Rebuke (aka: The Slap on the Ear)
If you’re like most people, from time to time you’ll say and do something that upsets your partner, and your partner will do the same (after all, you’re only human); when this occurs, it may be important to address the problematic issue, with the goal of preventing your partner from repeating the upsetting behavior.
But what if you’ve told him multiple times to stop doing certain unwanted behavior (for example, stop joking about your new hairstyle), and despite your best efforts, he continues down that insensitive path?
Hopefully, it won’t get to this point, but there will be times when you need to up the communication ante and be more forceful. In these cases, your partner may need to hear a firm statement: “I asked you not to make fun of my hair…it’s inappropriate and cruel! Stop it!” And you may find that you need to add something like “If you continue to say hurtful things, I will have no choice but to see you less.” (Admittedly, that is more difficult to follow if you live together…)
As you can see, The Reprimand packs an emotional punch to help you get your point across.
It’s best to use this approach when the other four communication methods described above don’t work (be sure to give them plenty of time, though). Having to rely too heavily on The Reprimand may indicate underlying issues in the relationship that need to be addressed in marriage or couples counseling.
If you automatically rely on The Reprimand (when you’re not necessarily justified) to get what you want, take a few deep breaths and slow down. Start adding the other methods to your communication repertoire and practice them until they become a natural part of your marriage or relationship. By doing so, the doors of effective mutual communication may begin to open.