One of the most common complaints I hear from couples is that their partner “doesn’t hear me” or “he/she doesn’t listen”. How can that be? There is often a lot of talking, even shouting that is happening between the two of them, yet they are sure that the other person does not hear them. Maybe what they mean is that their partner hears them but does not acknowledge they have really heard and more important, understood them.
Not feeling heard or understood may be interpreted as “they don’t care about me” or “I feel like I’m all alone in this relationship”. The truth is that their partner does hear them. Both ears are working fine but they choose not to validate the other person in the moment. Some how after the words entered the ear canal and when it reached the part of the brain’s auditory cortex, then followed the specific pathways to be understood, another part of the brain was at work formulating a response. While both hearing and getting your response ready to fire back, there is a HUGE communication gap. Both people are left feeling frustrated and hurt.
To check out this process for yourself, take the following challenge. Begin a conversation with someone. Pay attention to how you are forming your reply and how you want it to be shared with the person you are conversing with before they have finished speaking. For most people, they begin forming their response long before the other person has finished talking. We are so busy getting our reply formed that we don’t fully give attention to the person that is talking to you.
So to give you another example as to how this might look, lets imagine a hypothetical couple A and B. A begins the conversation with B because she was very disappointed that B did not call earlier today like he said he would. B begins to remember all the things that he did that day and did not have any opportunity to call. B begins to defend himself before A has even finished talking. A feels frustrated that B is making excuses and talks a little louder to let B know she doesn’t want to hear excuses. O man….! This is not good! A and B are mad and upset. Voices get louder because… wait for it….MY PARTNER IS NOT LISTENING. Translation: (and this is important) I AM NOT VALIDATED OR CARED FOR!
What might happen next is either the discussions become more often and louder or discussions become fewer and fewer while thoughts are kept bottled up inside. (“Why discuss anything, my partner never listens anyway”).
This is where couple counselling can really help. Couples can be taught how to actively listen and validate the other. They can learn how to listen with their heart to avoid forming their “fire back response”. Couples can be taught how to speak assertively without attacking the other. And most important, couples can begin to truly communicate so each feels heard and not attacked. Sounds like something you need to work on with your partner? Call a counsellor today and ask them to help you and your partner communicate with each other….you will feel heard!