Skip to content

    Women's Health

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    How to Talk So Your Partner Will Listen

    Small changes in what you say can make a big difference in what your partner hears.
    By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    You talk to your partner all the time, but do you communicate well? Probably not, a recent study suggests. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that most married couples don't communicate with their partners any better than they do with strangers.

    What gives? Scientists have a theory that because you feel so close to your partner, you overestimate how well you're really connecting; you leave out the important details that you assume he or she knows about you, too.

    Recommended Related to Women

    Top Women’s Health Stories of 2008: Readers’ Choice

    Are you normal? That’s a question on a lot of women’s minds when it comes to personal health. It was also a good year for beating belly fat and finding ways to fight fatigue. Those topics are among the most viewed women’s health stories on WebMD for 2008. 5 Things You Didn't Know About Your Period How to Handle Embarrassing Problems 5 Home Remedy No-Nos Vaginal Problems That Affect Your Sex Life Banish the Bags Under Your Eyes ...

    Read the Top Women’s Health Stories of 2008: Readers’ Choice article > >

    Couples who've been together a long time are also quicker to point out flaws in each other, which can cause someone to feel attacked and go on the defensive. They might do this by blocking the attack (saying something like, "You don't know what you're talking about") or by leaving, physically or emotionally. The bottom line is, one tunes the other out. So instead of getting to the root of important issues, more may crop up.

    Next time you want to talk about something important with your partner -- and you want them to listen -- try the following tips.

    Begin with what you appreciate about your partner. This isn't about lifting them up before you knock them down. Think about what you love about your partner and your relationship. By doing this and then telling them, the two of you will feel you have a more solid foundation. This will help you keep your issue in perspective and help your partner listen less defensively.

    Say what you want, not just what you don't want. For example, telling your partner to stop complaining does not tell him what you want him to do. Are you telling him to always keep his struggles to himself, or are you saying this is not a good time for you to talk? It's much more helpful to say something like, "I know you're having a hard time, but I'm so tired that I can't think straight now. Can we talk about this later, after I've rested, so that I can really be there for you?"

    Be specific. Saying what you want works best when you are specific. Saying "I want you to show me that you love me" is less likely to get you what you want than saying, "It would really help me feel more loved if you'd give me a hug and kiss every night when you come home."

    Today on WebMD

    hands on abdomen
    Test your knowledge.
    womans hand on abdomen
    Are you ready for baby?
     
    birth control pills
    Learn about your options.
    insomnia
    Is it menopause or something else?
     
    woman in bathtub
    Slideshow
    period
    VIDEO
     
    bp app on smartwatch and phone
    Slideshow
    estrogen gene
    Quiz
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Blood pressure check
    Slideshow
    hot water bottle on stomach
    Quiz
     
    question
    Assessment
    Attractive young woman standing in front of mirror
    Quiz