We all want to be heard. When it comes to communication, we know how important it is to listen. Intuitively, we recognize that listening demonstrates value. It says to the speaker, “Your words matter to me; even if I disagree with you, I’m listening and trying my best to understand because I care about you.”
When my wife is upset with me over something, she wants to be heard. In fact, about 90% of the time the problem is resolved when she feels truly understood.
When your boss believes you have heard what he has to say, it’s said and done, and everybody can now move on.
When parents speak, they want to be heard, and this is important to them because they love their child.
When a pastor shares his heart, he hopes and prays his people will have ears to hear.
No one wants to be ignored. Everyone wants to experience the connection of healthy and meaningful communication.
So what do you do when you feel like someone is not listening?
How do you function in a relationship that seems one sided because the other person is talking at you, but not listening to you? Here are some things to try:
Be patient. Sometimes a person is not ready to listen. Maybe they need to vent. Maybe they need to calm down. Maybe you need to give God time to work in their heart. Rather than press an issue and attempt to immediately download your thoughts into their minds, give it time. Wait. Your patience might give them time to gain a different perspective or at least give them a better shot at listening.
Appeal to them in love. When things have settled down a bit, ask them, “Can I share my heart with you right now? I’d like to discuss this with you, but I want to know if you’re ready to listen.” When this is done in a non-sarcastic and gentle way, it often softens the soul.
Dial it down. Hopefully, they’ve had time to chill. However, the quickest way to escalate things again is to make statements that inflame defensiveness. It’s best not to use phrases like, “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” when communicating. Instead of saying, “You made me mad,” say, “I got upset when you said . . .” because it’s better to own your feelings.
Ask them to mirror back to you what they heard. Again, in a non-threatening and non-condescending way ask, “What are you hearing me say?” Mirroring back is a surefire way to know if they’ve heard you or not. It also gives you the opportunity to restate and clarify if they got it wrong (and people often do).
Communication is difficult at times. Most of us would rather talk than listen (myself included). But listening is a skill that must be developed, and it’s worth the effort in every relationship.
So when you feel ignored, don’t give up. Keep at it. When we quit on people because we feel like they’ll never listen, we forget that God never gives up on us. Countless times we have ignored the Father, chosen our own paths and turned a deaf ear to Him.
I’m so glad He’s patient with me. How about you?
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:
Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
James 1:19 (NIV)
To read more about relationships and relational principles, check out my marriage book, Mr. & Mrs. How to Thrive in a Perfectly Imperfect Marriage.
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