How to Talk to Our Partner So They Can Hear Us

One of the most common difficulties I see couples struggle with is miscommunication.  Each person has something he or she wants to say to the other.  They do their best to get their points across, but they never quite feel heard, and therefore they can’t get relief.   This is frustrating for both.

So why does this happen?  It may be because of how it’s presented. It might seem as if you are saying everything in a way your partner can hear it, but chances are you may be using words that make the listener feel like he or she is under attack or being blamed.

The partner can’t respond except to defend him or herself.  That can lead to an argument and then everyone feels bad.  Both people end up exhausted and spent, and the last thing they want to do is talk to each other.

So instead of miss-communicating, how about learning to re-communicate?

Sometimes in sessions I teach couples how to talk to their partners.  I know this may sound silly and possibly juvenile, but with just a few word changes people can really learn to express themselves, say everything they need, have their partner hear them, understand them and even feel compassion for them.

So here is my list of Do’s and Don’ts.


Anything that starts with:        

I don’t want

I won’t do

I’m not going to

I can’t because

I refuse to

Anything that starts with: 

You need to

You should do

You can’t do

You must do

You aren’t going to

Anything that starts with:

We need to

We should do

We have to

Sentences that start with:

It can’t be

Don’t do this

Don’t say that



 Any statements that start with:

I would like it if you would

I want to have you

I am happy when you

I am hopeful that you

I desire that you

I wish that we could

I am happy when

Any questions that start with:

Would you be willing

Are you open to

Would you like to

Can you join me in

Is it possible

Are you interested in

Would you enjoy

With the Don’ts, you can feel the blame or attack.  It’s as if the speaker is already mad.  The Do’s have no blame or attack.  They are coming from a place of wanting instead of already being unhappy.

Practice this with you partner.  Think of a topic you would like to discuss and try it out using the Don’ts.  See how it feels.  Try it on each other.  Now try the Do’s.  Use the same topic.  Just see if you feel different when you use the Do phrases.  You might feel open, less threatened.

When we are open we have a chance for true communication.  That’s when we feel safe enough to lay down our defenses.  That’s when we can have a true exchange with our partner.  We might even learn something new about our mate; we might even be able to get our point across.

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Saying What Needs to be Said

It happens to all of us.
We hold on to our thoughts and don’t say them because we are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings. We
stuff them down inside and just stay silent. We may grouse about them later with someone else, but most of the time
we don’t ever say what we intended to the person who we wanted to say it to.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone.  This is one of the most common themes I come across while helping people in counseling. Most people are aware they do this, and they are not sure how to change it because it’s something they have always done…put their feelings away and take care of the other person first.

This isn’t a bad way to be, unless you are the person who isn’t saying what needs to be said and you are not getting what you need out of life. Then there might be some resentment building up because others are not realizing you haven’t had your say. When you find yourself in this condition for a long time you may be getting angry at the people who don’t seem to understand you.  Then we have some work to do, and you can do it in three steps.

The first step in changing this dynamic is to REALIZE that you are not saying things when you feel them. I know there’s a real fear of something or you would already be speaking your mind. We will get to that later. The first step is to just become aware that you hold in your thoughts and feelings inside yourself and stay silent.

Once you can understand that you do this often we can move on. But to really get this you need to be in a situation where you don’t speak your mind and can then actually say to someone, “Wow, I thought… and I didn’t say anything.”

Once you can actually utter what it is that you aren’t doing, then we can look at what’s holding you back from doing it.  It’s likely there is a fear about something.  I believe it’s something from long ago in your past.  You might have grown up being told that you don’t share your thoughts and feelings; maybe you had people in your life that yelled at you if you spoke your mind, or it could be that you were not taught to speak up about your needs and wants.  What ever the reason, you probably got good training and now you are an expert at not speaking what you feel and think.

As an adult you might now worry how other people will react to you if you speak out.  The second step is to gain an understanding of what you believe will happen if you do speak your mind. Will people leave? Will people hit? Will people yell?  Think about what you are worried about.  Try and imagine the worst reaction someone would make and then consider if you can handle it.  If the answer is yes we move on to step three.

Next time you feel and think something, instead of stuffing it you are going to take a risk, try a new behavior and just SAY IT!  You will survive the person’s reaction because you have already considered it. 

That’s how we get rid of fear and make changes.

No one said it would be easy.  I know it’s hard because you haven’t done it before.  I also know it’s worth it.  You will feel heard, perhaps for the first time, and that’s a new feeling you can’t afford not to experience.

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