Getting through to your partner is the responsibility of both the person who is talking and the person who is listening. When people disagree, a natural tendency is to listen with one half of your brain and build your own argument with the other half. Slowing down and really listening before answering can be challenging.
Our recommendation for you, the one who has a point to present, is to find a way to make sure that your partner is in a good space to listen. Here are some suggestions.
Find a good time to talk. Look for an opportunity when you two can just carve out some time to talk about what is important. Make sure that distractions are minimal, especially if it is an important conversation … so turn off cell phones, make sure that the children are in bed, get away from the television.
Listen carefully to your partner’s response. Make sure that she really understood the point you were making. If not, gently say something like “I know that you have valid points; however, I want you to understand what I am saying before you respond.”
You may have to “get” her before she can “get” you. Sometimes people can hear better if they feel that they have been heard first so you may need to let go of your point until you let your partner know and believe that you have heard and understood her, even if you do not agree.
Get agreement to stick with one issue rather than lots of different ones. Ask your partner to agree to this if you start to get off track. It is easy for conversations to become problematic if there is no clear direction.
If either one of you becomes flooded, (your heart rate rises, you feel warm, angry or confused) take a break and calm down. When anyone gets flooded, they cannot listen well and the reaction is usually the “fight or flight” one. Use this as a time to take a break and think about the conversation. You can revisit it later if it is important.
If talking is not going well, try writing. Sometimes writing, either in e-mail or with a handwritten note can help. Be sure to read over what you wrote before sending it, especially if it is a “hot” topic. In fact, if it is a difficult conversation, you may want to sleep on it and reread it the next day before sending it. If the note sounds angry or “pushy” it may be poorly received. The important advice to remember is to be loving, direct and use lots of “I” statements about your thoughts. Find ways to acknowledge what you believe she is thinking and feeling as a way of letting her know that you want to look for a solution or understanding, not a fight or just to win a point.