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How to Get Him To Listen

By Debbie Mandel

Could this be you or someone you know?

Judy rushes to the door as her husband Mark turns the key; he has not yet loosened his tie and put down his attaché. She delivers a long, detailed narrative about her day, particularly, her conversation with a girlfriend. He rolls his eyes at her and grimaces, “Judy, this is nonsense and not worth repeating. Can I take my coat off?” Judy feels trivialized and decides to pull away from Mark – physically and emotionally. Their dialogues follow this pattern and Judy feels pressured to say it in 25 words or less. The silence grows until it snowballs into a huge frigid problem as Judy becomes more distant, not opening up about what is really bothering her. Mark figures that Judy is having an affair.

During a stress-management session they start to talk about it, where it all began. Judy explains that if Mark were more available to her emotionally, she would not feel invalidated. Finally, Mark gets it! He did not realize he had been invalidating her when he impatiently dismissed her little narratives about her day. Grimacing and rolling his eyes made her reach the boiling point. On the other hand, she wasn’t sympathetic to his stressors when he returned home tired from work and the commute. He needed to detoxify for awhile. Mark and Judy have learned how to argue in a healthy way keeping the lines of communication open. Thanks to me they now argue a lot! That’s a good thing because once you shut down the other person, there is no relationship. When you fall into an old pattern, and then expect a different result, you are setting yourself up for failure.

  • When she talks emotionally about a problem, just listen. She doesn’t necessarily want a solution. She wants to make her problem sound real to you – that it is not in her head, something she imagined. Pay attention to her. Don’t internalize, or plan what you will say next.
  • If you are asked to do something you don’t feel like doing right now, for example you are watching the big game, tell her that you will take care of it later and be sure to do it! This is like establishing a good credit rating for future purchases.
  • Take the why out of your questions which make him feel like an accused criminal on the witness stand. For example, “Why didn’t you call me the whole day?”
  • Take the intensifiers out of your speech which upset him. Stick to the simple structure of subject, verb and object.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: