That vulnerable moment of hurt, annoyance, confusion, anxiety and often insecurity that comes when you have just shared something very important with someone and you get the impression that they didn't quite get the importance of what you just shared, they “misheard” you or got distracted, or went into expressing themselves instead.
It can be devastating and extremely frustrating, especially if this happens often and repeatedly, with the people that you love and feel closest too.
So what's happening? Why is it so hard for them to simply listen + understand you?
There are probably a few factors playing out at once. Understanding some of them can bring you into reality rather than getting stuck in the frustration of “why is this happening to me?” and never landing on an answer that makes sense.
“THE NOBODY'S LISTENING TRAP”
They may not be listening because they are triggered too and also need to be heard and understood, so there is no availability within them to truly empathise with you at this moment.
They may have heard an accusation or judgment in the way that you expressed yourself and now they want to defend themselves rather than hear the important message you are trying to get across.
They are confused because they have heard more pieces of information than they can compute in 1 go , so it's hard for them to focus on what's important for you.
They hear you expressing your experience as the “TRUTH”, as the only version of the story, and they think that their experience, feelings and needs do not matter to you, so they go inwards to care for themselves as best they can.
Of course there are many other factors that may be at play, yet I see couples regularly falling into these 4 repeated scenarios where both people are left feeling alone, frustrated, confused and rarely experiencing that level of understanding, presence and connection that they are so deeply longing for together.
So how do you get out of “THE NOBODY'S LISTENING TRAP” and move towards a more connected conversation between you? Here are 4 things YOU can do without them needing to change in order for you to be heard.
Check your intentions before sharing - do you want to be heard and understood or do you want to teach them a lesson?
If you want them to feel guilty / bad or wrong, then it's likely that you are hurting and really longing for some kind of shared responsibility for the hurt that you are experiencing. Making sure that you spend a little time in self connection first. This will help you to get clear on why you feel as you do and what you are actually wanting them to recognise and understand before launching into self expression (use my self connection guide to help you). IF you go into self expression with an unconscious energy of blame and punishment, you are very likely to lose their attention and willingness to hear you, because essentially all people want to be seen and recognised in their humanity and when we hear blame, we hear that there is no space for us to be human and that our good intentions are not recognised.
Describing Reality: When sharing how you feel about something that has happened between you, try and describe the reality rather than getting lost in your own interpretations of what may have happened. Using words such as “misunderstood / manipulated / unheard / ignored” sound like accusations or interpretations of what you imagine the other person was “doing” to you rather than how you actually felt about their behavior.
E.g = “When you turned away after speaking to me I felt hurt and upset” INSTEAD OF “why did you just ignore me..” / “I was talking to you and you just ignored me”
Discuss 1 thing at a time: Can you imagine that someone would come to you with a whole list of things that they want you to understand and told you about all of them at once? You would feel overwhelmed, stressed and very confused right? So if you actually want them to understand, start with the most important topic and choose one situation where that topic came up for you, one moment where there was an impact on you in some way. I can almost guarantee you that all the other topics and events that you want to talk to them about are linked to the same one thing that is important to you.
Include them: Most of the time we can not listen because we imagine that the other person doesn't care about how we feel. Making sure that you have space to hear how your expression feels for them to hear, if they have understood you fully, if they also want to be heard and understood, will create a lot more connection between you. The brain wants to know that we are together, to feel safe in relationships we need to trust that we matter to one another. This step is a lot easier to write down on paper than it is to do when you feel triggered or upset about something, so again practicing self connection before you go into a conversation will most likely support you to have more space and willingness to hear their side too.
Finally I want to be very honest with you, embodying and living the above intentions and skills takes a lot of practice, because we have been socialised to defend ourselves, fight back, hide away, avoid and judge ourselves and one another as forms of self protection. In order to undo these mechanisms we need to re-train our brains to learn a new pathway towards connection, harmony and safety in relationships.
So I highly recommend taking time to practice in community, learn these skills of authentic and compassionate communication (NVC) and be supported by like minded people who are re-building neural pathways of connection alongside you, because we humans are not meant to walk this journey alone.