Sometimes, not being heard has nothing to do with the volume of your voice. You may not feel heard when you express yourself, your wants, or your needs due to previous experiences of being ignored. Even though you communicate clearly, you may still feel as though your loved ones aren’t entirely understanding you.
Reasons You Don’t Feel Heard
There can be a few different reasons why you don’t feel heard within your relationships:
- Your communication style is different from your partners
- Your perception is different from your partners
- The same issue arises even after it seems to have been solved
Your partner, friend, or family member may also make you feel unheard by flipping the topic around so that you become the issue. Alternatively, they may focus on the way they feel rather than how you feel. They may not be listening to you, and, irrespective of how good you are at communicating your needs, this will make you feel unheard and neglected.
You may be picking up on nonverbal cues that make you feel unheard. It is estimated that sixty to sixty-five per cent of interpersonal communication is nonverbal, and cues, such as turning away or picking up a phone, can indicate that we are not being listened to.
Trauma and Communication
Trauma survivors can struggle with listening and communication, and they can often feel as though they are not heard. Those who have experienced childhood post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may not have been listened to by their parents or caregivers. As a result, they may respond negatively when they are not heard in later life.
Research has also found that adverse childhood experiences have a long-lasting effect on communication.For example, many people have grown up in homes with limited healthy communication – perhaps their parents shouted at them, or there were constant passive-aggressive silences rather than open discussion. This can then influence how they communicate and listen – if they have no other examples of healthy communication, they will continue to employ unhealthy methods throughout their life.
Furthermore, this can ignite the feeling of being unheard. If a child acts out because they are upset or angry only to be met with anger or silence from their parents, they may grow up fearing being open about their feelings and feeling unworthy and unloved as a result.
However, healthy communication can be learned. Both speaking and listening are essential skills that allow us to communicate assertively beyond our personal lives and into our workplaces. There are several ways to improve your communication skills:
- Take a time out – You do not have to confront difficult scenarios as and when they arise. Take a step back and process your feelings before tackling them so that you stay level-headed and arguments do not occur.
- Use I statements – I statements can be less accusatory than you For instance, saying “I feel sad when you…” doesn’t place the blame on the other person like “you always…” does.
- Focus on listening – Half of being a good communicator is being a good listener. When your partner is talking, focus on what they’re saying – don’t let your thoughts stray.
- Set boundaries – Boundaries can significantly improve communication. For instance, you may have a set time each week to discuss finances or your relationship to clear up any issues. Alternatively, boundaries might include asking for space to avoid an argument or reassurance after a disagreement.
By becoming better at communicating and listening, you may start to feel heard by your loved ones. However, if someone is wilfully not listening to your concerns or problems, this may not be the case. It is important to know that this is not your fault.
What To Do When You Don’t Feel Heard
There are several ways to combat not being heard. Prioritising open communication is key, so try the following to encourage your partner to listen:
- Schedule a good time for you and your partner to talk.
- Be concise and clear – use notes if you have to.
- Ask your partner to repeat back what you have said to them. If it is right, continue, but repeat what you have said if they have missed anything.
- Repeat until you feel that you have been heard properly with no miscommunication.
Following this, you can step back and repeat the process to listen to your partner’s concerns or issues. This way, both parties feel heard, and you can work towards finding solutions for the issues you have both brought to light.
The challenge here is being patient and listening carefully. It is important that neither party reacts defensively or tries to turn the conversation in a different direction. If your partner becomes frustrated or angry, walk away and try again later. The goal is not to react – it is simply to listen.
What To Avoid When Feeling Unheard
Feeling like your loved one isn’t listening to you can be incredibly frustrating, especially if this is a recurring theme. Try to avoid certain reactions when you feel this way, such as:
- Shouting – Yelling or screaming at your loved one is counterproductive and can make them feel worse, even if it makes you feel better for a moment. Process your anger in other ways, such as escaping the situation for a while or getting some exercise.
- The silent treatment – This can confuse people and make them angrier or more upset than they were before. It is better to communicate that you need some space or time rather than giving them the cold shoulder.
- Bringing up past events – Dredging up past mistakes can cause more arguments and make your partner more defensive.
Feeling unheard is a painful experience. It can make us feel small, neglected, and unloved. Learning new communication skills with our loved ones can help to reduce these feelings and strengthen our relationships.
If you have a client or know of someone struggling to heal from neglect and trauma, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Burgoon, Judee K., Valerie Manusov, and Laura K. Guerrero. Nonverbal communication. Routledge, 2021.
 Westby, Carol. “Adverse Childhood Experiences: What Speech-Language Pathologists Need To Know”. Word Of Mouth, vol 30, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-4. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1048395018796520. Accessed 18 Nov 2021.
 Kohpeima Jahromi, Vahid et al. “Active Listening: The Key Of Successful Communication In Hospital Managers”. Electronic Physician, vol 8, no. 3, 2016, pp. 2123-2128. Mehr Publishing Group, doi:10.19082/2123. Accessed 18 Nov 2021.