A previous partner once taught me what it felt like to 'hear and be heard', however, I'm struggling to replicate her sorcery.
My current girlfriend is extremely problem oriented. While this is generally a great thing, when discussing interpersonal problems, she has attention issues which manifest as problem solving too early into the conversation or focusing on blame assignment or tangential topics before she understands the entirety of the problem (much like I use to). I've gently pointed this out many times, but she/we have been unable to break the pattern.
I tried to just be patient and let her respond and then bring the conversation back on track, but she is extremely garrulous, which inevitably tries my patience, leaving me feeling exhausted and unfulfilled. When she has a topic she wants to discuss I have found the best way to quell her wordiness without fully interrupting her is to interject with questions, however, when I am the one bringing up a topic this tends to backfire and just further derails things.
I've let her know how this makes me feel, and that I'd prefer if she was more inquisitive to ensure she understood me before answering or getting defensive. She seems genuine when she tells me she'd like to do better, but after 8 months of routinely addressing it, the problem persists.
I've tried enlisting outside help. Our therapist is better at interrupting her to get her to sit quietly for longer, but I can tell once she's thought of what she wants to say she's too distracted by it to really process what's going on. I even tried bringing her to a non-violent communication class, but she didn't really seem to understand the rules, what it means to be present or the point of connecting vs being able to just rant freely with a stranger.
In summary, the 3-4 symptoms that I notice seem to always accompany my inablitly to feel heard are:
- She starts problem solving too quickly.
- She redirects (either talking about a tangential problem or by focusing on where to place blame).
- She is extremely garrulous when she speaks / how it happening in conjunction with a derailment on an interpersonal matter I'm trying to bring up triggers me.
What tricks am I missing? Is there something specifically I should be doing/not doing or saying?
It has been noted that this question has similarities to "How to get spouse to empathetically listen to problems instead of (or at least before!) offering solutions?", and while empathy is part of being heard I believe my question significantly differs in the following ways:
- I don't feel my partner is lacking any empathy, but rather just happens to be too impulsive.
- I'm not conflating sympathy and empathy in the way the other author does.
- My goal is to work on interpersonal problems with my partner to build our relationship, as opposed to desiring unload the frustrations of my day onto my partner.
- I want my partner to help me problem solve, and would prefer we spend as little time as possible on it (and thus she should interrupt once she's sure she has all the info she needs) so we can get back to having fun together.