You’d be shocked at how many families don’t listen to each other! Here, you’ll find comfort and support while learning what to do when your family won’t listen to you.
Let’s start with some good news, shall we? You’ve dealt with enough pain, disappointment, and frustration. You may be carrying heavy burdens; my hope and prayer is that you soon feel lighter, happier, and more hopeful about your life. And your family 🙂
Speaking about life — and families who won’t listen — here’s an encouragement from a She Blossoms reader: “The good news is that it is possible to have a wonderful life even if you feel like nobody cares,” says Lily on What to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares. “You can care about yourself. You don’t have to let your family determine your value or your worthiness. You can’t make your family care [or listen to you], but you can determine how deeply you are going to let them impact you.”
Your family is important. You love them; they’re part of your heart and soul. You’ve known them your whole life. You want to have good relationships with them…and you need to know that your family is listening when you talk.
Feeling — and actually being — heard is crucial in any relationship. Being heard, especially by your family members, is the foundation of a healthy self-image and identity. However, you can’t force people to listen and it doesn’t work to simply talk more or louder. So what do you do when your family doesn’t hear you?
3 Things to Do When Your Family Won’t Listen
This article is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; the three tips are inspired by Genesis 34. This chapter offers a brief glimpse into Dinah’s experience with a man called Shechem. We have no idea exactly what happened between Dinah and Shechem because nobody was listening to her — not even her family members. The Biblical writer didn’t give her a voice so we can’t listen to her, either.
But we can learn from her silence.
1. Speak up even when you don’t feel heard
Genesis 34 starts with Dinah, Leah and Jacob’s daughter. She went out to see some of the young women in her area, and was defiled by Shechem. Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi were “deeply grieved and very angry, for Shechem had committed an outrage against Israel” (verse 7). In this chapter, Moses describes what Dinah’s brothers and father did in response to this “outrage against Israel” (not against Dinah herself) but we don’t hear from her. Did she speak up even though her family wouldn’t listen? We don’t know how she felt about Shechem. We don’t know if she was friends with the women she visited, but we see she was curious, adventurous, and independent. Dinah liked people; she sought them out. She explored her community. This makes me wonder if Dinah tried to talk to her family about what happened, but her brothers and father wouldn’t listen.
When your family doesn’t listen, what do you do? I recently had a frustrating experience with a family member; I kept telling her that I love a particular food. She kept saying I wouldn’t like the brand she bought. I kept telling her that that’s the exact brand I buy and eat for lunch every day. She refused to listen to me and I kept repeating myself. Now, I see my mistake: I wasted valuable time and energy trying to tell her something that doesn’t even matter. It was unimportant, and I should’ve let it go the first time she didn’t hear me. It wasn’t worth arguing about.
Your turn: What are you trying to tell your family members? On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it? The higher the number, the more important it is! If something is important and meaningful, keep speaking up even if you don’t feel heard. If it’s a low number (my experience was a 1), then let it go.
2. Find people who will listen to you
Genesis 34 doesn’t tell us who Dinah talked to if her family wouldn’t listen — or if she talked to anyone. Maybe the women in the field heard or knew her story. Dinah stayed with Shechem for at least three days; maybe he or his family listened to her. Maybe Dinah’s mother Leah listened to her, or maybe they had a difficult mother-daughter relationship. There are so many mysteries that could’ve been solved if Dinah’s family had listened to her and shared her story. But they didn’t. Her family disregarded her experience. I can’t imagine how Dinah felt, but I suspect she didn’t feel heard. When your family doesn’t listen to you, you feel like you don’t matter. It hurts.
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Who do you talk to? It takes courage, honesty, and humility to open up about your feelings — especially if your family won’t listen to you. When you don’t feel important or heard in your family, you feel unimportant in the world. You feel worthless. When your thoughts, feelings and experiences don’t matter to your family, who else cares? Your family is supposed to love you. When your family doesn’t listen, you feel like nobody else will.
It’s crucial to replace these feelings of worthlessness with the truth. The truth is that you matter even if your family won’t listen to you. The truth is that God created you for a purpose. Your life has meaning and value no matter what your family says, does, or believes. Your job is to find people who will listen and treat you with respect. Don’t let your family’s response change your self-image. Root your identity in Jesus’ love for you. Know that He is always listening and always present…even when you feel alone and lonely.
3. Be humble
Genesis 34 reveals how hard-hearted, cruel, and deceitful Dinah’s brothers were. One Bible commentator even said that her brothers’ response indicated a bitter, toxic family environment. Jacob, Dinah’s father, had often lied, cheated, stole and ran away in the past. Her family members weren’t loving, kind, compassionate or honest with each other. This makes me think Dinah’s family didn’t listen to her. Finding out what she thought and felt wasn’t a priority; they were more concerned with their reputation in the community. It wasn’t Dinah’s fault that her family wouldn’t listen. Dinah’s family’s response to her didn’t change who she was. Her family may have planted seeds of worthlessness and low self-identity, but she had power to change how she saw herself.
Can you open up and talk to people who will listen? “I can’t talk about how I feel because I’m not allowed,” says a reader in response to Where Was God When This Happened to Me and My Family? “I called a family member but they were having a good day and I didn’t want to ruin it. I said everything is fine, I just called to tell them that I love them. I reached out to a friend last night, but I didn’t want to come across as needy or dump my problems on someone else. I am seeing a counselor, but it’s the time between sessions that I struggle. Nobody will listen to me…they don’t hear me. I need to feel heard but no one listens. No one cares that I’m drowning in pain.”
Don’t let pride stop you from talking to people who care about you. Don’t let your fear or ego you from reaching out to others when your family won’t listen. Don’t be foolish like I was, and argue with family members who refuse to hear you.
Your family may not listen to you, but you can find people who will. What do you need to do to ensure that you are heard? Don’t rely on other people to take care of your business. Reach out, speak up, and talk to friends and other family members who will listen.
What do you think? Your comments — big and little — are welcome below!
With His love,
She Blossoms Through the Bible – Previous Articles
- Healing Broken Family Relationships – Genesis 33
- Preparing to Meet an Estranged Family Member – Genesis 32
- How to Respond When You Get Caught Lying – Genesis 31
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8.
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If you need relationship help, get Mort Fertel's 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage - and FREE advice, no strings attached.