In the workplace, in the doctor’s office, and even in our homes, communicating our own needs and sharing our experiences in a way that spurs action can be hard. The #struggleisreal to be taken seriously, and women in particular have been fighting this difficulty for centuries. When communicating effectively is essential to your health, your career, or your emotional well-being, the stakes are high. And sometimes those high stakes make it even harder to achieve a respectful dialogue. We put together a list of people whose attention and understanding are essential, along with some tips to ensure you’re taken seriously.

A woman smiles as she leans against a wall

Your Doctor

The foundation of a doctor/patient relationship rests on the idea that the doctor is educated and skilled enough to evaluate you with competence. When we’re seeing a doctor for a wellness check or a health concern, some of us undermine this understanding from the get-go by assuming that we know better than the doctor. Since we’re (usually) not the ones with seven years of med school under our belt, this can make it hard for a doctor to take you seriously.

When you’re sharing your symptoms, be specific about what’s bothering you, when it started, and what you’re concerned that it might be. If you have pain or discomfort, resist any urge to exaggerate; not only could it result in an incorrect diagnosis, but it could immediately make the doctor doubt the veracity of what you’re saying if your pain severity and other symptoms don’t align. Bring documentation or medical records if you have them, and ask for copies of everything. Be prepared to speak up for yourself and ask questions about research you’ve done or tests you might need, but don’t anticipate an argument. Assume that your doctor has the same goal as you: addressing your health with real solutions and proven treatments.

Your Boss

When our boss is someone we look up to, it’s natural to feel intimidated or sheepish when initiating a conversation or sharing an idea. And if it’s someone that’s harder to respect, we might want to avoid them altogether. Neither route is ideal, as a solid coworking relationship with our superiors is key to our success.

To be seen as a serious and career-minded asset to your boss, lay some relationship groundwork by assessing the way they interact with others. Are there other people in the office that seem to have his or her ear? How do they capture your boss’s attention? Don’t be afraid to seize the same communication strategies that have worked for other people in your workplace. Getting your boss to like you isn’t the same as getting her to listen to you, so nix the idea that you and your supervisor need to become besties before you can address that stubborn workflow problem you’ve noticed.

Keep in mind who your boss is too. “If you desire to be heard by someone who is outspoken, quick, bold — be brief, be direct, and focus on results. If you are trying to communicate with someone who is talkative, expressive, a charmer — let them talk about their ideas, and do not dwell on details — write out the details for them,” advises Michelle Gooch, a life coach and communications expert. When you speak with your boss, remember that you’re coming from the same place: wanting to see your workplace flourish as a unit. Pay attention to the old adage “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This will give your words a more mature and seasoned perspective and make your boss more likely to pay attention to you.

And in group settings, aim to stand out. “One practical tip for a woman in a business meeting that can’t get a word in edgewise — lean forward and stretch out your hand to the middle of the table. The gesture causes everyone to turn and look at you, so be ready to jump in and start talking,” Gooch says.

Your Partner

Sometimes when we become super comfortable with someone, it becomes easier to tune each other out. While it’s never a good sign if our romantic partner is turning a deaf ear to clear expressions of what we need, sometimes it’s just evidence that we need a new communication strategy.

David Bennett, a counselor and relationship expert, recommends laying the groundwork for better communication through complimenting your partner. “Studies show that people are more likely to value criticism from people who have previously affirmed them multiple times. If you want to be heard, be sure to affirm people when they do good things. For example, if your spouse is really thoughtful, let them know! That way, when you need to point out when they are unthoughtful, that comment will come across as constructive and not like you’re unfairly targeting them.”

Beyond focusing on your partner’s positive qualities, examine the context in which you’re communicating. Stepping away from your home base for an important talk can help your partner focus on you and be less distracted. Try to keep your tone calm and your requests to the point during your discussion, and don’t spend a lot of time emphasizing failures and past mistakes in your relationship.  

Your Roommate

Living with roommates is rarely simple, but sharing a space with people that don’t take your needs seriously can quickly spiral out of control.

Nadine Schroeder is a veteran of navigating roommate relationships, having racked up roommate experiences in four cities over a span of 10 years. She recommends giving yourself space and time to set parameters and being upfront about the person you are. “[My roommates and I] meet every month. The first time I was there we went around and each shared how we receive love and how we show love.” It might seem over the top, but addressing your love language is a simple shortcut to making you feel more at home in your space.

Don’t be afraid to be the person that pushes to put these meetings on the calendar; chances are, those you live with will come to appreciate and understand how important this time is. “Each month we give a recap of how we are doing, what is working for us in the house, what is hard. We have a chalkboard in the kitchen where we write things for the next meeting down, and we talk about who is in and out of town the upcoming month,” says Schroeder.

Other tips for getting your roommate to take you seriously: Ask how they are, often and sincerely; assume that you are operating from the same premise, which is to live comfortably together; and be selective about the boundaries you choose to set (then enforce them, without fail).

How do you communicate effectively with the important people in your life? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)