Communication is critical to marriage success! Yet, your man has shut down and won’t tell you what he’s thinking or how he feels. What can you do to get your man to open up and talk to you more? After 30 years of marriage counseling experience, we offer you these suggestions to open him up:
1. Talk Less – Listen More
Most men would say that they don’t feel heard; that their woman wants to be heard but they don’t listen to their man.
If you want your man to open up and talk to you, then you must listen to what he has to say. And when I say listen, I mean to really listen to understand what he’s attempting to communicate. Listen carefully, sincerely, and completely to his thoughts and ideas— period! And after he has shared his ideas, validate them. Until he feels heard, he is not likely to share his ideas or listen to yours. So what if you don’t agree with his ideas, we’ll get to that in a minute. Just keep reading for now.
2. Don’t Interrupt Him
Nothing breaks down communication faster than being interrupted when you are talking. This is particularly true for men— especially if they believe that their woman doesn’t care about what they have to say anyway. Far too often, women are so anxious and determined to correct their man by pointing out the flaws in his thinking, or his getting the “facts” correct, or committed to their opinion/solution that they interrupt him while he is attempting to communicate. They “jump in” and interrupt him before he has finished sharing his ideas.
This frequently leads to an argument—that leads to frustration and anger—that leads to a breakdown in the communication process—and can lead to the breakdown in the relationship. The key to successful relationships and problem solving is to keep the communication going. So, listen to your man without interrupting him.
3. Ask Questions
You can encourage your man to open up more by asking him sincere, open ended questions. They should not be “loaded,” or opinionated, or questions that attempt to solicit and/or manipulate him into a particular answer or response that you want. If your man perceives that you have an agenda behind your question(s), he is likely to shut down. However, questions where you sincerely want to hear him fully and completely can open the doors to him sharing more freely with you. As a result, it can significantly improve the quality of your relationship.
4. What If You Don’t Agree With Him?
At the “hearing what you have to say” point in your discussion, it’s not necessary that you agree. You’ll have a chance to have your say but right now, while he’s sharing, this is not the time. Hearing what your man has to say is of primary importance. You are not likely to get to a mutually satisfying agreement or resolution until or unless both of you have been heard completely. When everything has been “laid on the table,” then, and only then, can the two of you come together to create a plan or solution. I am suggesting that you not offer any ideas or opinions even if you don’t agree until your man has had his say. Do not interrupt or correct him at this point.
Know that the two of you are not likely to agree initially. That is expected. You are two separate independent people who have your own ideas, opinions, and perceptions about the same and different things as well as the “facts.” That is really O.K. In fact, it is a good thing. When both people can share their thoughts, then, a wider set of ideas and possible solutions are communicated and can be taken into account by both persons in the problem solving and decision making process. Based upon all of the suggestions that have been shared, you are now better prepared to make a joint decision about whatever needs to be done for mutual benefit.
5. Give Him Time To Respond
Sometimes women ask their man a question about something that he has not thought about. Your man is likely not to think about the same things that you think about and he may need time to think about your question before he is prepared with a response. Often, women have already devoted a considerable amount of time thinking about the question. Not only have they thought about it, they are likely to have researched it, talked to others about it and soliciting their ideas, and often have pretty much made a decision. So, you’ve been with the question for quite a while. Your man has not and you are asking him to respond “off the cuff.” So, when you ask him what he thinks, isn’t it reasonable then that he may need time to think about it before he can arrive at his own ideas and opinions about it?
Offer him time to think about the question. For example, you might say, “I’d like to know your thoughts about _____. You probably will want some time to think about it and I want you to have the time you need. So, can we talk about it tomorrow (or at some agreed upon day/date) at ____(time) and you can tell me where you are in your thinking about it?
6. Express Sincere Gratitude For His Sharing
All of us tend to repeat the things we are acknowledged for. This is especially true when you want your man to open up and share more. Let him know that you sincerely appreciate and value his ideas and that they mean a lot to you. Each time he opens up and talks to you, acknowledge him for it.
So, these are my suggestions on how to get your man to open up more and talk to you. I sincerely hope they have been helpful. I know that I’ve only “scratched the surface” of this extremely important topic.