It’s a sad but true fact: most guys aren’t exactly Dr. Phil when it comes to opening up and having those heart-to-heart talks women need. Men are often raised not to discuss their feelings. It’s a hard habit to break, no matter how much they might want to have good communication with you.
You can still have those serious conversations you need to have to build your relationship. It will take some patience on your part, but in the end, it will all be worth it. Here’s how to have great communication with your Mr. Silent Type:
1. Be the first to open up. If you’re willing to share your innermost secrets with him, he’ll find it easier to open up to you in return. When you tell him things you don’t share with other people, you’re showing that you trust him. That makes it easier for him to trust you. However, that does lead us to the next point…
2. Don’t expect equal sharing every time. You may have to open up to him more than once before he’s willing to open up to you. Remember that women are generally encouraged to share their emotions and experiences more than men, starting from childhood and continuing all the way into adulthood. Even if what you’re telling him is hard for you to discuss, you’re still probably better at sharing it than he would be. So try to be okay with an unequal amount of sharing. It’s more about quality than quantity, anyway. Once he trusts you, he’ll tell you things he can’t tell anyone else. You just have to be willing to let him do it in his own time.
3. Don’t share everything he tells you with your friends. It’s great to have confidantes that you can tell anything to. But when you’re in a relationship with a man who is slow to open up, just because you can tell your friends everything doesn’t mean you should. When he tells you a funny story that happened at work or something cute from his childhood, keep the information between you. It’s not that what he told you is a deeply personal secret. It’s simply that he shared with you, not with your friends. By keeping it to yourself and letting him tell the story if/when he wants to, you are showing him that you’ll keep his more private stories between you, too.
4. Don’t judge what he tells you. One of the most powerful things you can do to strengthen your relationship is to learn to listen without judgment. Think about it: when you share something intimate with a friend, you don’t want them to jump in immediately and tell you what you should have done. While you might appreciate their advice later in the conversation, the first thing you want to hear is empathy for your experience. Something as simple as, “I love the fact that you trust me enough to tell me this” can go a long way to making him feel like you accept him and the feelings he just shared with you.
5. Be quiet and listen. It’s really easy to turn a conversation that starts off about him into a discussion of you. Avoid that by keeping the focus on him. Just listen. When he knows you’re paying attention, he’ll be more eager to share.
6. Take the pressure off. If you can, get him doing something fun or relaxing while you’re talking. It can be anything from take a walk to washing dishes together (okay, that might not be fun, but it does give him something to do). Many men – and women – find it easier to talk when they have something else to focus on. It takes away some of the feeling of being put on the spot. Physical activity that doesn’t require much concentration can also help people sort their thoughts and make it easier to express themselves clearly.
7. Create a safe environment in your relationship. Everyone messes up sometimes. Everyone has baggage from previous experiences. If you’re always bringing up past mistakes or nagging him to do things he doesn’t want to do, he’s not going to feel safe enough with you to share anything deeply personal. He’ll be afraid that you’ll use the information against him at some point. Instead, focus on his positive qualities, show your appreciation when he does what you’ve asked him to do, and let the past stay in the past. Not only will this build trust between you, but it will also give you a brighter view of life in general.
Overcoming a private man’s reluctance to open up can be difficult. You have to avoid pressuring him too much. At the same time, you have to be open and non-judgmental. It can be hard work, but in the end, you have the good communication that helps a relationship last.