Nearly every woman has said something like, “He never shares what’s really going. What’s it take to get a guy to communicate?”
As we’ve said in other articles on this site, it’s a fact of life that men and women are wired differently. On average, ladies are more willing and able to discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings. But it’s also true that a man can learn to be more open and transparent—with the right woman encouraging him along. Start with these strategies:
Take time for togetherness. The kind of guy who needs help to open up usually needs lots of time to warm up. If you’ve done nothing but exchange text messages for a week because of jam-packed schedules, don’t expect him to divulge his feelings when you finally meet for a quick bite of dinner. In our fast-paced world, couples need to be intentional about spending lots of leisurely, unhurried time together.
Use body language to encourage verbal language. When you’re together, invite open conversation by conveying your receptivity through eye contact, posture, and placement of your hands and feet. Your crossed arms subtly indicate that you’re closed to what he’s saying. Conversely, periodically laying your hand on his forearm and keeping eye contact while he speaks will make your man feel cared for and valued.
Set the tone. The quality of communication is largely determined by the context in which it takes place. A man probably won’t get into deep conversation at the sports bar. A buzzing cell phone beckons to be answered — and interrupts face-to-face discussion. But a stroll on the beach, a picnic at the park, a backyard barbecue for two — these activities facilitate heart-to-heart communication.
Curb the criticism. If you want your guy to be open with you, don’t close him down with disapproval. Nothing shuts off communication faster than a critical comment — or a smirk — in the midst of meaningful sharing. Revealing significant thoughts and feelings is vulnerable, and vulnerability won’t happen if he worries you’ll be judgmental.
Emphasize empathy. This means trying hard to see and experience the world the way your man does. Convey to him that you “get” what he’s saying and you identify with his feelings. Sprinkle conversation with phrases such as “I hear you” and “I know what you mean.”
Lead by example. It isn’t that guys don’t have deep thoughts and feelings; they just need help articulating them. This process requires a lot of skill, and most skills require practice. In the course of conversation, you can put into words your own thoughts and feelings, and then allow plenty of space for your partner to do the same.
Accentuate affirmation. If your man makes the effort to become a better communicator, let him know you appreciate it. He’ll be more likely to tell you how he feels if you offer plenty of encouragement. Fully accepting and validating what he says creates freedom to share.