Why Won’t He Talk?

I was recently reminded of a husband and wife who consulted with me to improve their communication. This couple were in their 60’s and their communication was getting worse.

When I asked in what way, his wife quickly told me that he never spoke. “I ask him all these questions and he never answers.”

“What do you do then?”

“I get more aggressive to get an answer from him.”

“How is that working?”

“It’s not. He’ll either say nothing or leave the room.”

“What do you do then?”

“I follow him and keep at him to get an answer.”

Does that work?”

“No. That’s why we are here.”

You may or may not be able to relate to this. You can keep on pushing them until you receive an answer OR the answer you want to hear.

I turned to her husband and asked, “What’s happening?”

“I go to talk and she won’t let me or tells me …”

“That’s not right” she says. “Come on, tell the man the truth. Tell him why you won’t talk.”

After a couple of minutes of this, I turned to her and asked, “Do you have any idea why he won’t talk?”

“None. That’s why we are here” she said.

“He won’t talk because you won’t let him have his say. When he does get a word out, you tell him he is wrong and overpower him. He has no option other than to stay quiet. This way, he will never get told he is wrong. If you want him to talk, it is important to stay quiet and let him have his say. When he is finished, validate what he is saying so you show him you care about what he has to say.”

I asked him a few questions and, as she was about to jump in, motioned for her to listen. He spoke freely and openly.

He could talk. He simply needed the opportunity to have his opinion.

Where do you over-ride, interrupt or focus on what you are going to say?

Listening is a real skill that many don’t have. They simply hear as they are formulating a rebuttal in their head. When you argue, you are only hearing.

Listening means being attentive and showing your partner or another person you are super interested in what they are saying.

Try this. Next time your partner, or a friend is speaking, stay silent and listen intently to what they are saying. Show them you care about their opinion. If you want to, ask some questions to get more clarification on a topic.

This may take some practice. It’s a great skill to have.

You’ve got this.