Strategies for Supporting Your Partner in Opening Up
My boyfriend isn’t a communicator, how can I get him to be more communicative?
Dear Starved for Communication,
You’re certainly not alone in this! I can identify and have faced this challenge in many of my relationships and it’s a common complaint among my clients, so thank you for sharing this question — it provides such space for others in the same experience to gain new approaches with you!
Let’s first remember that your partner must have learned or developed a belief somewhere along the way that communication is a scary and unsafe place to be; that it’s safer to just hold it back than to share or be in dialogue.
If your partner is not willing to be communicative, it’s not that they aren’t capable. It’s that they are shut down or there’s a safety mechanism at play to avoid pain, suffering, negative feedback, judgment, rejection, etc.
So the goal will be for you to continually create invitations for communication and connection that also reinforce safety and acceptance, which is not to say you’re not already doing this, Starved for Communication.
I’m sure you’re also doing your best to receive what your partner has to offer.
Since you’re here to get tools and tips, here are a few I’d start with:
1. Open-ended Questions — questions that evoke deeper sharing than close-ended questions that can be answered with one-word answers.
“Did you have a good day?” — “Yes.”
“What was the highlight/lowlight of your day?”
— “How was work?” — “Good.”
“What’s exciting/challenging you at work lately?”
2. Give a lot of positive feedback and acknowledgment when your partner *does* communicate as you so deeply desire, Starved for Communication.
— “Wow! This was such a great conversation, and I feel so connected to you now that I can understand your opinion on ____.” You could even name it directly: “I know you say that you’re not a great communicator, but what you just did here, it was amazing, I really enjoyed being able to talk like this!”
Give nods and you’ll get more of what you want.
3. Take responsibility for your needs when you’re feeling particularly starved for communication and connection.
This one has a few layers so let’s start with a strong base — Set your partner up for success with a simple and easy-to-hit request.
— “I want to share what’s been going on for me at work and all I would need from you right now is just to listen. Can you do that?”. Adding on to this would look like: “All I need from you right now is to listen and then repeat back to me what you heard me say.”
The next notch up — (because remember we’re incrementally notching up the ladder on this one) — would be “….and I’d love to hear your opinions. What’s your instinct on this?”
End on gratitude and acknowledgment.
For instance, “Thanks so much for listening. Not only did you honor what I needed in that moment but just being there to listen really helped me get clear on what I’ve been feeling!”
Engineering an equation of success for your partner as you invite them into deeper communication, active listening and mirroring will, with time and with patience, get you what you so desire, Starved with Communication…maybe even a Chatty Cathy! ;)
Keep sending your questions, Beautiful People! I love answering them.
Also, for this question I recorded a more in-depth video response you can access here:
In love, we #growtogether…