Because verbal communication is one of the most important skills used by humans to express their thoughts and feelings, it may be difficult to attempt to communicate with people who tend to be quiet. Although research seems to support gender differences in emotional expression, quiet men have feelings and opinions that are just as strong as those of their female counterparts. You can encourage a quiet man to express his thoughts and feelings by honing your own communication skills.
Express your own thoughts and feelings in a non-confrontational manner. One of the worst approaches to getting a quiet man to be expressive is to focus your discussion on his demeanor, which may make him defensive. Defensiveness, in this context, is a means of self-preservation and defending one's emotions. Instead of making a conversation awkward by insisting that your man share what he's thinking or feeling, ease his discomfort by leading through example. Over time and with practice, you may find that calmly asking a quiet man what he thinks about something can help him feel less defensive.
Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication. A man may speak volumes with non-verbal communication. Researchers at Penn State University found that men tend to provide more subtle non-verbal cues than women. For a man who is not verbally expressive, pay particular attention to his nonverbal reactions and behaviors. Cues such as distance from you, closed posture (such as folded arms) and a tendency to look down tell you that the topic is making him feel like he needs to defend his feelings.
Keep conversations between you and your quiet man private. There is perhaps nothing more potentially damaging than sharing a person's intimate thoughts and feelings with other people. For a man with a quiet nature who has felt comfortable enough to have challenging conversations, it's important to make it clear that what he shares with you isn't shared with anyone else. This is especially important if you are the type of person who bounces issues and ideas off friends.
Implement techniques of active listening when your quiet man is speaking to you. Active listening, an approach to counseling made popular by Carl Rogers, involves skills such as clarifying what is stated, reflecting back what the other person has said and remaining nonjudgmental and positive. This approach can be effective in facilitating communication and can make a more reserved man feel less defensive. Active listening forces you to hear every word that is being said, rather than sifting through a conversation, perhaps missing important nuances.
- If the man in your life continues to have difficulty sharing his thoughts and feelings despite your attempts to be elicit them, suggest that he consider working with a counselor or therapist.
- British Journal of Health Psychology: Social Barriers to Emotional Expression and Their Relations to Distress in Male and Female Cancer Patients
- Penn State University: Explanation for the Gender Differences in Expressing Emotions
- Griffith University: Gender and Emotional Expressiveness: An Analysis of Prosodic Features in Emotional Expression
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Sex Differences in Emotion: Expression, Experience and Physiology
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Communication in Marriage
- North Carolina State University: Expressing Feelings
- Cobb Counselling and Consulting: Overcoming Defensiveness
- Communicating in Business Today: Active Listening
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