Communication can be difficult when it feels one sided. Dealing with the strong silent type comes with additional challenges if you don't understand their communication style. By offering comfort and time, watching body language, asking questions and determining the cause, you can communicate with this personality type.
Make Them Comfortable
People are more silent when they are anxious or uncomfortable. With either gender, it is critical to open lines of communication by remaining calm and offering your own opinions or other conversation starters. Don’t push too hard, for instance berating these reserved individuals with, “Why don’t you talk more?” Instead show them that you are open-minded and won’t harass them for their ideas. Give them time to get comfortable with you and you might find that they open up more readily.
Watch Body Language
Just because he isn’t speaking doesn’t mean that he is not communicating. You have all types of signals at your disposal to decipher those around you. If he is making eye contact, rest assured that he is actively listening. If he is leaning towards you, this is a hint that he is interested in what you are saying. If he crosses his arms, he might be irritated or disinterested in the topic. Observe these signals to gain insight into what those around you are trying to communicate without words.
No matter who you are speaking to, miscommunication can happen, especially if you are dealing with someone who speaks less. If you have a question or a concern, bring it out into the open. Most people will answer clear, direct questions -- even if they do so in few words. Clarification ensures that you don’t get off on the wrong foot and improves communication with the strong silent type.
Determine the Cause
Sometimes silence has more meaning than simple communication style, reports research entitled "Silence, Power and Communication in the Operating Room," published in the "Journal of Advanced Nursing" in 2009. In situations where there is a power imbalance, such as between nurses and surgeons, silence may be defensive or a way to assert dominance. Silence or stonewalling is also sometimes used by those who wish to manipulate, as a control tactic. It may be used to make someone feel guilty, for instance ignoring a partner or staring silently at her after a perceived slight. If the silence you are experiencing comes with discomfort or seems to be used against you, you may want to reevaluate whether you want to remain in communication at all.
Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.
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