I'm Dr. Adam Sheck, and I'd like to welcome you to the "Men After Fifty" Community! Living for more than half a century on this planet is a rite of passage and I wanted to create a place where we can share our wisdom and experience to help each other and to help those who matter in our lives. As true for many "men after fifty", I've had a number of careers over my … [Read More...]
Getting A Man To Share His Feelings
During my August “Ask Adam” Teleseminar (click for replay), one of the questions I was asked was “How can I get my guy to open up and share his feelings?” It’s a frustrating question that I am asked many times in my psychotherapy practice by singles and in couples counseling as well.
Let me share a few tips that might help make this happen. For a man (or a woman for that matter) to open up about their emotions and share his feelings, there definitely needs to be trust and safety in the relationship. This may take time and “baby step” experiences of opening up to develop. And, if there is any history of betrayal from the past, including early childhood issues, this may be even more challenging .
That being said, you CAN increase the likelihood of getting your man to share his feelings by taking the following steps:
1. Don’t push for him to share his feelings! This usually gets the opposite result in men and they will dig in even deeper. Just create a positive environment for what IS shared. This will create safety.
2. Positive reinforcement is the key. Like training a dog (which is perhaps a good metaphor here), you need to give us rewards for those baby steps in opening up and sharing.
3. Be interested and curious about what your partner has to share. Don’t have an agenda about what subjects are to be shared or communicated. Let it flow organically.
4. Express appreciation and gratitude for what IS shared. We all want to be admired for stretching beyond our comfort zone and need the kudos. Again, this is positive reinforcement for when he DOES share his feelings.
5. Be sensitive in how you respond to what is shared. Any feeling of judgment or negative reaction, any defensiveness, will most likely shut him down in these early stages of sharing. Remember, you ASKED for it, so be prepared, in case you hear things that you don’t necessarily enjoy hearing.
6. Finally, initiate these conversations with a “soft startup.” This is a term defined by Dr. John Gottman, a well-respected relationship researcher. One of the major indicators of a successful relationship is beginning a conversation with kindness, acceptance, compassion and caring.
In general, women are much better at the “soft startup” than men, so if you want the conversation to go in a positive direction, be aware of this and take responsibility for creating it. Keep in mind that discussions in general end on a similar emotional tone as the tone they begin on.
This is also a great tip for conflict resolution with your partner, as men are much more likely to share their feelings when there is conflict going on. Gottman’s research indicates that 96% of the time that a communication involves a “soft start” it ends with a positive resolution. Pretty good odds, don’t you think?
Some tips for the “soft startup” are:
• Select a relatively stress-free time in the day.
• Start off the discussion with a positive statement.
• Use “I” statements to avoid the feeling of blame.
• Show appreciation for your partner if any progress is made. Again, positive reinforcement is crucial.
• If either of you becomes too triggered, consider a time-out to cool down and continue the discussion later.
To clarify this last statement, while it’s good to vent, it is better to vent to a friend or a therapist. To be even more precise, it’s good for YOU to vent, but venting about your partner TO your partner is NOT very good for your relationship!
I’ve presented a lot of information here and I hope that it will be helpful. Test it out and please post your comments on how it works for you. And please SHARE this with your friends as well so that they can understand how to get a man to share his feelings.
I like what you said about how to get a man to open up to you. Patience has a lot to do with it. My boyfriend and I have been together for a year now. When I first met him he had this wall around him and NOBODY was going to get in. Well, I used to give up on men like this but for some reason this one I just could not give up on. So I made my motto NEVER GIVE UP come to life. Sometimes when I ask him questions he just shines me on like I never asked it in the first place. So I let it go (for the time being). And then there are other times hes telling me stuff I never dreamed he would tell me nor have I ever asked any questions about. As you said TRUST is the key word, also, patience and understanding. You want to know something but do you have to know it at that moment? No you don’t. If the relationship was meant to be all things will come out eventually from the both of you. As for that brick wall my boyfriend had around him, lets just say I was able to break it down enough to be able to climb in there with him. No he has not opened up completely but maybe one day he will. Right now he just wants someone to believe in him. His self-estem is zero for what ever happened to him in the past. And right now all I can do is try and understand, be patient and most of all try and raise his self-estem and be there when he needs me.
You sound like a loving, compassionate, patient and understanding partner and your bf is fortunate to have you in his life. If I can help in anyway, please let me know.