What to do when he/she won’t talk to you.

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Assuming you want to chat with them.

© Al Turtle 2005

Yellowstone Park, quiet time. Amazingly this is a very common occurrence, and there is something you can do.  I am particularly familiar with this as I am the kind of guy who can talk with someone about intimate subjects for 60 hours, or more, straight.  I can drive everyone crazy, and they didn't use to want to talk with me much. (Also check out my papers on Reliable Membership and on the Testicle Principle.)


Rule: People won't talk cuz they don't feel safe to.

This is a pretty simple and very reliable rule.  I suggest you learn it.  I have found it helps when I want someone to talk to me and they won't.  What is typical for me is to try to push them to talk.  I had tried thousands of ways, it seemed.  My ways never worked.  So finally I accepted the idea that "pushing doesn't work."   Of course many of my pushing techniques were very tricky and subtle.  Still my partner could instantly see, or feel through me and see my pushing.  It just didn't work.

Thus my first task is to start to help them feel safe.  I have found this is both very difficult and easy.  Making anyone feel anything is pretty near impossible.  They will feel what they chose to feel, darn them.   Still there are lots of things that trigger a sense of safety in a person.  And there are lots of things that tend to make a person feel unsafe.  Find 'em. Remove 'em.

So let's look at the situation you are in.  Someone won't talk to you.  Is it that they won't talk to anyone about anything?  Or is it that they won't talk to you, personally?  These are very different situations, and you have to ask yourself which it is. 

If they won't talk to anyone about anything, it may be quite difficult to get them to talk.  Somehow they have probably learned to be unsafe with everyone.  Could easily be that this comes directly from when they were little.  You have to work to overcome that.  It's still possible, just difficult and may take a  long time with a lot of patience.  (Of course, if this is your partner, you picked them.  And this problem is part of your personal challenge in life.)

If they won't talk with just you, I think the situation is easier.  Here's the thought.  You are doing things or have done things, probably lots of things, that tend to make them feel unsafe.  You probably don't know what these things are, but these are actions you "can change."  What you are doing does not work for you.  

Now, remember, what you do is normal for you. You have to identify what those things are that you do, and learn to replace your behaviors with something better – something that works.  Sure this can be difficult, but it is your behavior and therefore you can change it.  You have this power.  (To understand the issues of Safety, click here for many articles.)


Principle #1: Develop and Demonstrate Patience

Probably the first thing you need is to send the message that "you can wait."  That means you need to learn patience.  Now before you decide that this is hopeless, just remember that patience is a set of skills. Patience is a learned thing.  All children are born "impatient."   That's normal.  It is also normal for us to learn "patience," when we grow up.  It is kind of like learning to tie your shoes laces. But some people have not learned patience — YET.   

Patience is the habit of comfort when things don't happen at the pace you desire. Easiest way to learn patience is to spend a large amount of time in a slow situation with people who are already very patient. You can learn it by example. Ask others how they learned it.  You can also take courses in Meditation, Yoga, and many east Asia disciplines.  Practice it.

I still practice intentionally missing traffic lights.  If the light is green, I may slow a little.  If it turns yellow, I really try to stop.  And then I practice enjoying the "tiny vacation" I get while the light is red. 


Principle #2: Invite, instead of Push

This is pretty straight forward.  Learn to never ask questions.  Invite instead.  It sounds like this.  "I was wondering about something you did the other day.  If you ever figure out what was going on for you when you did that, I'd love to hear about it.  In the meantime, let's have dinner."  Notice how these are all statements with no question mark at the end of them.  Many people feel pushed by questions.  Just being asked a question often feels like an attack.  So, just don't do it. (To understand the issue of Pushing, click here.)


Principle #3: Gently Listen

Wow, is this one valuable!  I suggest you show only moderate eagerness when listening, but invite them to say anything they want.  Never interrupt.  Never add more questions.  Just listen and encourage them to say it all. Accept whatever they say.  Never, never, never argue.  Learn Mirroring so as to help train yourself to relax while listening to anything they say.


Comments

What to do when he/she won’t talk to you. — 107 Comments

  1. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on my current situation, Al.

    I know that my (former) lack of patience is to blame, but don’t know if damage control is possible.

    I was in love. She was in love. But, she eventually asked for space due to the situation being untenable (I wasn’t divorced yet). I fully understood her position and respected it on an intellectual level, but my insecurities got the best of me. I didn’t give her the space she requested, which led her to pull back even more.

    I morphed from being the extremely self-confident individual who stole her heart into a desperate shell of my former self. I was pathetic. I PUSHED her way too hard. We texted/emailed sporadically over a 2-3 month time span (I was more active than her, obviously), but only met face to face one time because she said it was difficult to see me without “giving in.”

    I was still in the game, but instead of practicing patience I continued to push like an obsessive fool. Eventually, I “got it” and gave her the space she requested while finalizing my divorce. I took the alone time to do extensive soul searching and rediscovered a sense of peace that I forgot existed. I then waited a couple of months before texting her. No reply. I waited two weeks and texted her. No reply. I waited two more weeks and texted her one last time. These were all short texts basically asking to talk. She replied that she wasn’t prepared to talk. I don’t blame her for trying to get over me, but still…

    It has been another month without correspondence (6 months in total since it all went bad). The time to let go has arrived…but it doesn’t feel right. We shared a connection that was stronger than anything either of us thought possible, but maybe the lack of closure is my karmic comeuppance. So there it is. Do I leave her alone once and for all or try to salvage the mess that I made?

    • Hi there, Fool, (good name! I’ve often imagined myself a fool – right before I learn some wisdom.) I don’t think I’d give up on her. Unless you’ve found someone new to fall for. I’d reach out to her on a very slow and methodical way. Don’t let her think you aren’t interested. Remember, she was eager for you to learn stuff, and you certainly have. She may not know that yet. Unless she goes off with someone or you do, then eventually she’ll figure out how much you’ve changed and be interested. Keep a learning.

      One thing to learn is that panicky clingy stuff tends to appear when your partner is available and tends to go away as you are further apart. The goal is to be able to give her all the space she wants at that moment when she’s in your arms.

      Good luck.

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