Communication Skills: What To Do When He/She Won’t Talk To You


“My husband won’t talk to me.”

“My wife is giving me the cold shoulder.”

“When I ask what’s wrong, my partner says, ‘Nothing,’ but I can tell something is wrong.”

Do these sound familiar? Do you have trouble getting your spouse/partner to talk?

Improving Communication Skills

Amazingly, this is a very common occurrance and there is something you can do: improve your Communication Skills. 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 drive everyone crazy, and they didn’t want to talk with me…until I improved my Communication Skills.

(Also check out my related papers on Reliable Membership and on the Testicle Principle.)

Rule: People won’t talk because 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 s/he won’t. I would typically try to push them to talk. It seemed that I had tried thousands of ways…none of which ever worked. So, I finally 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 others feel anything is pretty near impossible. They will feel what they choose to feel, darn them. Still, a lot of things trigger a sense of safety in a person. And there are lots of things that tend to make a person feel unsafe.

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? These are very different situations, and you have to ask yourself which it is.

If they won’t talk to anyone about anything, getting them to talk may be quite difficult. Somehow, they have probably learned to be unsafe with everyone. You have to work to overcome that. It’s still possible, just difficult and may take significant time and patience.

If they won’t talk to 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 they are actions you “could 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 issues of Safety, click here for many related articles.)

Principle #1: Develop and Demonstrate Patience

Probably the first thing you need to do is 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 skill. Patience is learned. All childlren 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 shoe 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. The easiest way to learn patience is to spend a large amount of time in a slow situation with people who are very patient. You can learn it by example. Ask others how they learned it. You can also study Yoga as well as many other Eastern disciplines.

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.

Taken from What to do when he/she won’t talk to you.  © Al Turtle 2005.

This entry was posted in Communication Skills, Featured Articles, Listening, Relationship Safety & Security, Validation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Communication Skills: What To Do When He/She Won’t Talk To You

  1. Shan says:

    What’s the suggestion when your partner of 12 years basically refuses to have any conversations related to the relationship or even discussing anything about much simpler things like working on or improving certain situations such as setting up new systems with keeping the kids & house more organized?!

    • Al Turtle says:

      I think the Rule I put into this article stands pretty well. I think your situation is a bit more specific or deeper than what the article was aimed at. In this case you may want to ponder what you’ve done or participated in over those 12 years that makes your partner feel unsafe (threatened) about chatting or sharing on topics related to “relationship” or on those other thingies (organization of the house, etc.). To go further I’d need to hear more.

      I can only guess a bit. But my guess is that after 12 years (or more) you two have re-entered the Power Struggle. (Check our “Al Turtle Map of Relationship” or “Al Turtle power struggle”) Thus issues between you that have “never been resolved,” but that have been “swept under the rug,” are now surfacing. Solve ‘em. My further guess is that it has to do with “who is boss” or what I call the Master/Slave issue. (Google “Al Turtle Master/Slave”) Good luck.

  2. We have a couple of threads about that on our discussion forum, if you’d like to join. What you have is an avoider, and possibly a stonewaller. You might want to google Stonewalling.

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