Strong but Silent? Gentle Ways to Get Your Spouse to Talk (Part I)
By Janel Breitenstein
My husband is an introvert who loves people. I look at his face when he walks in the door. I can usually tell when his word bucket is so full it’s oozing down the sides.
I can find myself caught in that dance between finally processing my day and all I’ve been accumulating to tell him―and just meeting him where he’s at, which may not yet be ready for a 13-minute monologue.
I don’t just want to connect with him for me.
As a complex, stunning person, he has rich thoughts rumbling beneath the surface. I want, in our conversation, to be naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).
And preferably not just one of us. I want to both know him and be known.
But that can be tough if he doesn’t engage. How can we draw out the spouses we love into conversation that fills us both?
A few ideas.
1. My spouse talking more may mean me talking less. When in doubt, I sometimes count five whole seconds after he speaks. I’m surprised by what he adds!
For all of us, that also means putting the kibosh on
- Interrupting or jumping in even to reassure.
- Steering the conversation our own direction, or turning the conversation to our own experiences (except briefly to show you understand).
- Finishing their sentences.
Sometimes―not always―I find the amount of exchange in our conversation to be proportionate to my selfishness.
Are we taking from our spouses, using them for our ends? Or are we truly loving them, making conversation a chance to give them our presence, comfort, and ear?
2. Communicate closer to our spouse’s language. Your spouse’s ideal sense of connectedness may not be sitting at a coffee shop for an hour. (I know. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?)
So my husband has suggested these:
- I can tell him my end point first, and then the back story. This feels less open-ended.
- If I can condense a bit and pause before launching into another anecdote, it drains less of his conversational energy, and leaves space for him to interact.
In this way, I cross “cultures” a bit into what he values in communication.
But conversation isn’t just about applying a universal rule. Find your spouse’s own style about what’s meaningful.
More tips coming tomorrow.
The good stuff: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)
Action points: Pick one of the thoughts above to incorporate into the way you receive your spouse. Don’t forget to explore beneath your issues: What heart attitudes keep you from loving well through listening?
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