Grantley Morris, is his article “Improving Communication in Marriage: Understanding Your Partner’s Different Attitude to Talking” suggests that a wife can indeed influence the extent to which her husband shares his experiences, his thoughts, and his dreams through words. Morris not only explores why husbands tend to be quiet, but he also discusses ideas for how a wife can create the kind of environment that encourages her husband to talk more. We will draw on a few of these ideas as the basis for simple, practical steps that anyone can try at home:
1. Show your husband that you value what he says:
While we all know some people who love to listen to sound of their own voice, most folk feel uncomfortable talking when they believe their audience is bored or uninterested in what they have to say. Husbands who are not natural “talkers” will be even more sensitive to these verbal “turn-offs”, than those people who love to talk. Show your interest in everything your quiet husband chooses to tell you, even if he is repeating those silly childhood stories you have heard many times before. Use simple body language to show you are engaged in what is being said (e.g. nod, smile, maintain eye contact, shake your head, laugh at appropriate points in the conversation).
2. Allow lulls in the conversation:
Instead of filling every moment with words, consciously leave spaces in the conversation. You may have much to say, but a quiet partner will need time to gather his thoughts or percolate what you have just said. If it is your turn to talk, create opportunities that will draw your husband into the conversation: leave silent space in much the same way as you would divide your sentences into paragraphs when you write - let each “paragraph” of speech be separated by thinking time; invite your husband to give his input by actually asking what he thinks about a statement you have made.
3. Don’t interrupt:
Perhaps your quiet husband has said something that irritated you, which you vehemently disagree with, or which triggered a new idea for you. You want to share how you feel about what he said, and you want to do it right now before you lose that brilliant thought. After all, if you share it, it will convince him that you are listening, right? Interrupting is tempting, especially if you feel your contribution will add to what your husband has to say. Interruptions do have a negative side: they break into the flow of what the speaker wanted to share. For someone who is already struggling to put his thoughts and feelings into words, an interruption can squash his train of thought entirely and leave him literally dumb-struck. Wait to share your thoughts. Give your husband a chance to continue his monologue until he asks your opinion or lapses into silence which opens the door for you to speak.
Affirmation, especially in the context of communication, can build confidence and encourage a willingness to communicate. Let your husband know (without being patronizing) that you appreciate his willingness to try to talk. He has made the effort to step out of his comfort zone and share with you, so take some time to demonstrate that your are aligned with his dreams and goals, or that you are feeling his pain, or that you are standing by his side no matter what he is facing. If sharing with her reinforces the husband’s sense of being misunderstood or criticized by his wife, he will clam up. If he walks away from an attempt to talk feeling stupid or weird or alone, he will be unlikely to desire further conversation with his wife. His attempt to talk to his wife needs to leave him feeling as if he has a soul mate who will stand by him through the good and the bad.
5. Ask a relevant question:
If the lulls in conversation grow too long, prompt your husband to keep going by asking a relevant question. You don’t want him to feel threatened so stick to one or two questions that lead on from what he has just said - more than a couple of questions can make him feel as if he is being interrogated. You want to loosen his tongue, and not make him afraid he will say the wrong thing.
6. Do not try to get the last word:
Especially if the conversation is centered on differences which are not resolved during dialogue, it may be tempting for the wife to want to leave her opinion as the last thought on her husband’s mind. Resist that urge to get in the last word. You want your quiet husband to walk away from the conversation feeling as if he is being heard, and that his words are on YOUR mind. Push for it to go the other way, and you probably won’t get another chance to debate the same topic again.