MEN famously avoid opening up about their feelings, but if you’re worried about your fella, there are ways to draw him out.
Dr Ariele Noble, Head of Research Psychology at Mental Health Innovations – the charity that runs free, 24/7 text support service, Shout – shares her tips for nudging fellas to open up.
Create a safe space to have the conversation.
Think about a place your hubby will feel comfortable so you can talk without distractions; ideally somewhere quiet and relaxed.
It can be helpful to be doing an activity you know he enjoys, so you can still talk but the focus doesn’t feel entirely on him.
Have open body language: sit upright, keep comfortable eye contact, and angle your body towards him.
Check in with yourself before the conversation and make sure you’re feeling calm, open and ready to listen.
One way to start the conversation is by telling your loved one you have noticed they don’t seem like themselves and that you’re worried about them, then you can ask what’s bothering them.
If you know they are struggling with a particular situation, like problems at work, use that as a starting point.
These phrases might help get the ball rolling:
A simple way to check in and get a sense of how someone’s doing is to ask: ‘How are you feeling on a scale of one to ten?’
To better understand their thoughts and feelings, start your question with what, who, when or how:
It helps to show that you’re interested in better understanding what they’re going through.
So instead of asking, ‘Do you need help?’, try asking, ‘What help do you need?’
Skip ‘why’ questions. ‘Why’ questions can sound judgemental and could put your partner on the defensive e.g. ‘Why are you sad?’
Having to defend ourselves creates tension that stops the conversation from progressing.
Don’t ask yes/no questions either, as they can limit how much the other person can share.
If he decides to share how he’s feeling, be accepting, compassionate and validate his feelings.
E.g. “No wonder you’re feeling anxious, it makes sense to feel that way”
“It sounds like things have been really tough for you”
Stay present during the conversation. Listen to what he’s saying without getting distracted by other things, like checking your phone.
Try not to give advice. Even when we have good intentions, giving advice can see us taking ownership of the situation.
If your fella asks you for advice, first try to better understand his situation.
Often, just talking things through will help him find his own way forward.
And if you do feel you need to give advice, use words that empower.
Let him know “this worked for me, but it may not work for you. If it helps, good. If not, that’s okay, too. It’s your call”.
There are many reasons your man may be reluctant to talk, even if you’ve had a positive, open conversation in the past.
Sometimes we feel regret after opening up about a personal problem, which discourages us from continuing the discussion.
Checking in and following up are gentle reminders to let him know you’re there for him.
Visit giveusashout.org for more information.