Home  »   Viewpoints  »   Views on Issues  »   Article

Communication Tips

--How can I help someone who has difficulty opening up and communicating?

By Maria Fontaine

Most people who are very quiet and withdrawn don't really want to be that way. They know they need to be freer and they don't really want to stay behind their walls, but they need somebody to be loving and understanding enough to help them open up to others.

One way to do this is to ask questions. "You look like you're having a rough day. Is everything all right?" And if they were to say, "No, but it's my problem. I'd rather not talk about it," you could say something like, "I wish you would, because I'd really like to help if I can." With most people, if you show that you're sincerely concerned about them and what they're going through, they'll eventually come out of themselves and be more specific. They do want to open up, but they just need help. The Bible says, "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Proverbs 20:5).

Some people are brought up from childhood to believe that it's a sign of weakness to show their emotions, or to talk too much about their feelings. They're suffering from the classic condition of "the stiff upper lip," and consequently they have never developed the ability to talk meaningfully with another person. They have never learned how to share openly with someone else, and they have difficulty finding the words to say.

Others are fearful of exposing what they feel or think. They don't want to run the risk of being rejected or hurt if someone else disagrees with them.

Others have the attitude that talking won't do any good, so why bother? They may have tried at some point to get through to another person and it didn't work, so they stopped trying altogether.

And some people simply don't believe they have anything to offer others. They don't think that their ideas are worthwhile. They have a low opinion of themselves, and so withhold their comments and personal feelings.

Hang-ups and fears such as these keep us at a shallow level of communication. But love, understanding, patience, and a listening ear can free us from these negative and restrictive attitudes so we can move to deeper, more meaningful levels.