Dear Dr. Romance:
  I was so interested in your article "Getting to Yes" about Attentive listening...what a powerful strategy and descriptive techniques.  Here is a but.....I have?????  Now, what if you are listening  you recognize  the signals you mentioned from the person you are talking with and you're stuck with how to get that person to "unload" about why they are uncomfortable with what you said.  The thing is that you recognize that you have pushed the button, but then how do you get unstuck and really talk?  You made me think.  Thank you.

Dear Reader:

Thanks for the compliments.  I'm glad the article was thought-provoking for you.  When you recognize that you have pushed a button, it's very important to stop trying to get your point across from that moment on.  All your attention has to shift to finding out what went wrong.  Often it's enough just to say "What?" or "You look like you have a question" (question is better than problem) or, "Is this making sense to you?"  Any non-threatening question will usually get a response, especially if your listener is not afraid he or she will be critcized, argued with or get you angry by telling the truth. This may not be as easy with a sullen spouse or teenager, but it will still work if you ramp up your patience (For more information about this, read "Practicing Patience" and "Guidelines for Being Understood" .) If the other person is less verbal than you are, you may need to allow time to formulate and articulate his or her thoughts.  Basically, if you leave room for your listener's response and opinion, you'll usually find out what is going on. 

You'd be surprised at how often couples come into my counseling office with one saying "he (or she) won't talk to me" and within five minutes I have the "silent" partner talking up a storm.  For more about getting your partner to open up, read How To Be a Couple and Still Be Free 4th Edition

Couple and Free 4th Edition

For low-cost counseling, email me at


Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.