How to Create Relaxed Conversations with Quiet Men

Conversations and interactions when dealing with sensitive or macho males can sometimes be very uncomfortable experiences, putting you at great unease. However, turning this into a non-threatening exchange can be a very sensible way to get the most out of the conversation. Many males, and some females too, experience a lot of difficulty making conversation; many of us know how it feels when someone simply answers you with a polite "yes" or "no" but does little else to oil the conversation.

To overcome this frustrating conversational style, it's helpful to know that there are ways to encourage a relaxed conversation. While this article is mainly concerned with males, there are aspects of it that can be applied to the reticent female conversationalist as well. And as with all generalizations, there will be a lot of exceptions, so treat the guidance with common sense and flexibility, as you find your way to helping the stiff conversationalist come out of his shell to relax into a pleasant chat.


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    Help the guy to feel relaxed. While this may seem like a tall order initially, the simple trick is to be yourself and to avoid trying to fall into his way of being or rhythm. Use humor to break through the hostility and tension, and to break the ice. Once you've created space by smiling and encouraging his laughter, you'll be helping him to relax more and increasing your chances for talking longer.
    • When using humor, make sure that it is about inoffensive things or that funny self-deprecating sort of humor that relies on making yourself the point of the joke. That way you won't accidentally tread on sacred ground and make things worse or cause him to feel threatened.
    • Be careful with conspiratorial humor, such as saying "Look at us two dopes waiting for a drink at this bar filled with beautiful people". Trying to draw him in to seeing what's funny about the activity you're both currently doing can sometimes work but it can also backfire if he doesn't see the funny side of things or if he feels that you're poking fun at a serious choice of his.
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    Learn to relax yourself and this feeling will reciprocate. It's hard to expect a relaxed conversation if you're not relaxed as well. Try your best to approach the conversation in a relaxed manner, and to not fear talking with the guy. He will soon pick up on your vibes and let down his guard. When the tension breaks away, there will be a lot more room for significant interaction and conversation.
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    Don't be put off by stern and unfriendly expressions. Most often, when a male has adopted these types of expressions, it is done as an attempt to highlight their "manliness", "macho" status, or cowboy or tough guy type dispositions. The reality is that deep down, a soft and gentle soul lies hidden, waiting to be conversed with in a kind and understanding way.
    • Consider pointing out something that you've noticed about him, such as his great hat, his funny T-shirt, or the kind way in which he just helped some kids get their balloon back. It's the little things (that add up to the softy that he is inside) that are worth noticing.
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    See past the opinions and judgments of other people. While you may have prior conceptions of the guy courtesy of a well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) friend or colleague, be prepared to make your own judgment. Every single interaction with a person is unique. We may all experience different sides to the same person and this means that every opinion has the potential to differ greatly. Make your interaction or conversation with this guy your own personal experience. One man may be a good son, but poor in friendships, another man an ideal husband but a monstrous elder brother. As you can see, each context is very different, and yet it involves the same person. This simply means making up your own opinion about the person in terms of how the two of you click or get along.
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    Create a non-threatening opening conversation. A male is most likely to bring the conversation to an abrupt end or make an excuse to get away politely, when he feels threatened or when you start to get too personal. Leave the curious inquisitive urges for some other time, when he gets to know you better and is more comfortable talking to you and hanging around you. Stick to topics that don't require a great deal of effort, such as sports, the weather, general comments about impressions of the place you're both in or the food you're eating, etc.
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    Choose your topic of conversation carefully. Find out as soon as you can what he likes talking about by asking questions aimed at eliciting this kind of information. Once you've formed a quick idea of what he likes and dislikes, keep on those lines to ensure that the conversation remains interesting to him. And use your own common sense when summing him up – for example, it would be pointless talking to a pensioner about the benefits of kick boxing, or to a hairdresser about cardiac surgery, etc. There has to be some common ground that both of you can pursue.
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    Be persistent but not to the point of annoying the other person. If you feel that this attempt at conversing is going nowhere or is becoming too torturous for you, break away politely and try again some other time. You may also not want to close all doors or reach a dead end on your first attempt, though. Leave avenues open for future contacts or meetings. This will also very much depend on how you feel about the situation but it can be worthwhile slowly chipping away at a reserved guy's defenses in small but gradual chats here and there, until he feels he can trust you and open up a lot more.
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    Always remember that not everyone verbalizes their opinions. Focus on the other's body language to assess if you're on the right track. This should give you some indication as to whether you should keep quiet or continue speaking. A grimace or deep sigh is obviously not a good positive indicator. It shows boredom or a lack of interest in what you are saying. However, an intent direct look in your direction or even a simple smile may suggest that you should go on and keep the pace. Also, it can help to know whether the person you're speaking with is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, as knowing this can help you to direct your conversation so that they'll really gel with you:[1]
    • Visual conversationalists are often well dressed, neat, and talk fast when they do talk. They talk about things visually, such as pictures in their mind's eye, and they tend to look around a lot. This person tends to like to be in control because he has a "vision". A conversation with a visual person can be improved by painting word pictures and using a lot of words that are visually stimulating, such as "How do you see yourself?", "I see eye to eye with you on that point", and "Can you imagine?". Think of yourself as describing so that this person can "see" your conversation points.
    • Auditory conversationalists tend to be people who respond to sound. Conversation is something they love but it needs to be something they can tune into to awaken their interest. They're word lovers and often seek harmony in the sounds of words and they're always listening for the rhythm. A conversation with an auditory person can be improved by using terms that resonate with their hearing sense, such as "Sounds familiar", "Let me tell you how.", and "That had me tongue-tied and I heard her message clear as a bell".
    • Kinesthetic conversationalists tend to be the most sensitive and things need to feel right for the conversation to proceed well. A trademark of this conversationalist may include slow, easygoing talk and a need to take their time to get to the point. Most of what they discuss will be couched in terms of feelings, and improving a conversation can be as simple as resorting to feeling language, such as "How do you feel about that?", "That must have shaken you up!", and "Keep in touch".
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    Enjoy finding out more about someone. One last way to approach a conversation with a guy who seems reticent is to remain genuinely interested in learning something new, something undiscovered about him. If you can look past how difficult it feels to hold the conversation and how much you wish you could escape and do something less demanding, you can find yourself genuinely amazed at finding out things about this guy that he only reveals to people who take the time to care enough to break through his tough exterior. What a reward to learn something about a fellow human being that might otherwise have gone unknown! Ultimately, this can really turn around your perception of the guy, so persevere and you might gain a trusted friend for life.


  • Some people are just shy and need more time before they can begin to start trusting you. Give them this space and also the benefit of the doubt. Don't give up just yet. You may discover something awesome.
  • Approach giving an order or instruction delicately. This applies mainly to the work environment when you have to instruct, order, or discipline a male employee. In general, regardless of the gender, your approach should be guided by professionalism, politeness, and a focus on the employee before you being an important priority. Part of the difficulty of giving an order or instruction to a male employee can be the employee's ego; if he feels threatened, not trusted, or that his own level of authority or knowledge is being questioned, you risk him shutting down or replying abusively. Be gentle in your approach and avoid abusing your authority through demands, abusive language, or shouting, yelling, etc. If something has gone wrong and the male employee is the source of the error, avoid blaming the person; instead, be prepared to cite the facts and the consequences, including the way forward.
    • Be polite and use two-way communication rather than doing all of the talking. Listen and make it clear that you have heard what he has said.
    • Remain pleasant and polite throughout your conversation.

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Sources and Citations

  1. These overviews are drawn from Nicholas Boothman, How to Make People Like You, pp. 131-145, (2000), ISBN 0-9578081-8-6

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