Conversations are a two-way street, but when only one person is being open and genuine while the other person is being stubborn and closed-off, the conversation is headed only to one place: a dead-end.
When someone close to you refuses to give you a straight answer, you just can’t help but wonder:
Why? Why can’t they just be honest and why can’t they simply tell you what you want to know?
There could be a number of reasons why they’re withholding what you want to know, but getting angrier and angrier at them will simply push them even further from ever telling you.
Instead, it’s about subterfuge: getting them to trust you, being honest with them, and making them realize that you do have their best interest at heart.
Here are 10 ways to handle someone who won’t give you a straight answer:
1) Take a Break and Give Them Space
If you’re at the point where you’re looking for help on how to squeeze a straight answer out of someone who’s refusing to do it, then you’re probably already trying too hard and it’s time to take a step back.
When a person wants to be stubborn, pushing them continuously only encourages them to dig in their heels and hold on for dear life.
So take a break.
Nothing is going to change unless you cross a line you don’t want to cross, something that may destroy your relationship with this person permanently.
Give them the time and space to process what you’re asking of them, why it’s important to you, and why they’re being difficult or unfair.
2) Always Be Honest With Them
When someone isn’t being straight with you, you have to ask yourself, “Why?”
Why are they refusing to tell you what you’re asking them when it would be so much easier for both of you if they would cooperate?
One answer is that they might be holding some resentment towards you, for some reason you’re unaware of.
Perhaps they felt that you held back straight answers from them in a previous experience, or perhaps they feel that right now you’re not being as honest as you could be.
So open up to them.
Show them that you’re here to be genuine and honest.
You’re not here to lie to them or manipulate them; you just want the truth, no matter what that truth may be.
3) Show Them You’re Not Playing Games Anymore
When someone is holding back answers or being silly with you even when you’re trying to be serious with them, the problem might just be that you two aren’t on the same page.
They might think this isn’t as important to you as it actually is, so they’re just messing with you instead of giving you the answer you need.
In cases like these, the only answer is to put your foot down.
Show them you’re not here to play games or waste time.
The only thing that matters to you is a straight answer, right here and right now.
This can be difficult for people who aren’t really used to confrontation, which is why it’s easy for others to assume that you’re not being as serious as you actually are.
4) Learn How to Ask the Right Questions
When you’re not getting the right answers, sometimes the problem isn’t because the person isn’t giving the right response.
Sometimes, the problem is that you’re not asking the right questions.
This is something that most passive, non-confrontational individuals have trouble with – crafting direct questions that leave the other person with no other room than to give a direct answer.
For example, instead of asking, “Did you have a nice day?”, which can leave you with a one-word answer that tells you nothing, you should ask, “Tell me what your day was like.”
Instead of asking, “What did I do wrong?”, ask, “What can I change to be better next time?”
It’s not always a problem of the other person not wanting to give you an answer; sometimes the question simply needs to lead them to that point, instead of giving them an easy way out.
5) Prove That You Don’t Need Their Answer
If at the end of the day, you’ve done everything in your power to get a straight answer from them and they still ultimately refuse to cooperate, then it’s time to back off for good.
Let it go and just assume whatever you have to assume to move forward and out of this conversation.
Think about it – this person obviously doesn’t respect you enough to even give you the decency of a straightforward conversation with straightforward answers.
So stop pushing so hard; in fact, don’t push at all anymore.
Climb above the point of actually needing their answer, and this takes away all their power.
When you no longer care what their answer may be, good or bad, then they have no more reason to withhold it from you.
6) Get Away From Them
Let’s take that last point to the next level – don’t just prove that you no longer need their answer.
Take it a step further: get over them completely.
You might think this is a bit extreme, but keeping a person in your life who refuses to be honest with you despite your best efforts is one of the worst things you can do to yourself.
This person doesn’t have your best interests in mind, nor do they actually care about what you want.
Enough is enough – cut them out of your life and stop obsessing over what they have to say.
Meet other people, start new hobbies, find other sources of happiness that have nothing to do with this person.
Let them see that you’re not going to sit around accepting this kind of behavior from them.
And don’t do all this for them; do it for yourself. You don’t need that disrespect in your life.
7) Don’t Let Your Emotions Influence Your Words
When someone is refusing to cooperate with you, it can be easy to get riled up.
After arguing with a brick wall of hours on end, you might eventually lose your cool and move away from rational, logical arguments, and instead resort to personal attacks – insulting them, degrading them, and generally just trying to hurt them.
This will only make them double down on their decision to be difficult with you because they’ll use your outburst as proof that you’re not stable enough to hear whatever their answer is in the first place.
So no matter what – keep your cool.
Stick to the facts and stay calm, because the moment you give them a single piece of ammunition to use against you, they’ll hold onto it for life.
8) Never Interrupt Them
In your attempts in trying to get this person to speak up, you might start acting aggressively.
When they try to say something, you might shut them up right away, interrupting them before they can even get out a full sentence.
This is the worst thing you can do when you want someone to speak up.
Interrupting them just clearly shows them that you’re not willing to let them speak in the first place.
If they know that their answer isn’t exactly what you want to hear, then they’ll never say it, because you’re already coming from a place where you’re interrupting everything they say.
9) Listen Earnestly To Everything They Do Say
Before you become upset at a person for withholding information from you, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to make them feel like they’re going to be heard.
Their decision to hold back from you might not be coming from a malicious place at all; instead, it might be coming from a place of uncertainty, where they’re not sure if you’ll even bother to hear them out completely.
This might be based on your past together, where perhaps you weren’t as open to their thoughts as you should’ve been.
So make it clear to them that they will be heard, no matter what they have to say.
That you will respect them and listen to them should they decide to tell you everything, and you won’t do anything to make them feel negative for saying it.
Listen carefully, listen earnestly, and listen eagerly.
10) Be Honest About Your Expectations With the Conversation
The problem might be simpler than you think – perhaps they’re not cooperating with you because they don’t really understand your goals in this conversation.
Similar to the point above where we discussed how they might not realize how serious you are, this is another common issue, where the person you’re speaking with doesn’t really understand why you’re asking and why you care so much in the first place.
So communicate with them, openly and honestly.
Tell them what you’re trying to achieve with this conversation and why it matters so much to you.
Give them a complete and thorough understanding of your expectations.
Don’t assume that they’re already on the same page as you; in most arguments between two people who love each other, this is often the only issue.
Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.
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