What’s He Not Telling You? Learn to Hear What Isn’t Being Said in Your Relations

What isn't being said in a relationship.Peter Drucker, the well-known business guru, once said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

In other words, you have to know how to read between the lines.

That’s true in any situation where two people interact, and it’s especially true in romantic relationships. Why? Because so much of communication is what the other person isn’t saying.

If you only pay attention to what the man in your life says, you’re missing a lot of what he’s communicating with you!

With practice, you can hone the skill of reading his unspoken thoughts. But how do you practice? By getting feedback.

When you’re in a conversation with the man in your life, notice how he says it. How is he sitting? Is his posture relaxed or tense? What about his tone of voice? What is his facial expression? And don’t stop there.

That was the easy stuff you probably already notice without even trying. But let me challenge you to go further. This is someone you know well. If you use your imagination, you can probably make some fairly accurate guesses about what he’s feeling.

This is the hard part. But if you use my formula for success, you can get feedback that’s guaranteed to hone your skill.

Instead of jumping to conclusions, talk to him about what you read between the lines. And do it without making him feel like you’re psychoanalyzing him. No one likes to be under the microscope!

The easiest way is to just ask questions. For example, “Are you feeling worried about that?”

What isn't being said in a relationshipIf he wants to know why you’re asking, just explain that you imagine that’s how you’d feel. That gives him a no-pressure opportunity to clarify his feelings. And you get a little bit better at reading between the lines. Getting feedback gradually improves your skills for reading the unspoken communication.

It’s important that you approach this with humility, especially at first. You may be wrong. A lot. Don’t let your ego get wrapped up in correctly predicting what’s going on inside his head. Think of this as a learning opportunity that will pay off later.

Over time, you’ll get really good at hearing all of what he’s communicating–what he says, and what he doesn’t say. As that happens, the lines of communication will open even wider. He’ll feel understood on a profound level.

Women who master this skill end up in relationships with men who aren’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.

The key is recognizing that you’re already reading between the lines, just like everyone else. Instead of doing it without giving it much thought, make it a habit to do it with intention. Talk to him about what you hear that’s not being said, and learn from the times when your conclusions are both right and wrong.

No one has a crystal ball. You’re not going to become a mind reader. But you can get better at bypassing the male tendency to be less expressive verbally. With practice, you can develop the skill of hearing things that would be easy to miss.


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41 thoughts on “What’s He Not Telling You? Learn to Hear What Isn’t Being Said in Your Relations

  1. Lucie said:

    I just wanted to thank you! What you have shared has taught me more than I’ve ever known in 20 years. With a failed marriage and relationship (where communication was terrible), I thought I’d found my partner for life. Unfortunately he passed away 4 years ago. What you shared has prepared me in understanding how to communicate and what the new man in my life needs. You have given me the courage to see what I failed to see in the past and make positive changes. I have had the courage to ask questions the way he can hear me and respond — it’s amazing. When he said no one has ever understood him like I have, I was so grateful for finding the understanding of how to help his heart while helping my own. So again, thank you. Hopefully this will be the last man I say those special words again too. I look forward to your future teachings. 🙂

  2. nicky said:

    Great article. Thank you.

  3. Beverly A. Roberts said:

    I wish to thank you for the many insights I have gained in the time I have been reading
    your articles. It has really enlightened me on many subjects regarding relationships.
    The reason I can’t purchase some of your books is I’m on a very fix income but hopefully things will get better soon . Thank you Sincerely

  4. Cathy said:

    This is incredibly helpful advice and I will definitely try to start using it. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Rachelle said:

    I’d like to know exactly how to do this with my man and practice it to get it right.

  6. jae said:

    I genuinely love reading your articles because they can be applied to relationships in general as well as romantic relationships. You are so generous with your insights..thank you for taking the time to always be on our side.

    • Sandra said:

      I totally agree. James is the master author about relationships! Thank you for your time and sincere caring about people as people, and relationships.

  7. Angela said:

    I find this very interesting I would like to use it but we are currently not on speaking terms.

    • patsy said:

      Good advice but we are also not on speaking terms.He invited me for a couple of days and afterwards just blocked all conversation. Even on IM’s without any reason. He is eight years my senior and I found him also to be seeing some woman twenty odd years younger than him but who might be a good pal to his aduly children. Any advice?

  8. Sal said:

    Thank you James; this is just what I needed!

  9. Anita Rodrigue said:

    Well my guy says he feels nothing for me yet expects me to stay doesn’t ask for his. House keys or high school ring back .hugs and kisses me back but never goes in first says when I try to discuss our arrangement of friends see where it goes that I’m pushing him away .I’m his best friend best thing that ever happened to him and we don’t have sex but I try …he is moving removing house and I said are u just using me for help ….he makes plans in the future with me and asks me for advice we laugh and get along famously I’m sexy and wanted by other men he sees this ….he says to my mom he thinks he has lost me ….his family friends kids love me and think he’s being stupid ….he says he’s battling depression and loves female attention even went as far as asking waitress on date in front of me …..I love him I just love him …more than he loves himself …help I’m confused and trying all I’ve read on the emails putting them to practice ….he’s a bit better but the silent type …

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi, Anita. He’s treating you like his “backup girl.” There’s one kind of backup girl that can eventually turn into a good thing, and there’s another kind that is just rotten. I’m afraid he might see you as the person he wants to spend time with if he can’t find someone “better”(whatever that means to him). If he has failed to see your value, I would not continue to pursue a relationship with him. Depression would not cause him to treat you that way.

  10. Ally said:

    Thank you, a lot of food for thought. James, I am thinking of two types of situations where I am not sure if it would be appropriate.

    Say, during hard times for your man, asking him if he is worried, anxious, upset, etc. on a frequent basis because there is not just one but many things going wrong, one after another… Wouldn’t he feel less of a man who can’t cope if he constantly has to answer that this is the way he feels? I usually provide reaffirming messages to the feelings I perceive that he has, instead of asking about the feeling directly. Is it a worse way?

    Another situation I am thinking about is when the answer involves his lady. For example, he is worried that she will be late to the airport because she is always late. Asking him if this is what he feels, would you get an honest answer if he is worried that it will offend the lady? This one is hard for me. He might actually be right, but doesn’t want to discuss the topic as he is afraid to hurt my feelings.

  11. Londy said:

    Wow! This is wonderful. Ever since I subscribed to you emails my relationship is pointing to the positive direction. Currently am experiencing the paralyzed communication with my partner where I feel he isn’t interested to me anymore. The way he responds when we chatting (one word answers) and I am always a conversation leader. Anyway I hope this will work. Thank You a lot

  12. Tania said:

    There is times I really don’t want to ‘interpret’ the silent communications, because if I’m wrong it could send me on the wrong path. My man has a very very hard time communicating his feelings. After a year he still can’t tell me in words how he feels about me and it upsets me! He likes to show appreciation (and I suppose love) by doing things for me, he has a soft voice when speaking to me, he speaks of a future and wants me to design his kitchen etc as I would like it….I can interpret all of it as his love,but what if I’m wrong and he is in our relationship with his head and not his heart? We are 40 and 42,he has never been married-no kids. As this is a longdistance relationship,I really have short bursts of ‘learning time’ when we see each other and the telephone is just not helping in this department! He is difficult to read,a businessman that holds his cards to the chest! I appreciate all your teachings and try to remember them when I’m in a situation with him,but I acutely fail especially when I get that question in my head ‘what do you feel for me’. Do you think its weird that he will sometimes tell me what nice things he bought his unappreciative ex? I know he feels used,but I’m not her and don’t want to know because I wonder if I’m getting the treatment for her bad behaviour as he has not bought me that much in a year?( I’m not motivated by things or presents,but flowers would be great!) how do I read that unspoken language?? Is he still not finished with that chapter? Not properly processed the hurt and anger? Thank you for listening!

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Tania. It does sound like perhaps he is working through some residual bitterness from prior relationships. My gut tells me he may also be the kind of person who has never really stopped to consider how he comes across to others. That’s a red flag suggesting caution about doing all the work to “fix” the relationship. I suggest you sit back and give him time to demonstrate whether or not he wants to pursue you and find out how he can make you happy.

  13. Ulla said:

    Thanks, James, for good advice! Very helpful always!

  14. Jun said:

    Thank you, James.

    Your advice makes a lot of sense. My man does not say much most of the time and it has been really frustrating not knowing what is in his head. I should learn to ask him questions in the right way (not probing, not too much) to learn to understand him better.


  15. bernadette said:

    Jim, Thanks

    so much for your wisdom beyond your years, and clarity of insight. You have been helpful to me with suggestions for my new relationship with a man I met on E Harmony. I am taking so many of your suggestions and I am becoming an open and mindful person when dealing with my new man and my life in general. I love the saying that we have one mouth and two ears so we can listen and observe more then we should speak. Thanks again, Gratefully yours Bernadette

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s excellent news!

  16. Nono said:

    Thank you so much for your advices. I have been in a relationship with my man for two years but I feel that he is not honest with me about a lot of things. one of them is that he has two kids and I suspect he is still together with his kids mother but every-time I ask him about it he denies. What should I do to make him open up to me without things ending up ugly, I want to know the truth so that if he is still with her I would move on with my life. I love him dearly but I can’t stick around feeling used as a backup girl.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Nono. In your question you did not give any reason for your suspicion, yet the way you write suggest you are assuming he is actually with the mother of his two children. You are operating from the assumption that if he was going to open up to you he would admit that he is still with her. If you are that certain that he is still in a romantic relationship with her, you already have your answer.

      However, perhaps what you meant to ask was how you can encourage him to be truthful about the nature of the relationship with the mother of his children. They will always have a relationship of one sort or another given that they share the responsibility for parenting two children, but the nature of that relationship is what is in question. Perhaps phrasing it in that way will seem less aggressive to him and he might realize you are open to the idea that he still has to have some kind of relationship with her even if it is not a romantic one.

  17. CC said:

    James, I really need your insight on this one. I have been dating him for about 11 months now and at first it was difficult because he had a lot of walls. I looked past the walls and I thought we were doing really well. However, about a month ago we went from spending 4 days out of the week together to almost no time. I thought we were really happy except for the fact that every time we spent an awesome weekend he would pull away and get distant which I thought was fine and maybe he needed some room( he ended a very significant relationship in Feb of last year) When we talked about it, he said he needed to step back because he doesn’t want a comitted relationship which and that it was hard for him because he says i’m such an awesome girl. I really care about this guy and when we do spend time together we cook and watch movies. we are still affectionate when we do spend time and sometimes I feel he cares which makes me really sad. I don’t know if I should just move on or keep seeing him under these circumstaces. Please help

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi CC. I think you need to decide what you want. If you want a relationship with a man who is willing to commit and spend a lot of time with you, then you need to go look for that man. Don’t fall in love with the idea of what the relationship “could be like” with this guy. Think about it as it is right now. If it’s not as good or better than any other option, then end it.

      However, if you do not feel pulled in another direction right now, and you are willing to spend some time waiting to see if he might be willing to commit later, that is also an option. However, you should only pursue that option if you have a realistic discussion in which you ask if there might be a point in his life where he is going to be looking for a committed relationship. It would be a hard discussion to have, but one that I recommend if you are going to wait around for him.

  18. Wilma said:

    .. Thank you do much for these informative sharing! I till try to practice your advise. Sounds great!
    Thank you James

  19. Jewels said:

    Hi, my fiance and i have been together and lived together for over 3 years and it started to sour down 4 months ago. He changed from sweet, romantic, caring to sour, mean, rude, and careless. For past 3 years: We always hold hands, kiss and hug where ever we go. We text and call each other every breaks at work and everyday. We tell each other i love you through text or after most phone calls. We always hold each other to sleep every night. We have alot of things in common like gym, fishing, eat same food, roller skate, travel, spending time with family and so on…so we do alot of things together. We was always excited to see eachother after we get off work or when ever are apart. Now he dont want to even kiss, hug or hold me at all. He seemed unhappy or mad all the time. Everything i said or do seems bad to him eventhough its good. He is negative now. I tried to talk or ask him whats wrong he just dont respond or say nothing at all. I never go out, yell, scream, kick him out or cheat on him before so i dont know what cause him to flip like this. He dont even want to make love to me anymore or if he does its only for him to feel good and thats it. My patient and hard work of trying to understand him or sticking around him to see if he changes back is very slim now and its hurting me like crazy. I cried for daYs sometimes. I love him so much and i dont want to loose him. We planned to get marry soon but it dosent seem like it any more cause he dont mention it no more to his friends and families like before. I want to move forward with our wedding plans and i still feel the same way till today. I still text him and tell him i love him everyday and tell him that i love him everyday when he comes home from work. But he never respond back or say i love u back to me now. But if his friends or other people text or call him, he hurrys up text them back or picks it up eventough he is driving and doing it in front of me that hurts alot. I still give him good night kisses and tell him i love him every night and still no respond from him. I used to put money in his bank under his account every paycheck now he wants seperate bank account. I tried to talk to him all the time but it seems like he is trying to avoid it. I see him clear from cheating on me but im not sure cause he is acting like this towards me. He acts like everything is normal when we have people around like we have no propblems but when they’re not around he is acting mean and rude again at me. Im not sure if this reaction comes from his co worker who they call eachother brothers and he is younger then him. To me personally i think he is a bad influence cause he is married and still cheats on his wife, always go out and gamble is money away, never help his wife with bills with his momey he makes. He always brags that he use his money for alchohol, gambling and do whatever he wants with it. He says this to my fiance and in front if me everytime u see him. He probably says more when they are at work in the same department. Im always irritated by this guy but i couldnt say anything right now cause of my fiance being strayed away from me. How and where do i go from here? I want to fix this but i dont know how to deal with my fiance being so silent. Im really lost.

    • Rose said:

      Hey Jewels,
      I’ve read all the above messages plus the great advice from James. Yours is the one that tugged at my heart strings.
      This is because I’ve been in such a relationship. It became really stressful that in the end I walked away. If this guys genuinely likes and appreciates you, he will come back. If he’s just using you, he will eventually leave. It looks like he has found someone else or he is going through a phase of some sort that he is not sharing with you.

      I hope that our lovely James can share and give you the adviceyou need. I would also like to
      know what he advises for personal and relationship development.

      Wishing you the very best Jewel, I hope and pray you find your darling prince.xxx

  20. Confuse said:

    I have been dating a guy for 3 yrs and have found out within the last year that he still does things for his ex-girlfriend and plus buys her a xmas present and her whole family. But has never bought my family anything. He states they are just friends nothing more. Recently we have discussed this and he has been taking me with him to do stuff for her. But I am still a little concerned about the situation. He swears to me that I am what he wants that I am who he wants to spend the rest of his life with no one else. He tells me he loves me several times a day. He is spending time with me and my kids and we all do stuff together. I have explained I want to be included in his life and If he feels the need to get them a card and stuff this year I want to see it and my name will be included on it and he did not hesitate to say okay. Just would love your thoughts

    • James Bauer said:

      In my opinion, it’s a sign of a good catch. I have worked with several men who have a hard time cutting people out of their life, not because of romantic feelings, but because of loyalty and a genuine desire to take care of others and honor friendships. He seems to have nothing to hide, and a desire to make you his priority. I would not worry about it.

  21. BJ said:

    I have been in a relationship for 5 months. He has calls and texts fm many women says he care about me gave me key to his house I really care for thos man he says his heart is pure with me but often talk to amd text other women sometime in my presence he will eventually tell me who he talked to but I feel it is disrespectful sincr we are in a committed relationship I often spend the nights with him I know he is not cheating but dont know what to think of his relationship with other women

    • James Bauer said:

      Sometimes you need to set boundaries when a person’s behavior threatens the stability of the relationship. That can be true even if he has no intention of pursuing a relationship with any of these women, but you are not willing to stay in a relationship that involves this kind of behavior. If that’s the case, you owe it to him to tell him; give him a chance to change by expressing the fact that this is not okay with you.

      Just be sure you are okay with sticking to the same boundaries for the relationship. Which, it appears would mean you could not have casual conversations with men. Some people feel that is way too strict, while others feel it is necessary. Start an open discussion with him about the pros and cons of cutting off other relationships to protect the one you are in.

  22. Sofi said:

    Hi James: Your articles are always interesting, inspiring and helpful. I can read between the lines sometimes by repeating with my own words what my husband says to clarify things. When I remember to do that, it works well. My husband of two decades and I have different ideas about life but we have worked as a team raising a family. Now that the children are older, it is getting difficult to communicate with him because he is so different as me in the way we see the world. I am practicing respect and appreciation like you recommend and it helps, but sometimes I forget and then I feel bad because I say the wrong things. My husband is a good man, a good provider, a good father, but he is cold with me and gets grouchy often, of course, the world is a dangerous place and he wants to protect his family and I understand and acknowledge that often, but I get tired. How can I keep calm, grounded, cheerful and strong to continue in this adventure that is marriage ?.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Sofi. Do you think he realizes (1) that he has these cold attitude episodes and (2) the negative impact it has on your quality of life?

      If you’re unsure, you might start there. Find out if he even realizes it’s happening. Then give it some time. Don’t try to suggest that he change. If he is the loving, protective kind of provider you believe him to be, he is more likely to change if left to his own methods (rather than when told what he needs to do differently).


  23. Kali said:

    Great articles! I have loved your stuff and used the respect principle with great success. My bf responded immediately when I started using it. And I am learning to recognize when I say something that makes him disrespected. It really works!
    But when I try to tell him how I feel about him he changes the subject. He is very uncomfortable hearing what I like about him. I don’t doubt how he feels about me, but I would like communicate better with him. He has been having some issues with his exwife and kids that have caused him to be going through a very difficult time. When he tells me about what bothers him, it seems my responses to him opening up cause him to stop talking. I would like to know how to respond to his emotions without shutting him down.

    • James Bauer said:

      Women like to be supported the way they are used to their girlfriends supporting them. Guys like to be supported the way their guy friends support them. Which is means silence and acceptance as they display whatever emotions emerge. You might try supporting him by saying things along the lines of, “Well I support you, and I know you will make the best decisions.” It’s this kind of (I’ve got your back, man) support that guys seem to be most able to receive without shutting down or feeling embarrassed about having opened up.

      • Kali said:

        I tried this this morning when our conversation went the way it has for a while (trying to define our relationship)… We got to the point where he wants definition of the relationship, then I told him how I feel (using a story I practiced— this is where thing have been going south), then he responded simply, “I feel the same way.” And I felt no withdrawal!!!
        I took a deep breath and didn’t respond. He asked what channel the football game was on (lol)…. Then in about 10 minutes he started talking again and said some very sweet things. He brought up some barriers in our relationship and I responded, “remember when that happened last time and you handled it so well, I know you can do that again.”
        And we are on the same page again… Success! Thank you!!

  24. Laura said:

    Hello James. I am an avid reader of your posts and find them really insightful. But I haven’t found most answers about my last relationship which is why I’m writing today. I met the guy 3 weeks after I separated from my husband of 13 years. He told me straight away he had a wife and 3 kids so I felt safe when we started texting. I was feeling so depressed after 13 years of an emotionally abusive marriage that when someone showed me so much appreciation and interest I just went for it. Soon it turned out he wasn’t happy in his marriage (they’ve been together for nearly 20 years). He said there was no affection between him and his wife for ages but that they “get along well” and are “like flatmates”. We’d text very often, he’d come over twice a week and we’d go out to cafes, or cycling – which is what we both love doing. We had other common interests, too. He was never pushy but we did start having sex after about 4 months. And that was a huge mistake on my part, because soon the sex turned into love, for me. I started caring. For a few months I hoped things might just work themsleves out. He told me twice during our relationship that he was considering moving out, but he never did. He was always very considerate, supported me in going after my goals, had plans for us (but not the kind that I would like to hear about – just going to the cinema, theatre, taking our mutual kids to picnics). Around Easter I started asking him questions – for example, how he was going to explain to his wife if we did take my kids and his to a picnic together? He just said he’d find a way. I honestly don’t understand how that marriage works. I tried breaking up with him. It was always very emotional, about 10 times i wanted to end things but always came back. Until just about a week ago. We hadn’t seen each other for almost 6 weeks and even texts were few and far between because he was on holiday. Then invited me over to where he lives (about 10 miles away from me), showed me the places he usually eats and jogs, then we went for a long cycle. Even drove to the top of his road. I enjoyed myself while with him, as usual. But after getting home I got really upset. First of all, he’d told me to go out and date other guys and 2 minutes later suggested that he would love to come over for a coffee at my place. Then, I thought if someone saw us on that day, it would be worth it if we intended to be together. But why hurt people (especially his wife) if all we want is just a bit of fun together? So I broke it off for good. I still love him though and cry myself to sleep most nights. I feel like I don’t understand guys at all. He told me many times he had genuine feelings for me but couldn’t leave his kids. He wanted to have a relationship while still married? I went along with it for some time, but it just became unbearable. Now I’m scared to date anyone for fear I’m going to end up with another man who does’nt know what he wants. Or maybe it was all my fault all along? Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi Laura! This is a very in-depth question, perfect for the private consultation service available in the new members area. It’s a bit too long for me to address as a blog comment. I love your involvement with the material I post here, but to get a guaranteed response to your personal questions, please use the private consultation service. It’s better for these kinds of questions.

  25. jabeen said:

    Hi Laura,
    I do understand what sort of issues and confusion you are going through. I have gone through the same issues . Only the difference was I was his wife and he was with his girl friend nearly 10 years on and off. At last he left her and issues between us gone too complicated because he was depressed and emotionally abusing me. The end results is I walk out and need time to think but divorced me.i think first you need to get your self esteem and independence. Once you become positive guys will love you. Start being friend and take it slowly at least one year if they really want you will not force to have sex or leave you. It is your choice what you want.

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