Notes

How to respond when someone says you just dont understand what's going on in my life. When you respond with - tell me more- they pull away and end the conversation

Asked by Anonymous

There is no “universally correct” way of responding.  To tell the truth, pushing forward when they pull away is like trying to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you.  As a therapist, we treat responses like these differently than most people should in day-to-day life because our clients are coming to us to work on their issues.  For example, when clients pull this on me I ask more questions about their feeling that I don’t understand or (if I’ve asked a question that they don’t like but that needs an answer for them to move forward) I’ll remain silent until they respond. 

When a person abruptly ends a conversation, it can be indicative of many things.  It could mean that you somehow “stepped on their toes” by crossing some boundary they have.  It could also mean that they are not really ready to deal with the issues that underlie whatever it is that they are going through.  It could also mean something else altogether that we don’t know about.  The one thing that is probably a given is that they are emotionally distressed in some way and are pulling away to avoid further distress.

In social interactions I’ll usually just give the person their space.  I also apologize if I’ve crossed a boundary they would rather I avoid.  If they’re ready to deal with it, they’ll eventually come around (usually).  On the other hand if they’re the type to avoid problems then that’s their issue to deal with… not mine.  However if by them not dealing with the issue they are harming me, then I’ll eventually have to let them know that this is the case and that I’d like for them to deal with it so I’m no longer harmed (but I would only do this for close relationships).  Hope this gives you some food for thought.