How to Get Someone to Open Up

How often do others open up for you? How often do they share their innermost thoughts with you? Would you like to learn a question that will make them do it more often?

My client was frustrated because one of his own coaching clients would shut down whenever he was asked a personal question.

“I don’t get it,” my client said. “This guy is paying me to help him, but he still stonewalls me whenever anything personal comes up. All I get is excuses and deflections. He won't open up!”

This is a more common problem than most people think. Not only in coaching, but in life in general as well. Whether they are friends, family, lovers, kids, colleagues, or whatever.

And even when they were the ones turning to us for conversation - opening up is a challenge for many. Even when we talk about things people like talking about.

There can be many reasons for this, but chief among them is usually one of two things: Lack of trust, or personal insecurities.

The good news is that there is a very simple conversational technique that can be used to remedy both issues at the same time.

I kind of stumbled across this technique back in 2006 when I, as a shy young college student, was trying to figure out how to have better conversations with women.

Since then I’ve found that it has been useful to me in all my relationships, whether they be platonic, romantic or professional.

I use it with my wife, my friends, and strangers all the time. And I use it with my coaching clients on almost all of our coaching calls.

And the results are always the same: Every time I use it, people start opening up. They forget about their insecurities for a moment, they feel safer, and they want to share with me the kind of stuff they rarely share with others.

But be warned, this technique – this question – will only work if you are genuinely interested in the answer.

If you are, this will become one of your favorite conversational tools in no time.

What to ask to help someone open up.

And here it is: Instead of asking people what they do, ask them why they do it.

Not in a judgmental or critical way. Not even in an exploratory way. But in a curious, encouraging and personal way.

Look for their motivations, their drives, their inspirations, and their passions for the things they do.

“What is it about X that makes you enjoy it?”

“So what motivated you to start doing X in the first place?”

“Tell me, what are your favorite experiences that you get from X?”

“What does X give you that you feel you don’t get from other things?”

And so on..

In everyday conversations these kinds of questions will create deep rapport incredibly fast. And that rapport will transfer from topic to topic. So if you look for their passions behind, for example, their hobby – minutes later they’ll be ready to open up to you on other topics as well.

These conversations increase trust, engages people’s emotional thinking, and bring depth to conversations that otherwise would have been mostly superficial.

And if you’re a leader, a coach, a counselor, a teacher, or any other such person who will benefit from people connecting and engaging more deeply with you – this is an invaluable skill to practice. So please start practicing it immediately.

My client took this to heart.

He practiced the technique with his friends and family up until his next session with the difficult client, and after the session, I got this text from him:

“That was incredible! We made more progress in this one session than we have in the four weeks leading up to it and all I did was spend a few minutes at the beginning of the session asking about his why’s. Thanks!”

So how will this benefit you in your life?

Where and when will you start using it?

Who would you like to help open up more around you?

Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.

Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.

I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.

Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.

Come join me in my Facebook group, follow my Instagram, or subscribe to my YouTube channel for fresh content on a regular basis.