Coping with difficult people: Part 3: The silent unresponsive (the clams)

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The clams are quiet, silent individuals who won’t or can’t talk to you once you require a discussion from them. It is usually troublesome to understand what being quiet or inability to react implies. Therefore, the first step in Coping with this behavior is getting them to talk.

Coping with the clams

  • Rather than trying to interpret what the silence means, get the Clam to open up.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Wait as calmly as you can for a response. Use counseling questions to help reticent Clams.
  • Do not fill in the silence with your conversation.
  • Plan enough time to allow you to wait with composure.
  • —Get agreement on or state clearly how much time is set aside for your “conversation.”
  • If you get no response, comment on what’s happening. End your comment with an open-ended question.
  • Again, wait as long as you can, then: comment on what’s happening and wait again. try to keep control of the interaction by dealing matter-of-factly with “Can I go now?” and “I don’t know” responses.
  • When the Clam opens up: be attentive and watch your own impulse to gush. Flow with tangential comments. They may lead to something relevant and essential. If they don’t, state your own need to return to the original topic.
  • If the Clam stays closed: avoid a polite ending. Terminate the meeting yourself and set up another appointment.
  • inform the Clam what you must and will do since a discussion has not occurred.
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