The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/intellect.htm
Clicking underlined links here will open a
new window. Other links will open an informational popup,
so please turn off your
browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site.
Follow underlined links after
finishing this article to avoid getting distracted and lost.
This is one of a series
of brief articles on how to respond effectively
to annoying social behavior. An "effective response"
occurs when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
This article offers useful responses to
the behavior of someone you experience as
"always in their head. People who don't show or
express their emotions socially can cause
anxiety and confusion in others. The
article assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web site and the
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on
people who are "emotionally unavailable"
and "in their head":
Premise: animals, including humans,
communicate in order to reduce current needs -
dynamic mixes of emotional, physical, and
spiritual discomforts. As social animals,
we form a range of "relationships" with others
- to fill various needs for companionship,
acceptance, validation, stimulation, love, and
support. Most social (vs. business)
relationships feel best when we exchange
information about how we're feeling about
current life. Does this match your experience?
Some people are more aware of, and expressive
about, their physical and emotional feelings
than others. That can happen for a range of
brains" seem more able to feel, empathize,
and express feelings than male brains;
value being quiet and
more than other people;
survivors of childhood neglect
(Grown Wounded Children)
some or all uncomfortable feelings -
and without skilled intervention, bring that
into adulthood. They may repress and avoid
selected strong feelings, like shame, guilt,
love, anger, joy, sadness, lust, and fear.
Some GWCs experience an inability to feel
some kids raised
by stoic or emotionally-numb parents learn
to devalue and ignore emotions and may
a vocabulary to describe them; and...
some people mute
or repress their feelings when others
discount, criticize, and/or over-react to
Can you think of an adult or child who is
"unemotional," "stoic," "analytic," or "very
you feel around such people? This
can be specially trouble-some in average
marriages and with some "non-communicative"
(insecure) kids. Such people are socially
described as being "very private" and "always in
Discomfort with "closed" such people may have to
do with being unable to intuit how they are
- in general, or with us. It can also come from
feeling such people may understand our
emotions but not
(validate) them. Such discomfort hinders trust,
empathy, and intimacy, and keeps relationships
shallow and superficial. Have you experienced
If you have,
would an objective observer say you react?
Pretense? Annoyance? Frustration? Caution
(mistrust)? Impatience? Confrontation?
Resignation? Avoidance? Scorn? Pity? Compassion?
Staying superficial? Indifference? Do you try to
"fix" or "help" them to access and express their
feelings? Are you able to be yourself (e.g.
express your own emotions and needs
honestly) with them, or do you violate your
integrity to avoid conflict?
Is there an effective way to respond to people
who need to deny or repress their current
feelings? Consider these adult...
See if you can define "an effective response"
out loud now. If you can think of an adult or
child who is "always in their head," imagine
using responses like these with them...
Identify how you
feel with an "intellectual" or
"guarded" person, situationally and in
general. Your feelings will help you...
needs are normal urges to reduce current
discomforts. Use your feelings as pointers
to identify what you need with an
"over-intellectual" person - e.g. to vent,
learn, or inform; cause change; suggest;
confront; persuade; empathize; set or
enforce a boundary; or something else.
what you need, tailor responses like these
to fit your situation...
"(Name), are you open to some personal
feedback now?" (If not, you have a
different problem to respond to.)
notice that you seldom describe your
feelings." (Option - ..."and that makes me
uneasy with you.")
"When I ask you
how you feel (about _______), you often say
'I don't know / nothing / not much / etc.'
Are you aware of that pattern?"
"How do you feel
about people who don't disclose their
"I feel like
your need to minimize expressing your
feelings is limiting our relation-ship."
"I don't need an
analysis or explanation. I need to know how
_______ is affecting you."
"Your mouth is
smiling, but your eyes aren't."
"I rarely hear
you express anger / sorrow / anxiety / guilt
/ shame / confusion."
"I like it when
you say how you feel (...about ________ )."
"I can't tell if
I upset or bore you at times (and I'd like
you to tell me directly if I do, OK?)"
"Are you open to
me asking you about your feelings (and/or
"How do you feel
about the way I express my emotions?"
"Can I do
anything that would raise your comfort about
disclosing your feelings to me?"
ToConfront, or to Change Your Relationship
going to start telling you of my frustration
when you aren't able or willing to tell me
how you feel and what you need (from me)."
"(Name", I'm not
willing to have another) intellectual /
superficial discussion with you."
"When I ask you
how you feel, you usually tell me what you
"I feel you're
saying what you think I want to hear, rather
than what's real for you. When you do
that, I don't trust you."
"What do you
think might happen if you risked describing
your feelings (to me)?"
"When you say 'I
can't help (being intellectual),' I lose
hope for our relationship."
tired of asking how you feel, (Name)."
Notice the theme of these
response-options, and adapt it to your
communication style and personality. Your
response will work best if you say it calmly,
respectfully, and with steady eye contact.
Common reactions to responses like these are
denying, arguing, explaining, excusing, changing
the subject, silence, leaving, no eye contact,
criticizing, complaining, whining, etc. When you
assert a need, thought, or boundary,
expect such reactions, and use
to acknowledge (vs. agree with) them.
Then restate your response calmly and briefly,
and be quiet. Repeat this sequence until you
satisfy your needs or develop new needs.
Responses to Avoid
Even if said in humor, these may feel
like c/overt put-downs to wounded people...
"Why are you so
intellectual / in your head / analytical /
You're bad / weird / not OK / defective).
"You're about as
exciting as a tax form."
"You only give
me the mental half a relationship."
"Why can't you
be more like ______? S/He's able to describe
feelings and needs."
"You ought to be
a poker player - your face never shows
I know just how
(Only if you've
lived the other person's life)
"Hey - lighten
UP, will you?"
This is one of a series
of brief articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to common social behaviors. This article offers ways to
respond effectively to an overly-intellectual,
guarded, stoic, or "unemotional" person. The ways are