How can I be a more enthusiastic person?
June 3, 2010 4:38 PM   Subscribe

I don't always express myself very well, and it annoys the hell out of my girlfriend. I care about what she tells me, but it drives her up the wall when i respond not sounding very interested or excited. I really, really am, but what can I do to make myself start responding with more excitement? besides enrolling in cheer camp?
posted by mewmewmew to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just tell her you really are interested and/or excited. Anything else would be fake.
posted by amro at 4:40 PM on June 3, 2010

Being in a relationship over time slowly grinds off your pointy edges so that you mesh better with your partner. Your girlfriend has some pointy edges here—getting upset at you for the way you express yourself (or don't) and you've got some—your difficulty communicating in a way that she picks up on.

It just takes time. You'll both need to give it time.
posted by adamrice at 4:50 PM on June 3, 2010 [7 favorites]

objectively - do you react to something that you're honestly personally excited about with the same fervor and excitement that you show her? if so, you are just being you. if not - then she has a point.

is she in another of her ruts? is this an extension of "her life sucks, I suck, everything sucks"
posted by nadawi at 4:54 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a matter of communicating the thoughts that you do have, right?

What shape do the thoughts take? Words? Pictures? Abstract relationships of ideas?

I have needed to do this by the way - to train myself to express my enthusiasm better. And that's in great part what it is: Training. It will get better with practice.
posted by krilli at 4:56 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sometimes "enthusiastic" can mean "participatory." It's unclear from the question whether this is the case, but if you're presented with:

Her: "Wow, the book Francine recommended is really excellent!"

don't just say "That's great, hon." Try:

"What book is it?"
"Why do you like it?"
"Francine was telling me about that!"
"Oh yeah, I read the review of that and it sounded really cool. Do you want me to send it to you?"

And other times "enthusiastic" can mean "look like you're paying attention." So if she's talking to you, pause what you're doing (watching tv, doing dishes, whatever) and turn at look at her. Lean towards her, walk towards her. Hi-five her. Use your body to indicate to her that what she's saying (or actually, the fact that she's saying anything) is the most important thing going on right now.
posted by sallybrown at 4:58 PM on June 3, 2010 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: objectively - do you react to something that you're honestly personally excited about with the same fervor and excitement that you show her? if so, you are just being you. if not - then she has a point.

Its often things I'm genuinely interested in. Even when we planned trips where I've always wanted to go, shes been upset with me because I come off as not being excited.

is she in another of her ruts? is this an extension of "her life sucks, I suck, everything sucks"

I don't think so. This one is usually pretty consistent =)
posted by mewmewmew at 4:59 PM on June 3, 2010

One of the best ways to convey interest is active listening. When your girlfriend is telling you something, watch her. Hold eye contact, smile, and try to actively process/follow what she's saying. Also pay attention to her non-verbal cues (facial expressions, gesture posture, etc). That's one step towards engaging with her and what she's saying.

If you're really interested, it means you're engaging with the information automatically (relating it to your own experiences, feelings, and beliefs) but it's easy to keep that sort of brain-churning to yourself and then hope she can somehow sense your level of excitement. She can't (yet?). If there's a part you don't follow or don't catch on the first try, stop her and ask her to repeat it. Ask questions. Ponder related unponderables with her. If she's relating a story or a factual account of something, ask her what she thinks about it. Tell her what you think about it. If you're not interested, think about why and express that to her. That way you're not faking anything, and still engaging with your girlfriend on the topic at hand. Try to avoid easily dismissing or accepting what she's communicating to you (Horse shit! and Awesome! are right out the window) and practice only talking about why you think something is horse shit or awesome.
posted by carsonb at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the better lessons I learned from a popular relationship book about communication differences between genders was the differences in the very point of the conversation.

Men often see conversation as a point-to-point transmission of information. Want to see a movie tonight? Yes. End of conversation.

Women often see conversation as opportunities to show empathy and invite collaboration. Want to see a movie tonight? Yes, I think that's a good idea, because I had a hard week and could use some time to relax -- how was your week, honey?

Yes, I know this is monstrously reductive and not at all descriptive of all people everywhere. Go with it. I read this book and met my future wife one week later and we're still married 10 years later.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:48 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try this as an experiment - when she mentions something that she is excited about, smile as you talk. And if you can, smize too. You don't even have to be looking at her while you're doing it - just put the effort in to smile. It should add enough of a touch to your tone to reflect how excited you seem to be.
posted by Stynxno at 6:56 PM on June 3, 2010

She probably just wants to feel like she's being heard, and that you want to share in her excitement. Try employing those mirror neurons to mimic her body language and tone of voice when you talk. You don't have to be over the top about it, but if she has great news and you respond with a flat or monotone 'that's great,' try playing it up a little bit. It might feel a bit unnatural, but part of good communication in a relationship is learning how to speak our s.o's language.
posted by infinityjinx at 9:17 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hear you; my wife and I have this problem. She's heavy on the drama and explicit expressions (a little bump is "OW OW OW", a smoker walking by gets an overly-disgusted expression and dramatic hand-waving of imaginary smoke, and she regularly exaggerates the most random things just to increase the response she'll get back), and I'm the kind of guy who responds to "we just wont the lottery" with nothing more than "very cool."

So, we addressed it head-on. We talked about it, and I made it clear that I am a super-chill person who means it when I say I'm excited, even if I don't seem excited, and she made it clear that in her mind she's just reacting openly and honestly. Then she agreed to stop exaggerating and overdramatizing and just trust that I'll understand her feelings without the grandstanding, and I agreed to try and be more expressive by adding eye contact and smiles and "tell me more"s to my "very cool" type of responses.

And you know what? Our actual behavior hasn't changed much, but having the talk helped us trust each other more -- she now believes I'm really excited when I am, and I no longer think she's making things overly dramatic for attention. And so peace reigns at the davejay house.

Talk it out.
posted by davejay at 11:02 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and remember: odds are, her family was constantly over-emoting, so she has no context for believing you're really excited except to trust you. And I'd wager you're only expressing your feelings in words when she asks.

So, try this: when you're excited about something, and she isn't asking you about it, volunteer: "You know what? I am really excited about [thing]." Just the act of volunteering it should help her realize you're thinking about it and excited about it independently of her saying "are you excited?"
posted by davejay at 11:05 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can't be a different person for her.


How you react to things that you like is such a basic part of who you are, you personality, your facial be constantly molding them to be more acceptable for her is like being an actor, every day, instead of being able to relax with the person you love.

Reassure her that you are excited/happy/whatever and that this is simply how you express that. I know you already have, but it is about all you can do while still remaining free to be yourself.

I hope that she learns how to read your individual expressions of joy and excitement instead of attempting to change you. Certainly it is easier to learn how to read someone than it is for someone to change themselves in such a fundamental way.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:33 AM on June 4, 2010

My partner of 17 years is a very low-key person. I am a highly-expressive person. When we were first dating, I'd say, "Do you want to go to a movie?" and he'd kind of shrug and say, "Sure," a reaction that says to me, "Eh, I don't really want to but I don't mind it." So I'd say, "Well, if you don't want to..." and he'd say, "No, it's fine." And we'd go to the movie and I'd be wondering the whole time whether he really wanted to be there.

Eventually we figured out that this is just a difference in how we express ourselves, and I learned to interpret him. We also make it a joke sometimes--if he seems "meh" about something and I'm not sure how he's feeling, I'll say, "Can you translate that into Su-speak?" and he'll put on a really exaggerated happy face and say, "Oh, yes! I am very excited by that idea! Nothing would please me more!
posted by not that girl at 7:36 AM on June 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

"This is what I look like when I'm interested. No, really." Repeat as necessary.
posted by callmejay at 10:28 AM on June 4, 2010

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