By Chris Seiter

Published on October 10th, 2022

Tell me if this sounds familiar?

  • You text your ex but get a one word response.
  • Or maybe you get far enough to get back on the phone with them to engage them in a conversation but something is off.
  • They are distant.
  • Not interested in anything you have to say

Carefree conversations are a thing of the past.

Well, today, I’d like to talk to you about what you can do if you are dealing with a very closed off ex.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

Take the quiz

Sympathy Vs. Empathy

So, I started my career helping individuals try to convince ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends to come back. Overall I’d say, I’ve been pretty successful.

But when I started my career, I’m sad to say I wasn’t.

That’s often how it goes, though. When you try something for the first time, you aren’t going to see the best possible results, right?

It’s only through training and experience that those results can come. I’d say at about year five (I’m 10 years into the journey now),I felt I had enough data to start making some determinations.

And after sitting back for a month, like a mad scientist dissecting everything, what I found shocked me. At the
beginning of my career, my assumption was that the key to winning an ex back was through sympathy.

This is actually false. In fact, it might be the single biggest mistake that you can make. The truth is the key to winning an ex back actually occurs through empathy.

The difference in meaning is usually explained with some variation of the following;

Sympathy is when you share the feelings of another. Empathy is when you understand the feelings of another, but do not necessarily share them.

So ultimately, it boils down to not necessarily sharing the feelings of your partner, but understanding them.

And this is the key component to making your ex open up to you.

Well, for this matter it’s key to getting anyone to open up to you.

I know it sounds like a simple concept, but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to truly understand what their partner is feeling or even what their partner wants.

The John Gottman Story

John Gottman, the father of all Save Your Marriage Systems even has his baked into his philosophy. He uses
different terminology, of course, but you can watch some of his interviews where he talks about how he got his
first book published.

So he ended up going to the publisher and tried to get them to pour money into advertising the book. The issue was the publisher didn’t really want to do it since they didn’t think his book would be successful.

So the publisher asked him one simple question, “Give me one thing you would help to help me have a stronger marriage with my wife.”

Gottman simply replied,

“Understand what her dreams are.”

The publisher immediately got up and left the room, which left Gottman feeling pretty bad since he thought his book wasn’t going to get published.

Ultimately, the publisher left work, hopped on a subway to go home, and talk to his wife.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

Take the quiz

He realized that he didn’t even know what his own wife’s dreams were.

After that, Gottman had the book published and he is the success we see today, all because of the concept of empathy, the ability to understand what your partner feels or what they want.

But we are dealing with an ex here. Does that change things?

Well, that’s where tactical empathy comes into play.

Tactical Empathy

One of my favorite reads over the past few years has been a book called, Never Split The Difference,

I highly recommend that you read this book if you haven’t already. It’s amazing not just for desire-based applications on making exes desire you more. But more than that, it’s helping you understand how negotiations work and how to win in negotiations, which is something that everyone could stand to learn more about.

I was blown away when I noticed the author, Chris Voss, in the book, Never Split the Difference, began talking about this concept of Tactical Empathy in a hostage negotiation.

It’s all about being generally interested in what the other side wants and not suppressing their emotions.

Instead, if you do try to suppress something, it should be negative thoughts, fears, or frustrations. On the flip side, it aims to magnify positive things.

But how?

Ultimately, Tactical Empathy is all about listening and understanding the other side’s point of view. This is especially relevant in marriage and desire when it comes to getting the other person to open up to you..

There are Six Tenets of Tactical Empathy that we’re going to talk about today.

The Six Tenets Of Tactical Empathy

So, what are the six tenets?

  1. Effective pauses
  2. Back Channel Cues
  3. Mirroring
  4. Labeling
  5. Paraphrasing
  6. Summarizing

Let’s talk about each.

Effective Pauses

When you’re listening to people, you have to pause. You might ask an open-ended question, but then you need to pause.

This seems like a basic piece of advice, but you’d be shocked at how often we see people ask an open-ended question to their partner and fail to pause.

They simply trudge ahead. Why? Well, the best way that we’ve been able to reconcile this phenomenon is by understanding how people are afraid of silence.

It feels awkward in conversation because there is pressure on both parties in conversation to fill the silences. So it’s essential that you combat this awkwardness and simply allow for the other party time to speak their mind.

Don’t be afraid to use effective pauses

Back Channel Cues

These are the little things that we say in a conversation to reassure the other person that we’re paying attention or listening. Things like,

  • mm-hmm (affirmative)
  • ah
  • uh-huh (affirmative)
  • yes
  • okay
  • yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sometimes you’ll even find that these little cues don’t have to be anything that we’re saying, but simply something we’re doing, like a nod of the head or leaning forward as someone is speaking.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

Take the quiz

Sometimes you’ll find that one of the cues is coupled with a nod of the head.

All of this stuff matters more than you think.


So you’ve probably heard this before, mirroring is actually really simple. It’s simply taking the last few words someone said to you and repeating them back.

Now I know this sounds childish, but it’s actually incredibly effective and goes a long way to indicate to the other person that you understand what they’re going through.

Now, the real trick to mirroring is to do it in the flow of a conversation, so people don’t notice it. It needs to seem natural, right?

Imagine for a moment that you are talking to a friend and they tell you that they are considering breaking up with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

So your friend goes,

“I don’t know what to do or how to do it. It’s been so long since I’ve broken up with anyone. I’m just dreading it.”

And then you mirror them by saying,

“Yeah. Yeah, you’re dreading it. Oh, man, that sounds awful.”

That’s mirroring. It lets people know that you’re listening and paying attention.

Ultimately, it’s a way of verbalizing empathy. I know. This sounds crazy. You are thinking that there’s no way this can work, but it does.

Something this simple makes such a big difference in your communication, especially having more meaningful communication that will get an ex to open up.


So number four is probably the strongest of the tenets, and it’s called Labeling.

This is another pretty simple one to understand, but actually really difficult to execute.

Labeling is nothing more than when you label someone’s feelings.

You use all your resources, perception, knowledge to observe someone’s behavior, and try to figure out what they’re feeling.

Are they feeling joy, awe, happiness, regret, anger?

Use your perception and detective skills, determine what the other party is feeling, and then you simply label how they are feeling for them.

You want them to feel like you are reading their mind. Usually, the best way to do this is by using a qualifying statement like,

“It seems like or it looks like.”

Let’s use the fake breakup analogy before to illustrate this. How would you label how your friend is feeling in that circumstance?

Well, we know for a fact they’re dreading this breakup talk that they’re about to have with their current boyfriend or
girlfriend. We can infer that they’re worried about how their partner’s going to react to the news.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Your Ex Boyfriend Back?

Take the quiz

To label that for them would look something like this;

Your friend goes, “I don’t know what to do or how to do it. It’s been so long since I’ve broken up with anyone. I’m just dreading it.”

And then you can say,

“Yeah. Wow, it seems like you’re really worried at how,” the ex’s name, “is going to react to the news.”

And then they say, “Wow, you’re right.”

That’s important because it makes them feel heard, it shows that you’re listening, but also you’re empathizing with them.


So paraphrasing is related to mirroring. It also deals with repeating back what the other person said, but not in their words.

Instead, you use your own words.

It’s best to view this as a different type of mirroring because in essence, that’s all it really is. You simply summarize what your partner says in your own words instead of their own words.

So I’m not going to give an example here because just look at mirroring and infer your own approach.


So here, you combine the concepts of paraphrasing and labeling, and in your own words, you summarize the whole gist, the whole main point of what your counterpart has been telling you in the given interaction.

The point of this is to let your partner know that you’ve been listening and see if you can get them to understand. But ultimately, it all boils down to seeing if you can get them to say, “That’s right.”

This is a goal that Chris Voss in the book, Never Split the Difference, talks a lot about,

The best way to explain this concept is actually with another analogy. Have you ever been talking to a partner only to have them scold you about something you know you’re doing wrong?

What do you typically say in this moment? You’d probably mutter, “Yeah, you’re right.”

So using a real example, my wife and my own mother are constantly nagging me about going to the gastroenterologist, AKA the GI doctor, basically.

Ever since I was a kid, I had some pretty bad stomach issues. I’ve always put off going to the GI doctor.


Well, I’m an idiot.

I’m also maybe a little bit stubborn. But anyways, when the two of them corner me like that, they’ll always say something like, “You really need to get that checked out. Or if you don’t get that checked out, how can
you ever get better?”

To which I reply, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ll do it later.”

It’s the one thing I know I can say that will appease them and simultaneously get them to leave me alone.

Now while I do have an inflated sense of self from time to time, I’m not the only human being who has figured
this phenomenon out.

So when someone in your world has gone dead silent on you, it’s most likely because they feel they haven’t gotten any empathy from you.

Let’s play detective for a second, use Tactical Empathy to look at why I keep saying,

“You’re right,” to the most important ladies of my life. Honestly, if I’m being really basically honest, I think it’s rooted in fear and inconvenience because I don’t want to find out something devastating and have my whole world turned upside down.

I don’t need that stress. Also I love eating bad food and I just know that a doctor is going to say that I need to stop. So of course, none of this comes up when my wife and mother are trying to convince me to take an action that clearly is healthy for me.

Instead, they approach it like most people do, directly.

So what can they do to get me to have that paradigm shift and say, “That’s right,” instead of, “You’re right?”

Well, the first thing they should probably do is to get me talking about my stomach problems and how I’d love to have them fixed. And then they should approach it like this.

  • So I’ll say something like, “Wow, I can’t stand this anymore.”
  • So my wife will say, “Yeah, I understand. It sounds like you’re really frustrated with how much pain you’re in.”
  • “I know, I know. You’re going to sit there and tell me I need to go see a doctor,” to which my wife will probably go, “Well, why don’t you want to?”
  • “I don’t know.”
  • “Are you worried you’ll learn something scary?”
  • “I think it’s more than that. I just don’t want to go.”
  • “It sounds like you’re afraid that the doctor may put you on a diet that you don’t want to be on.”
  • “That’s right.”

So even though this was a completely fake conversation, do you see how much more effective communication becomes when you utilizeTactical Empathy?

It becomes a lot more about understanding your partner as opposed to being right. In the end, being right
doesn’t count for anything if you alienate the person that you’re falling in love with.

So getting them to say, “That’s right,” during moments like this, it’s essentially an admission that you said something that resonated with them on such a level that they need to contemplate it.

And that’s what we want.

That’s what causes them to open up to you.

What to Read Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.