Ladies do you ever feel like a CIA agent trying to break a suspect? Ease up a little, skip the "What are you thinking?" line, and give these tricks a shot instead.
"I'm going to get a beer. You want one?"
You're not plying him with alcohol; you're leveling the playing field and doing something relaxing together. (Of course, the booze doesn't hurt.)
"If you feel like talking, I'm here."
Seem obvious? Then how come you never say it? Forcing him to talk about an issue right here, right now, will make him feel condescended to and powerless, things guys don't enjoy (unless we're naked and there's a safeword involved). Let him know he can come to you.
"What was your high school like?"
Which is actually code for "What was high school like for you?" Which itself is code for "Tell me about your lingering insecurities and tender spots." Bam.
"I think the reason we're having this fight is..."
Naming the argument can slow its momentum, help you both relax, and lower the stakes. All of a sudden it becomes a discussion of deeper issues.
"God, that was ah-ma-zing. [Pause.] Can I ask you something?"
You just came. He's full of confidence. Great time for a heart-to-heart. Seriously—try it.
"Tell me about the summer you and your dad built that deck."
Or any question that gets at his feelings about his parents. Because relationships are like chess, and you're now a couple of moves from knowing if/when he wants kids. Well played, madam.
"I think we've been spending too much time at bars lately. Once a week I'd love for us just to stay in."
My friends in relationships often complain that their girlfriends or wives are "just generally mad." But raising an actual issue, and a solution, can start the discussion on a positive note and prevent him from curling into a defensive crouch.
"Your package looks great in those pants."
A girlfriend once said this to me, and she was able to get whatever she wanted for the rest of the day—information, money, sexual favors. I'm not saying you should lie, but there's nothing wrong with starting with a genuine compliment that goes right to where his aspirations lie.
"Hey, how'd that Q4 meeting go?"
So much better than "How was your day?" You're remembering something he's mentioned before and showing genuine concern. Nicely done.
Or just say, "I'm going to meet the girls. We can talk about it later. It's all good."
And mean it.