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Communicating Our Feelings

Let’s talk communication! How many people think they can communicate effectively? How do you know this? Were you told this by someone?

One of the main reasons people fight/argue/don’t get along, is because of ineffective communication, whether it is their style of communication or lack of communication altogether. This blog provides a quick guide to help us communicate more effectively and in a healthier way.

Why is it so hard to communicate with others? Why do we find ourselves feeling misunderstood a lot of the time? This may be because of how we are doing it. We may be speaking in a way that is pointing the finger at someone. When we do this, that person immediately gets on the defense, feeling attacked. At this point, neither person wants to hear what the other one has to say and both will shut down. The conversation has ended before it really even began.

A good indication of what could trigger a dispute would be when we start off a conversation with the word “you.” For example, “You are constantly leaving your dishes in the sink.” (I used this example because I think this is one of the most common fights in the American household, including mine. Haha!). By using the word “you” we are saying that the person being addressed is the problem and that you don’t like it, and they better fix it or else! Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t appreciate being told what to do, how to do something, or when to do something…at least not in that demanding, aggressive manner.

It is important to try and open the conversation up in a more inviting way. We have to think of the big picture. What is the main goal for me bringing this up? What do I want to accomplish by saying this to them? We must be truthful with ourselves about this answer. Are we looking to just argue? If so, maybe we need to get out of the house, take a breather, regroup and then revisit the topic.

Ultimately, our main goal is to have the other person listen and acknowledge our feelings, right? Once that is accomplished, then maybe we can expect changed behavior from them (if that’s part of your goal). However, we can’t get that without feeling heard and understood. The best way of letting others know this and to feel open to this is communicating effectively. Using “I” statements go a long way in communication.

Here is what “I” statements look like:

With this formula, we can clearly state what our feelings are, by either giving specifics or explaining our own responses to when it happened a certain way and the reason it made you feel that way. The last part you are asking for is important because you are expressing what you need and the purpose of your sharing this with them. This is also a great formula to use when setting boundaries. (To learn more about boundaries, check out my blog here.)

Even though all parts of this formula are just as important as the next, I found the “when” part to be extremely important. In my own personal experiences, I noticed that by giving a specific example of something, the other person can relate and go back to a specific moment and visualize exactly what you mean. This helps guide the person through the conversation with concrete examples. They are more than likely going to follow and stay engaged in the topic.

It is okay to stumble, it is okay to mess up. The most important thing is your effort in communicating with someone healthier and more effectively. Tip: practice by writing it down in past situations that you wished you had spoken up about. This will not only help you become more comfortable with the idea, but it will also help you identify your feelings better.

I know I always learn from examples, so I have provided you with a few examples to help you get started. Remember, these are just examples, each and every situation is different and your answers will keep changing. You may also use this formula with all different types of people and relationships in your life (spouse, parent, child, co-worker, neighbor, etc). Be true to yourself when considering how you feel and what you need.

Additional Examples of “I” Statements:

I feel frustrated,

when you leave the dishes in the sink without rinsing them out,

because the food gets stuck on them and I have to scrub them later.

What I need from you is to rinse out your dishes when you put them in the sink.

I feel hurt,

when you leave the room without telling me anything,

because we didn’t finish our conversation.

What I need from you is to tell me you need to take a moment to gather your thoughts first and we will continue the conversation soon.

I feel happy,

when we go on date nights together

because it gives us time to connect more.

What I need from you is to be committed to keeping these dates on the calendar for us to do this.

It is important to note that the script provided (I feel, when, because, what I need/want) is not foolproof. This does not mean that we will automatically get what we want from that person. Just like with anything else, there’s no guarantee. However, by using and practicing with that dialogue, you are setting the tone for healthy communication on your part. If we continue to use this method, others around us may learn from our ways, and start using that script to communicate with you and others as well.

So, let’s start talking to each other more! Let’s communicate more! Readyyyy…..break!

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