How to Be Heard and Understood: a Guide On Expressing Your Feelings In a Right Way
“We speak different languages!” – that’s a phrase you’ve probably said to your partner or family members at least once in a lifetime. Sometimes two people simply cannot find a common ground, and their dialogues are reminiscent of a blind talking with a deaf. Without mutual understanding, people become more distant from each other, and that leads to frequent arguments, or worse – total detachment.
Nowadays, due to the quarantine, we stay side by side with our loved ones around the clock. And this is not always easy. However, to keep your relationships alive, be it with a parent, or a romantic partner, you need to express your feelings. Even if you feel your thoughts are too tangled and too complicated to share. Even if you’re offended, disappointed or angry. Even when there’s an unresolved conflict you don’t want to go back to.
Thus, in order to make your relationships with a close person thrive, follow these simple steps to bring the deepest thought into conversation.
A “soft start”
A psychologist John Gottman found that the conversation most often ends with the same emotion it begins. If you rush into saying harsh words to your loved one – you actually leave them even more lonely.
Gottman offers a crucial concept: a soft start to the conversation. It means avoiding criticism, derogatory remarks, sarcasm, accusations, generalizations (you never … you always …) and the transition to the individual. Also, a soft start, in particular, is talking about yourself and your feelings. For example, instead of saying “It’s nonsense”, answer “No, I don’t agree.”
In nonviolent communication practice, there is an algorithm for circumventing your “difficult” feelings. The basis of this algorithm is self-empathy, meaning recognizing and naming your feelings, unmet needs and self-compassion. Magically, when we say, “I’m in grief now,” our pain becomes bearable. Check it out for yourself!
Imagine that your beloved friend is in a critical situation. You would try to understand and sympathize with her/him, right? That’s exactly what you need to do for youreself, especially when you feel low.
“So, what exactly needs to be done?”
- Become aware of your current body sensations (for example, chest tightness);
- Ask yourself what you’re feeling right now;
- Decide what is important for you (in life AND in relationships) and identify which your needs might be unsatisfied;
- Think about the requests you have to yourself or others.
Let’s say, you’re telling an exciting story to your spouse, and he/she is not actively paying attention to you and instead is scrolling his social medium’s feed.
What might be going on in your body? Rapid breathing or tension-type headache.
What do you feel? Irritation, anger.
What need is not met now? Having your spouse’s attention.
What is important to you? Your husband’s/ wife’s involvement and response.
What request do you have for the partner? Looking at you when you say something.
Such self-reflection allows you to express your feelings in a more gentle way. Also, when we just allow ourselves to cool for a few seconds, the tension noticeably weakens.
Remember the two main goals
What are the goals of a frank conversation about relationships? Psychologists do not recommend doing the following:
- splash out the accumulated irritation;
- hurt a partner;
- prove yourself.
Then, what should be considered the right purpose of a conversation? Here are the two main goals, according to Gottman:
- tell how you perceive and feel the current situation;
- understand how your partner feels and perceives it.
Actually, there’s even a third goal, which is not always achievable, though. It is to agree on how to prevent such situations in the future. How to deal with contradictions in views, habits or desires. That is, come to a decision.
Alas, not all life situations can be predicted. Therefore, the third goal of the conversation, although attractive, is optional. If two main goals have been achieved, such a conversation will be healing.
Do not forget a simple wisdom: “Communication is the key.” Talk about your feelings! And listen, listen to yourself and others. This is the best way to get closer to people and the best way to understand what’s happening to you or your loved ones.