“I feel” will change your relationships.
Learning to express emotion and feelings, to be direct and honest in communication without attacking is a skill that takes practice.
Recently, as I was talking with a friend, I wondered “what is she trying to tell me?” She found it hard to verbalize her emotions about her situation. Sometimes when we are in a funk or a little down, or maybe just out of habit or old fears, we find it hard to put into words exactly how we feel or what we want in our lives.
To say out loud how you feel about something painful or uncomfortable takes practice, but to say it without destroying the other person takes patience and skill .
Don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble saying what you need.
I don’t know many people who can verbalize their true feelings well. It is hard to make yourself that vulnerable. It is like taking off your armor and heading into battle and can cause great anxiety.
That pressure will build if you let it sit, so start in small ways saying how you feel, what you want and need.
It is okay not to like something, to choose your own schedule, to want a family life or personal time. Your desires are valid. So start there. Say, “I prefer broccoli, so I will have that.” Say “I love the color green. I need more fun in my life. I don’t like conflict.”
Now say “I like it when you _____. I feel awful when we ______.”
Work on expressing your desires without criticizing someone else’s and owning your choices. Your choice of green does not say that someone else’s choice is wrong. When they say “I like red,” say “Great!”
I feel sad sometimes when _____________ happens.
There are many reasons why we have trouble expressing feelings, from not wanting to appear weak, having a critical parent, fear of rejection, to simply not knowing how you feel.
Maybe you are afraid to tell someone how you feel, because you think people might think you are weird or ridiculous.
Years ago, when I first realized I had trouble expressing to other people how I felt, my feelings were so complicated and repressed, I was like a pressure cooker. When I let my guard down, I would let loose an angry oratory all at once. So, it was easier to pretend everything was fine than clean up a mess I might make letting it out.
I also learned a defensive maneuver in my twenties. If I exercised control over anger, joy, sadness, or a broken heart, I would appear less dramatic and more balanced. Inside I might be outraged or over the moon excited, but the outside would appear nice and happy trying to keep the acceptable even keel. However, it might come out later at the wrong time in the wrong way.
As I have learned to express my genuine emotions, I have become happier and less agitated, less bottled up and anxious.
Even though I have made mistakes and revealed too much at times, I am getting better at expressing myself without anger, crying, embarrassment or having to explain why. .
Try the I feel exercise again, but list as many things as you can until you can’t think of any more things. List how you feel about everything you can think of.
Trust me it takes practice to respond with “I feel bad when ___ happens” when you are used to telling the other person how they are wrong.
Try it: I feel ______.
Write it down. You can tear it up or put it in your bible or book, but get it out. If you feel angry, list why and what. Be specific. It is therapy to define it and get it out. Make a list and brainstorm feelings without censure.
Now try, “I want.” Then, “I need.”
I feel _______
So, the next time someone says “What is wrong with you?” Or, “What’s wrong honey?”
Ask for time to express yourself and take a breath.
What you think and how you want are important, so take the time to really feel what you are experiencing and then try to verbalize the emotion.
I am angry that this happened or It makes me feel awful when we_______. It scares me that ____. I would like_______. I want___________.
You will be amazed at how expressing your true feelings and not attacking your partner in any way will open a discussion and let them be part of a solution.
Having said that, your partner is not the solution or responsible for your feelings. You are responsible for your own emotions and how you proceed based on what you will allow in your life. Expressing yourself is a way to bring two people to understanding. Understanding is not always agreement.
I practice expressing myself everyday by writing. Maybe it would help you to write down what you are feeling.