Get into the habit of telling the person you trust what you are feeling. And when you do it, be specific. Don’t exaggerate.
By giving a clear picture of what you are feeling, your companion gets to know you better. Misunderstandings are avoided, and the bond between you strengthens.
When you open up to a person you are not only revealing your humanity, you are acknowledging theirs.
‘I like you.’
‘I’m feeling apprehensive about this.’
‘I feel impatient.’
‘I feel betrayed.’
‘I feel angry, because . . .’
‘I like not only to be loved, but to be told that I am loved; the realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave.’
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Ensure you don’t blame the other person for how you feel.
‘You hurt my feelings’ Nuh. Try instead: ‘I feel hurt with what you did.’
‘You made me angry.’ Nuh. Try instead: ‘I feel angry with what you’ve done’.
We can blame the person for what they did, but not for how we feel. Even though the other person may have acted abominably, we are the ones creating our distress. That’s not to say it’s our fault we are distressed. We see something, interpret it, and create an emotion.
The other person creates the situation; we create the distress.
That doesn’t mean the other person gets away with it, or is free of blame. They are responsible for what they did; we are responsible for the emotions we create about it.
Once we realise it’s we who cause our distress, we also realise we are the solution to it. We can focus on what needs to happen to feel differently.
Yes, blame the person for what they did, but not for how you feel.
Lucy: ‘Bill, you have hurt me deeply.’ Incorrect.
Mary: ‘Bill, I feel deeply hurt.’ Correct.
Mary tells Bill what she is feeling, and she will now work on dealing with the pain she feels. Lucy’s words indicate that she believes that Bill is the cause of her pain, which means Bill will have to make amends, or explain himself, or something, before she can feel good again. She has disempowered herself.
But I digress.
Express your feelings to someone in the right way.
‘I feel afraid’ is better than ‘You are driving like an idiot.’
‘I feel hurt’ is better than ‘You are a jerk.’
‘I feel impatient’ is better than ‘This is ridiculous.’
In each instance, telling the person what you are feeling gives them a chance to respond to you. The person can take action to mitigate your distress. However, if you simply call the other person a jerk, they focus on themselves instead. They focus on defending themselves, not on how to make you feel less afraid.
This isn’t just about our dark emotions. When you are looking forward to something, or enjoying something, say it. Don’t be cool or offhand. Don’t pretend it doesn’t matter. If you are happy about something, express it. It’s a great way to feel connected.
The key: Get into the habit of letting other people know what you are feeling. That way, you become less of a mystery, and you become closer to the person – not on a romantic level necessarily, but on a human level. Sharing our feelings, our vulnerabilities, brings us closer as humans. We all have fears, joys, disappointments, and when we reveal ours we are effectively saying, ‘I feel this way. I’m telling you because I know you have felt this way as well, and I want you understand what I am feeling. I want you to join me in what I am feeling. Join me, in my pain/my joy. Now. In this moment. Join me.’
It’s a very human message. Every feeling we share: anger, curiosity, bewilderment . . . is a human message to say, ‘Please understand me. Join me.’
Every feeling we share is one more bond towards satisfying our deep need to belong.
‘One of the reasons people hesitate to share their vulnerabilities is that they fear they will be seen as weak or needy but, in fact, they are allowing themselves to be seen as human.’
Ron Brafman, from Fiona Smith’s article, ‘When it all just clicks into place’, The Australian Financial Review, 30 November, 2010.