Let’s be honest: There are about five-hundred things most of us would rather do than have to communicate a hard feeling to someone we love. Clean the toilet? Sure. Sit in traffic? Yep. Reach down into the garbage disposal to pull out the soggy thing stuck at the bottom? Sounds great. Our avoidance around communicating isn’t because we are bad communicators or because we don’t care about our relationships; It’s actually because most of us find it easier to let the hard feeling blow by so we can avoid starting an argument or letting a conversation with a loved one spin out of control. We want to stay connected so we just stuff the hard feelings away.
Sounds like a pretty solid plan, right? Ugh. If only. In reality, when we don’t communicate clearly and openly, our emotions end up coming out in leaky or explosive or passive aggressive ways. This doesn’t feel so great (to us or our loved ones). The good news, though, is that there are some pretty simple ways to clearly and kindly share our difficult feelings with someone we love without losing the connection or closeness.
Here’s an easy, 3-step process to remember when you’re needing to share a difficult feeling:
Make it safe. Use parts. Check-in.
1. Make It Safe
Before you open up about your feelings, make sure things are emotionally safe. This might mean making sure your person is in a place to hear you. Are they drifting off to sleep or running out the door for work? If so, it may not be the best time.
Another important aspect of making things safe is asking for consent. Give your partner, friend, or family member a heads up and get their permission for you to share about the big feeling you’re having. Use touch, affirmation, and closeness to affirm the relationship bond.
- Example: Look at your partner, grab their hands, and say, “I just had a big emotion come up. I want to share it with you because you are a safe person for me. Is this a good time to do that?”
- Example: Before you text your friend to air out your grievances with them, check in and ask if they have bandwidth to hold your emotions. Say, “I value our friendship deeply. I am feeling hurt about something that was said last week. Do you have space to talk about this with me today?” Also, remember that these conversations usually go best in-person or on the phone rather than via text
2. Use Parts
Using “parts” is a fantastic communication skill that allows us to hold space for nuance, flexible thinking, and gray areas. This is super important because it’s normal to have conflicting feelings and experiences. We need to honor that. To practice this, acknowledge that different parts of you may be feeling different things.
- Example: “One part of me knows you were just joking when you made that comment, and another part of me feels really hurt about it. I want to give the hurt part a voice right now.”
- Example: “Even though my wisest self knows that you are working so hard, my resentful part is getting loud right now. Can you help me hold space while I share what my resentful part feels?”
- Example: “A part of me knows it wasn’t your intention at all, and another part just feels so bummed. I’d like us to listen to the bummed out part together. Are you game?”
After you share the emotion, check in with your partner about how they’re doing. This doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to manage your partner’s emotions. It’s about making sure each of you have space to feel whatever is there.
- Example: “How was it for me to share that with you? Did that feel safe for you?”
- Example: “Thank you for listening. I feel [better/calmer/relieved]. Is there anything you need from me right now?”
- Example: “I love you. I’m so glad we can talk about hard things. What do we both need to stay connected right now?”
If you find yourself having a difficult time communicating your emotions (or if your partner, family member, or friend is having a hard time hearing you!) relationship therapy might be the way to go. Making space for emotions doesn’t have to be a process fraught with tension, pain, and frustration. Remember that it is a gift to your partner for you to invite them into your emotions in an empowered way. Your big emotions deserve to be heard and held with tenderness and love. Way better than garbage-disposal cleanout, right?
About Estes Therapy
Here at Estes Therapy we like to put our minds together and collaborate on pieces in order to get the best content for our readers. So when you see a post by “Estes Therapy” it means we all worked together to provide even more well rounded information on these topics from the differing experiences and viewpoints of the team!