You know how difficult it can be to articulate something that is bothering you when you don’t want to hurt the other person?
And you know the feeling of drifting gradually away from a person emotionally?
In this article, I show you my own step-by-step process for how I overcame my old pattern and learned how to talk more openly and honestly about what’s going on in myself.
I promise you it’s more than worth the effort, as it filled my life with more fulfillment and happiness.
Let’s dive right into it.
1. Maybe Learn from the Mistakes Your Father or Mother Did
My father never spoke or even showed emotions.
Only one time do I remember seeing him crying, and it was when his mother died.
Often our lovely dads (sometimes also moms) aren’t good role models when it comes to opening up about their emotions.
The first step in my transformation process was to realize that his inability to talk about feelings was one of the key reasons why my parents’ marriage broke down.
So, I started with the intention to do this better in my own life.
Seeing the mistakes of my parents as learning opportunities for myself and my own life also gave them a positive meaning, which helped me a lot.
2. Learning Through My Own Pain
My own first relationships collapsed because of my inability to talk about my feelings.
After I had such bad experiences, I realized:
I have to start sharing my feelings and thoughts with my partner, otherwise a healthy and lasting relationship won’t be possible.
Like Brené Brown puts it…
Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.
This was a second confirmation for me that I needed to face the pain of speaking about my emotions.
3. Starting with Small Steps
So, in subsequent relationships I worked hard to overcome my fears by starting with sharing my feelings about small things.
Here are some examples of what I shared with my partner to start training this habit.
With time I increased the level of intimacy.
- How I felt after watching a movie
- How I felt about the weather
- How I felt after a comment from the neighbor
- How I felt after a comment from a friend
- How I felt after a certain look from my partner
4. Starting with Positive Emotions
When you try to speak about your feelings regarding certain behaviors of your partner, it gets even more delicate.
We all know that how we talk to our partners about our own feelings can sometimes leave them feeling offended and hurt.
A game changer for me was to start by mentioning positive feelings.
- It made me really happy that you cared about…
- I feel truly loved, when you hug me like this.
- It gives me a feeling of belonging when you look at me like this.
Positive things are way easier to express.
As a result, my partner started to mention more positive things as well.
After mentioning a lot of positive aspects, the hurdle of mentioning negative feelings in between is much lower.
5. See the End in Mind
Often there are situations where I’m on edge and feel cornered in a double bind.
Should I tell them or not?
To activate my courage and to give me the push to express my feelings, the following focus helped me a lot:
I always remind myself about the past broken relationships, mine and the one between my parents.
I tell myself, that if I don’t express my feelings with the goal to not hurt, there will come a bigger hurt in the future.
There will come a bigger disconnection and dissatisfaction if I don’t take these small steps.
This focus always supported me, pushing me over the edge in the right direction.
6. The Other Person Feels it Anyway – Just on Another Level
Another realization that helped me was the following:
I realized that even if I shut up and said nothing, my body language would often reveal my true thoughts.
There have been a ton of situations in my life, where my partner felt that something was wrong with me.
If you know each other well, this will be more often than not be the case.
So, at some point I said to myself: If she is going to see it later anyways, I would rather be upfront with her about my feelings.
And if I find a smart way to express them, then in the end it will mean less pain for the both of us.
7. Expressing Negative Feelings the Right Way
Especially in my coaching apprenticeship I learned how to express negative feelings the right way.
The golden rule is to communicate always in “I statements.”
- As my friend mentioned ____, I felt like ___.
- If you do ___ to me, I feel like ___.
With I statements we don’t attack the other person.
It’s just a message about ourselves.
This way of communicating makes it easier to express it.
8. Don’t Blame the Person, Blame the Behavior – Using Effective Wording
Do the following sentences resonate with you?
- It’s always the same, you are so selfish.
- Again, you are making decisions without asking me. For me it feels like ___. It would be nice if you could change this behavior.
In the first sentence, you blame the person. You attach bad behavior to their personality, which leads to criticism of the person.
It is blaming and gives the other person the feeling that they are not enough.
In the second sentence, however, you blame the bad behavior of the person, combined with an I statement.
You differentiate clearly between the bad behavior and the person.
The second version makes it much more likely that you can have an objective talk about the topic, and that the other person doesn’t take it personally.
9. Sharing Your Struggle Deepens Your Relationship
For me, it was always a big release as I shared my struggles openly with my partner.
Often, we all struggle with this challenge.
Knowing that your partner also struggles with this can create a deeper connection.
Sharing my intention to develop a deeper connection with my partner through being more honest and open about my feelings never resulted in a negative reaction.
One time we even ended up making a game out supporting each other.
If you do it playfully together it makes it so much easier.
I can’t emphasis this enough: the long-term benefits exceed any potential downsides.
Not only has my relationship with my partner improved, but so have my relationships with my friends, family, and even my relationships in the workplace.
My personal benefits of changing my old behavior patterns are:
- More meaningful connections in my life
- A deeper feeling of belonging
- A feeling of a very deep connection with my partner
- A feeling of deep satisfaction and fulfillment
- A deeper happiness in my life
Most of the benefits I described are fundamental needs of the human being.
We are all hard-wired to want connection and belonging.
This is the reason my life feels so much richer since taking control of my personal transformation.
I sincerely hope this article helps you to go through the same process and feel the same joy along the way!