On this crazy ride called life, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll experience feelings that relate to other people. And sometimes, it is going to feel important to be able to express your feelings with those people in ways that feel good.
But, what do you do if other people feel upset by your feelings? Or worse, criticize you, shame or manipulate you, or use your feelings against you?
In today’s post, I am going to give you some tips and tools to express your feelings in healthier ways.
But first, I want to tell you my own personal history with this.
To say that I am a highly sensitive and empathic person would be an understatement. I live, breathe, and speak the Language of Emotions.
I am very emotionally intuitive (known as clairsentience) and I can usually tell what people are REALLY feeling, what they REALLY need, and what is holding them back, even when they are trying to hide those things. I can get to the heart of the matter in a flash and I make it a conscious practice to trust my emotions as the wise counsel that they are.
I cry at the drop of a hat, laugh way too loud at “inappropriate” things, and pretty much always wear my heart on my sleeve.
I also ask myself, and others, uncomfortable and totally life-changing questions.
Being a Truth Teller, I call ’em like I see ’em and have a real knack for knowing when the energetic and emotional intentions don’t match what is being said. (AKA I have a very sensitive bullshit meter!)
These are all qualities that make me excellent in my work.
But, uh, these highly emotional qualities aren’t always welcomed by others.
I’ve been ridiculed for being “too sensitive” all of my life. I’ve been punished, in a variety of ways, for expressing my feelings, and I’ve had people use my feelings against me more times than I can count.
I’ve even had people end relationships with me because they can’t handle how easily I express my feelings. People have lashed out at me, been offended, and just plain unsupportive.
For much of my life, these types of reactions led me to believe that my feelings weren’t valid, that others could care less about how I feel, and that I am just too much to deal with.
But, life has shown me that trying to be someone other than who I am is the most miserable existence possible.
So, in an effort to truly express myself and feel more fulfilled, I’ve done a crap ton of self-acceptance work around my feelings and emotions.
As a result, my relationships, while certainly not perfect, are the healthiest they have been my entire life and I feel more comfortable than ever to express my Truth. I feel seen, heard, and understood. And I am often on the receiving end of unsurpassed empathy and grace.
Having these kinds of relationships was a lifelong goal of mine and I want to share what I learned along the way.
Tips to Express Your Feelings in a Way That Honors You and The Other Person
First, I’ve got a little truth bomb for you:
The only way to ensure that you won’t upset others when you express your feelings is to not express them. Ultimately, you aren’t in control of other people’s experiences and can never be sure how someone will react.
But, if you are anything like me, you also know that keeping your feelings all bottled up inside and not communicating with the people you love is a recipe for emotional disaster.
So, here are some tips and tools to help you communicate in a way that honors both you and the other person:
1. Give Yourself Some Space
In my own personal experience, the biggest heartaches and misunderstandings in my relationships have come when I have tried to communicate my emotions before I really understood them. For example, I’ve lashed out in anger before really knowing the boundaries and values that were triggering the anger. This kind of lashing out will almost always create a feeling of defensiveness in the other person and it totally blocks the flow of open and loving communication.
So, take some to time to really feel what you are feeling and discern the needs (and possibly the unintegrated shadow aspects) that are driving them.
2. Always Use Discernment
After you’ve taken the time to fully understand what you are feeling and why you are feeling it, it is important to discern if communicating with someone is really important. When you give yourself space to fully process your emotions, you may find that it isn’t actually necessary to talk it through with the other person. You may discover that your feelings had absolutely nothing to do with the other person.
3. Share With Trustworthy People
If you decide that you do need to outwardly express your emotions, be sure that you do so with people who have earned the right to your vulnerability. In the words of Brene Brown:
Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?”
People who treat you like garbage when you are vulnerable with them have not earned the right to hear your stories. It is important to nurture relationships where it feels like a two-way street, where you both care about the other person’s needs, desires, and feelings without tiptoeing into codependency. This is essential to feeling fulfilled in your relationships.
If you find yourself repeating patterns of an unhealthy relationship, such as being mistreated, belittled, or manipulated, this is a key sign that you’d benefit from some shadow integration work to heal the underlying patterns. You can learn how to do shadow work in my online workshop called Shadow + Light.
4. Learn how to communicate with clarity, empathy, and compassion.
If you have done all of the above and are ready to express your feelings to another person, I recommend a method called Non-Violent Communication (get the book here).
In a nutshell, Non-Violent Communication (AKA NVC) is a method of communicating that is built on the idea that every action is an attempt to meet a need and that when we do not know effective strategies for meeting our needs, we resort to “violence” which can look like aggression, yelling, blaming, and in the worst cases, life-threatening acts of violence.
The quick and dirty version of the NVC formula is to communicate the following, with empathy and compassion:
- Your observation – “When I hear…”
- Your feelings – “I feel…”
- Your needs or values – “because I need/value…”
- The concrete action you’d like to be taken – “Would you be willing to…”
As I mentioned in the first point, you will need to first understand your emotions before you can use this approach to express your feelings and it may feel a bit awkward at first. We just aren’t taught how to communicate our needs without blame, ultimatums, or demands, and so it feels a bit foreign. But, it is oh so worth that period of discomfort to be able to lovingly communicate.
I’d encourage you to read the book and have those closest to you read it as well. You can get the book here. If you are working on this with your significant other, I also really love the book Getting The Love You Want by Harville Hendricks.
5. Take Responsibility For Your Needs
We are interdependent beings (which is totally different than being codependent), meaning we won’t thrive without others assisting us in our needs. But, when all’s said and done, it is up to you to ensure that you feel fulfilled in your life.
When you make requests of another person, do so without blame, ultimatums, or demands. Most likely, the other person’s wants you to feel your best and will be delighted to help you in honoring your needs and values.
But, when you express your feelings, it is important to remember that it isn’t their job to do so. They always have the right to refuse your request and it will be up to you to figure out ways to get those needs met without their help. If you’d like me to talk more about that, be sure to let me know.
6. Be Patient With Yourself and Others
As I mentioned above, most of us aren’t taught how to communicate with others in a healthy way that benefits everyone involved. If you have been communicating in unhealthy ways for your whole life, it is, without a doubt, it is going to take some time to learn these new skills.
So, if you are in a relationship with someone where you feel sure that communication is an issue, it is important to be patient with yourself and others.
Go into this with a beginner’s mindset and don’t expect yourself or others to get all of this right away. It will take time to unlearn all of the unhealthy communication skills that you’ve learned in the past.
I can’t guarantee that you won’t upset others when you express your feelings. What I know for sure, though, is that learning to communicate in a way that honors both people is a highly potent skill that can bring about deep healing in your relationships.