I Want to Tell You How I Feel
In Nonviolent Communication classes we spend a whole bunch of time figuring out how to feel our feelings. How do we notice them? How to distinguish feelings from thoughts, games to discern one feeling from another. Practices to enhance our capacity to say what they are. We have sheets and cards and magnets and games. All so we can know what our feelings are.
And now you want to share them.
Just because you are having a feeling, and have a relationship with someone, and even if they are associated with the feeling you are experiencing, it is NOT a reason to share your feelings out loud.
Feelings —emotions and sensations, are your bodymind’s way of giving you specific, direct and quick information. "Am I safe?" or “Do I want more of what is happening now or do I want less of what’s happening now?” Feelings are an internal information technology system. Almost our only one. Yet as a culture of people we have lost our relationship to them. We rarely notice them. If we do notice them, we spend lots of time pretending they aren’t true. “I’m not angry, grr.!” “I’m not sad, sniff”. Or the other way around when someone says to you, “Don’t cry.” or “Calm down!”.
The reason we spend so much time on the topic in classes is to help you with a few things.
1. Understand that your feelings are a design element of the human that has extreme value.
2. Support your noticing of what is happening for you.
3. To teach you how to interpret the messages well. Why you are having the particular feeling you are having in response to what has happened.
4. To help you become super aware of what your own feelings are and remember that others are having feelings as well, and theirs may be quite different than your own in response to the same stimulus.
Doing some of the exercises we offer in class helps you to discern the nuances of different feelings. This will help you in real time difficult situations, stay connected to yourself and make decisions that serve you and the others involved.
And in some cases, it may be a decision to not share what you are feeling in a particular moment.
As you might remember [since I write about it in almost every post] that it is our needs, our values, an internal experience we are longing for that is the cause of our feelings. The stimulus, of course, is likely something someone said or did. But the particular feeling you are having or I am having is unique to us and what is important to us in relation to our deeply held beliefs.
Sharing them with anyone is not required.
Here are 3 examples of when I would encourage you not to share your feelings.
1. You are super upset. Likely if you are angry, or even just slightly frustrated, telling someone right away is probably not going to get you more of what you want. Because when you are angry chances are that you aren't in touch with the need. You are probably more connected to the story about how wrong the other person is. If you say that, then the other person will defend their position, and we all know what happens. Hours and hours of sharing opinions about how the other should have done something. Shouldn’t have said something, Should have understood what you meant, and on and on and on and on (and in my past personal experience...on and on and on. I was always up for a good couple of hours of this blame game).
2. The other person is upset. Even if you are calm, if the other person is upset, please consider that they, in that exact moment, might not be able to or even interested in what you are feeling. They don’t have the mental capacity for empathy. So if you are looking to be understood, it is likely not going to happen.
3. You are in distress and the thing that is stimulating your distress is something that has repeated for you many, or even a few times. In this case, maybe take a minute to consider the impact of sharing your recurring distress with someone over and over. Do they enjoy hearing it? Is sharing it with them bringing you closer to them?
Here’s the point:
~Knowing your feelings is critical for navigating life choices and knowing what is important to you.
~Sharing them is dependent on what need you are trying to meet. If sharing them seems like an effective strategy, then please do. Otherwise, please do not.
1. Think of a time when you shared how you were feeling with someone and the conversation didn’t lead to a place that you hoped.
2. Connect to the need(s) that was causing the feeling and write it/them here:
3. List three ways (other than the one you tried) that would have led to that/those need(s) being met.