Thursday, November 5, 2009

How to communicate your feelings.

Post 362 - Use “I Messages” to communicate with others when feelings are involved. They’re called I messages because the focus is on you, and the message is about yourself. When using I messages, you take responsibility for your own feelings, rather than accusing another person of making you feel a certain way.

There are four parts to an “I message” -

1. "When ..."
Describe the person’s behavior you’re reacting to in an objective, non-blaming and non-judgmental way.

2. "The effects are ..."
Describe the concrete or tangible effects of that behavior. Your reaction is the most important part for the other person to understand.

3. "I feel ..."
Say how the behavior makes you feel. This is important to prevent a buildup of feelings.

4. "I’d prefer ..."
Say what you want or what you'd prefer the other person do. (You can sometimes omit this part if it’s very obvious).

Here are some examples:

"When you take company time for your personal affairs and then don’t have time to finish the urgent work I give you, I get furious. I want you to finish the company’s work before you spend time on your personal affairs."

"It’s very hard for me to keep our place neat and clean when you leave your clothes and other stuff laying around. It creates a lot more work for me and it takes a lot longer, and I get resentful about it. I’d prefer that you put your clothes away and put your trash in the basket."

Common mistakes are:

- Not expressing a feeling, but expressing a belief or judgment instead.

- Only expressing negative feelings.

- When your nonverbal body language contradicts the words. For example, smiling when irritated.

Here are some guidelines to consider when expressing your feelings:

- Be specific rather than general about how you feel. Consistently using only one or two words to say how you’re feeling, such as bad or upset, is too vague and general. What kind of bad or upset? (specify irritated, mad, anxious, afraid, hurt, lonely, etc.).

- Specify the degree of the feelings, and you’ll reduce the chances of being misunderstood. For example, some people may think when you say, "I’m angry," it means you’re extremely angry, when you actually mean you’re just a little irritated.

- When expressing anger or irritation, first describe the specific behavior you don’t like, then your feelings. This helps to prevent the other person from immediately becoming defensive or intimidated. When the first words they hear are, "I'm angry with you," they may miss the rest of the message.

- If you have mixed feelings, say so, and express each feeling and explain what each feeling is about. For example: "I’ve got mixed feelings about what you just did. I’m glad and thankful that you helped me, but I didn’t like the comment about being stupid. I thought it was disrespectful and unnecessary and I found it irritating."

- Whenever you tell someone they’re wrong and you’re angry at the same time, you’ll probably make an enemy. Anytime negative emotion enters into a conversation, the conversation continues but communication stops.

- To get better information, ask “What,” not “Why” questions.

- “What” questions are fact oriented (“What was in your mind when you did that?”).

- “Why” questions trigger emotional responses. (“Why did you do that?”)

- Don't argue - listen instead. It’s physically impossible to say something wrong if you’re listening. And you may just learn something about the other person’s point of view. Then test and summarize – “Are you saying that this is what’s important to you?”

And last but not least, be careful of the words you use:

- Avoid the word “but.” Everything said before that word is window dressing and is ignored once you’ve said it.

- The word “try” (“I’ll try to get that done on time”) usually means it’s not going to happen. When someone says “try,” ask more questions. In many cases, they don’t know how to do what they’re being asked to do. They need help and they’re not planning to ask for it.

- Use people’s names when you talk with them. You get more attention from people when you address them by their name.

- Using variety when speaking. Talk fast and then talk more slowly.

- Avoid sarcasm, condescension and negativity. It’s easy for smart people to rip others to shreds in a clever, articulate and funny way. Such “put downs” are never helpful in building meaningful relationships.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Very good advice! I'm going to put this on my bulletin board!