Imagine you are holding a red balloon in your hand. You start to blow up the balloon, continuing to fill with air more and more until – POP! – a piercing sound and red scraps of latex all over the floor. That red balloon is like a cherished relationship, flexible and forgiving to a point. If you fill your relationship with negative air, resentments, anger, constant arguments, it will eventually burst. To preserve the integrity of any relationship, be it your spouse, your child, your parent or your friend, in a heated situation, you must let the air out.
One way of letting the air out is to express your feelings in a healthy way, rather than keeping them inside and letting them build up. Here’s how:
1. Stop and Take a Deep Breath
Take a moment and get centered before you express how you feel. This will prevent you from speaking out in anger and saying something you might regret later.
2. Notice how you feel.
Is it anger? Frustration? Sadness? Disappointment? These are all very different feelings that may have different sensations in your body. Does your face get hot when you are angry? Do you feel a knot in your stomach when nervous? This is important information that will help you clarify your feelings before you tell the person you are upset with.
3. Use an “I” statement to express yourself.
Your feelings are yours. Other people have no control over you or your emotions, so when it comes time to let someone know how you feel, use an “I” statement. When you start with an “I” statement it reduces the likelihood that the other person will get defensive or upset. It’s about YOU not THEM.
You statements: I statements:
“You’re driving me crazy!” “I feel angry right now.”
“You’re always late.” “I feel worried, when you don’t come home on time.”
“You never listen to me!” “I feel annoyed when you talk over me.”
Remember, feelings are different from thoughts and beliefs. Feelings are sensations in your body. If you can replace the word “think” into your statement and it still makes sense, then it’s a thought or belief.
“I feel that you take me for granted.”
Replace feel with think: “I think that you take me for granted.” THIS IS A BELIEF!
“I feel so frustrated when things don’t go my way.”
Replace feel with think: “I think so frustrated when things don’t go my way.” THIS IS A FEELING!
4. Tell the person what you need in that moment.
Once you are clear about your feelings, the next step is to tell the person what you need. Maybe you need a break for a moment to clear your head. Maybe there is something they can do next time to help the situation. No matter what, be sure to lead with an “I” statement whenever possible. The word “please” also goes a long way!
“I would like it if you could please call me when you are going to be late.”
“ I need you to appreciate me more by acknowledging when I do something around the house.”
“I need to take some time to think right now, so I don’t say anything mean”
5. Follow through with your words.
If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you asked for a break, then take it. Don’t start up the argument again. Following through is especially important when you are dealing with a conflict with your child. Imagine your child has been cursing at you. You’ve let her know that it hurts you. You’ve told her that she need to use nice words, even when angry, otherwise she will get a time-out. You better believe that she will test you to see if you are for real. The next time she curses, she better get a time-out or she will not take you seriously the next time you try to discipline.
6. Be prepared to do something in return.
Just as you ask for respect when you express your feelings and needs, your partner (or child, or mother, or father, or friend) will ask the same from you. It is important to respect their feelings too and follow through on their requests of you, whenever possible.