Are you struggling in your relationships? Not sure how to tell someone something that’s important to you? Is it a challenge to stand up for your needs or maybe you’re overly assertive?
You’re not alone! Communication can be extremely challenging but with the right tools at your disposal you can practice assertive, kind communication. Using my experience working in Wilderness Therapy with troubled youth and young adults, I will demystify two things for you: how to talk about how you feel and how to give someone feedback.
1. How to talk about how you feel: Use an “I feel” statement-this is a classic in the therapy field. Always start with the word “I.” Never start with “you.” This isn’t about them (even if it is!), it’s about how you feel. Don’t worry-I’ll give you a couple examples.
–I feel (insert primary emotion). The emotion is something you feel within yourself, not something you feel towards someone or something else. For example, anger and resentment are not primary emotions but being embarrassed or ashamed are primary emotions. The embarrassment for example, can lead to anger at the person who embarrassed you. Really dig deep to understand what emotions and beliefs are underlying how you think you may feel.
-I feel this way when (insert event that led to you feeling this way).
– I feel this way because (insert the beliefs or values that are underlying the emotion).
–I hope (insert a hope you have control over and a hope that is outside your control).
For example: I feel sad when you put me down like that because it’s hurtful and I value myself and my self esteem and I don’t think it’s right for you to say something like that. I hope that I can continue to stand up for myself when things like this happen and I also hope that you can see how you’ve hurt me and wont’ do it again.
or, more positively, I feel joyful when spending time with you because I really value our relationship and I’ve really missed you. I hope that I can make more time in the future to spend time with you and I hope that you can make time to see me as well.
2. How to give someone feedback (both positive and constructive).
First and foremost, the feedback must come from a place of care. You are trying to build the person up (hence the word constructive, not negative). If you’re steaming and angry, take some time to cool down so that you can present the feedback in a way that won’t make them defensive or angrier themselves.
Also, ask them if they’re open to some feedback. You only want to give someone feedback if they’re open to it.
–State your observation. This is an event or an action that cannot be disputed-it happened and you both know it (whether positive or negative).
–State your perception. This is what you think about what they did. Again, be sure to start all sentences with “I.” You can say “It’s my perception that…” or “I perceive the situation to be…”
–State your suggestion. What would you like for them to continue or cease doing? “It’s my suggestion that you….”
Examples: “Alex, Are you open to my feedback?” [Alex says yes]
Formal route (to help you see the pieces all together): “It’s my observation that you came into the house and took your shoes off because they were dirty. It’s my perception that that was really thoughtful of you because you knew how much time I spent cleaning the carpet. So it’s my suggestion that you continue to be as thoughtful and considerate.”
Informal route: “Hey Alex, are you open to hearing something I have to say?” [yes]. “I saw that you took your shoes off before coming in the house because they were dirty and I really appreciate that and think it was really thoughtful because you knew I spent a lot of time cleaning the carpet. So it would be great if you could continue to be contentious like that in the future.”
Once you give the feedback, let it go. You cannot change anyone, including their behavior so you must let go of the outcome. You can, however, observe if they’re responding to your feedback and by respond I mean taking action to change whatever it is that they did (in the case of constructive feedback). If they’re not responding to the feedback and are still hurting you, really examine the relationship and if it’s one you can let go of, do so. You deserve to be treated with respect and care and life is too short to spend it with people who bring you down.
It may seem complicated and a little confusing but if you practice, it gets easier and easier and people become less defensive, you can heal relationships with these two tools and experience more joy in your relationships with other people. If you have any questions about it, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenna Pacelli is a Holistic Health Coach in training, studying with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She helps yoga practitioners and techies in the San Francisco Bay Area struggling with energy levels, stress, reaching their optimum weight and aligning their lives with their values create lasting change and fully embodied health and wellbeing.
Jenna believes that by creating health and wellness at the physical, emotional and mental levels, it is inevitable that joy and a deep understanding of one’s purpose follow.
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