Stop for a minute and think about the hardest information to communicate to another person. I’m betting you came up with strong feelings, particularly negative ones. Just about all of us have some feelings we are more comfortable sharing than others. On top of that, sharing feelings that are tied to someone else’s actions, that’s another ball game entirely.
Whenever someone’s action is tied to a negative feeling we experience, we have an important choice to make. Do we let it go, possibly harboring resentment? Do we get them back in some way? Do we completely ignore it? Do we blow up at them? Do we communicate directly and head-on?
Depending on the role models we’ve had during our life, one of the possible options will look the most attractive. Few of us have role models that use the last option: communicate directly and head-on. Fortunately there’s a really simple formula that can help make direct communication about negative feelings somewhat easier. It’s called “I feel…” statements.
I feel… statements have a particular formula that help us clearly and directly communicate important information while minimizing the chance the other person gets defensive and communication stops. They are particularly useful when someone has hurt us or we are angry. Here’s the drill:
Step 1: Take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to think
Step 2: Identify the emotion as specifically as possible – is it anger? disappointment? sadness?
Step 3: Use this formula to create the statement: I feel ____________ , when __________ . The first blank is the feeling word and the second blank is the context that gives rise to the feeling. For example, “I feel disappointed when you forget to call me.”
Point of caution: be sure the first three words are ALWAYS I feel emotion. When we say I feel that or I feel like, the power of the formula is destroyed.
So the next time you have a choice to make, try practicing “I feel…” and see what happens!