This is the second part of a two-part blog post entitled How to Use Awareness to Improve Communication.
Speaking from your experience
In the previous post, we broke down internal experience into three parts: thinking, feeling, and sensing. We are now going to learn how to speak from each of these parts.
Once you know what you are experiencing, the next step is to express it in a way that slows the fight down and helps to calm you and your partner.
Essentially, you are translating what you are thinking, feeling and sensing into words.
Speaking from thinking
Don’t believe everything you think, because it just might not be true. For example, you might be mad at your partner and think, “She is being so irrational.” This statement is a judgment, not a fact.
Someone else could see her behavior and think that it makes perfect sense, given her situation. Everything in your head is a thought that you made up and should be stated as such.
It’s very different to say to your partner “You are not listening to me. You never listening to me” then to say “I am thinking (or imagining) that you might not be listening to me. Is that true?”
Speaking from feeling
This is the most important category that should be focused on when trying to improve communication with your partner.
Most fights are fueled by underlying negative emotions. Have you ever been discussing something benign with your partner, such as where to go for dinner, and somehow the discussion becomes about everything that was ever wrong with the relationship? By itself, the dinner choice would not normally cause a fight, but the unconscious feelings that drive how you interact with you partner will.
Becoming aware of these feelings and speaking about them vulnerably will help you solve the real issues that arise in relationships. How do you do this? First, you have a right to feel whatever you are feeling, and your partner has a right to feel whatever they are feeling, even if neither makes sense.
Feelings are not always logical, and that’s ok. When you speak about your feelings, you want to use the simplest language possible. Start the sentence with “I am” or “I’m feeling” and then state an emotion, such as “I am feeling sad.” Or “I am mad.” Or “I’m scared.” These are all good examples of speaking from feeling.
Avoid using the word “like” after “I am feeling.” If you say “I feel like you don’t care about me,” this statement is actually a thought plus an emotion. The emotion is hurt or anger and the thought is, “You don’t care about me.”
Sorting thinking and feeling out from each other can be tricky. A clearer way to communicate the above statement would be “I am hurt and I having the thought that you don’t care about me. Is that true?”
Speaking from sensing
Most people don’t talk to each other about body sensations, as it can seem kind of strange to do this.
You would want to use this category if you are trying to heighten connection by conveying a deeper understanding of an emotional experience.
This category is pretty straightforward when putting it into words. Just state the physical sensation and the location in the body.
For example, “I am feeling tense in my shoulders.” I feel numb in my hands.” “I felt butterflies in my stomach when you said that you loved me.”
If you remember just one thing from this post …
The key to de-escalating a fight is to speak vulnerably from your own experience. The next time you are talking with your partner remember to stop, breathe, check in with yourself and speak about your feelings by using the above tips.