How to expressing feelings

My posts on confident communication, or assertiveness, have looked at how to say no, and types of behavior that are not assertive – such as passive, manipulative and aggressive. I also went over a “bill of rights“, that expands on the underlying mindset behind assertiveness.

One right is to be able to say what or how you feel, and what you want. Being unable to say how you feel can lead to frustration, and ultimately conflict. If you feel strongly about something, its important to acknowledge it, and make others aware of how you feel.

A useful way to express feelings is to use the following structure:-

“I feel ….”

“I feel …. when you …..”

“I feel …. when you …. because ….”

For example “I feel upset when you shout at me” or “I feel guilty when I see you look so tired because I’m not able to work more”

What’s important is not to either take responsibility for others emotions or blame them as a person – in the above examples the link is with particular behavior (“shout at me”) and appearance (“looking tired”) . If you had said “you’ve made me upset” or “you make me feel guilty” then you are holding them responsible for how you feel – which is not the idea!

As with saying no, its best to avoid including apologies. Again, you are simply saying how you feel. If you get in the habit of saying how you feel there and then, it avoids feelings “bottling up”. The danger of “bottling up” is that when you do express yourself, built up frustration and anger from previous occasions will come tumbling out.

Some things are quite hard to say, but the structure above should help keep it simple. And if you are simply saying how you feel, and possibly why, its hard for someone to come back and argue with what is basically a “statement of feeling”. If they do, you can reiterate the same way:-

“I don’t shout at you” – “I’m simply saying that I get upset when you do shout at me”

“I’m not tired” – “OK, but I’m just saying that when you do look tired I feel guilty, because I’m able to work more.”

Remember, the more you practice, the easier it gets.

Priscilla Palmer August 13, 2007 at 10:41 pm

I have stuggled most of my life with being able to deal effectively with people who are shouting at me. When I was a kid I had a really bad habit of fist fighting over almost anything. As an adult I knew I couldn’t punch everyone who raised their voice so, I would clam up.

You have offered some great tips. I wish I had understood these years ago.

David Rogers August 14, 2007 at 7:43 pm

Thanks for the positive comments. I must confess that it took me a long while to move from “passive” to “assertive” in my teens and early twenties. It does take practice and persistence.

Carylle September 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

I have discovered an interesting place to work on expressing my opinion in a group. This is a big challenge for me.

I am going to keep exploring your site.

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