What about my feelings?
Feelings are. Period. End of sentence. We cannot control our feelings. We can only control what we do with our feelings. In my work with clients we talk a lot about “feeling your feelings” and then deciding what you want to do about them. Too often we mishandle our feelings. Judged as inappropriate, we try to deny, change or bury them; this simply does not work. It is a bit like trying to hold a beach ball under water… it always pops up somewhere. Feelings are similar. We try to hide, deny or stuff them. Then we overreact about a small issue: we snap at our kids , find fault with a coworker… or we are just plain cranky. Ignored feelings, like beach balls, will pop up somewhere! Usually at inopportune moments, creating an even bigger mess! We need to express our feelings and allow others to do the same.
When someone shares their feelings, the best thing to do is validate them — whether or not we agree with them — instead of trying to talk someone out of their feelings or “help” change them.
One day our outgoing son came home from middle school and said, “I don’t have any friends.” Perplexed by this statement because he was a pretty popular kid, I did the absolutely wrong thing and replied, “Yes, you do,” and proceeded to list a few. Talk about a conversation killer! He didn’t feel listened to, heard or understood. I dismissed his feelings. He felt shut down, said, “Whatever!” and walked away.
I blew it.
I was so caught up in not wanting him to feel this way (my feelings), I missed an opportunity to validate his feelings and discover the story behind them.
I hope the next time he struggled, I responded with, “Sorry you feel that way… that sucks,” and then proceeded to ask questions and listen to what he was trying to communicate. But as a work in progress, I messed up often with all my kids. Please don’t judge yourself on your missteps or failures. Instead, give yourself credit for learning and practicing these skills. Change takes time. I applaud your courage to enter the arena of growth and your willingness to try. Like any skill, the more you practice, the better you become. So keep practicing.
Allowing a loved one to express their feelings, then seeking to clarify and validate them, is a terrific way to show you care and will strengthen your relationship.
This is an excerpt from my #1 Amazon bestseller: Listen, Learn, Love: How to Dramatically Improve Your Relationships in 30 Days or Less!