Bring awareness to the infinite context of your life.
In each moment, creation is unfolding through you.
Step into the power of love, to bring forth your greatest offering.
Communicating affection, care, love, and warmth increase healthy connections in relationships. While connection is often desired, it is also often feared. Ironically, fear creates unhealthy connections which is the very type of connection being feared. In this way, unhealthy connections are formed and reinforced over time, situations, and generations.
On this page, you will find information about the following communication skills:
- Identifying and Resolving Fears preventing closeness in relationships
- Communicating Feelings
- Giving Compliments and Verbal Affection
Please note: the Communication Basics, Communication Skills Part 1, 2, and 4 pages provide additional information about communication skills. To a degree, Communication Skills Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 build on the preceding "Part".
Identifying and Resolving Fears in Relationships
Your feelings are a gift, bringing you information about yourself. Without this information (whether comfortable or uncomfortable), your experiences would lack an awareness and experience of your inner self. Feelings help expose the depth of who you are, beyond your thoughts alone. While thoughts create feelings, feelings can exist after thoughts fade. Thus, your feelings are like a record of your subjective experiences. Bring awareness to your feelings to increase your clarity, choice, and creation of who you are and where you are heading on your amazing journey!
Feelings are information. They do not tell you what to do. They do tell you your emotional temperature in a given situation. If feelings are ignored, the information they could provide is not available and ignorance results. The feelings themselves do not evaporate. Feelings are messages from you, to you. Ignoring them can result in intensified messages in your own unconscious effort towards self understanding. Increasing emotional discomfort may be an indication you are not paying enough attention to the information feelings are offering. Or the discomfort may indicate you are giving attention to the feelings, yet not acting in your best interest.
When we experience hurt, rejection, and/or loss, we may develop an unhealthy emotional attachment to the experience. Believing future emotions are dependent on present experience creates an unhealthy dependence on (attachment to) the experience. Do not depend on the emotion in the experience. Instead, utilize thoughtful consideration: determine what to take from the experience into the future (lessons, new boundaries, facts, a clearer understanding of another's ways, etc). As we go forward in time, unhealthy emotional attachments to the past can be thought of as emotional scar tissue. The scar tissue blocks healthy connection to the present. Emotional attachments to the past create a skewed perception of the present, potentially promoting isolation from current relationship opportunities. Thus, misguided perceptions are self fulfilling, as one feels additional hurt, rejection, and/or loss due to current emotional isolation. Emotional attachments to the past block emotional connections in the present.
The more one perceives emotional isolation, the more emotional scar tissue builds, and the more fear of vulnerability operates. An underlying fear of vulnerability, helplessness, or loss of control may project into the world as an attitude of toughness or over control.
Some signs of emotional attachment:
- believing present happiness is dependent on history
- ruminating about the past
- investing emotional energy into the past
- clinging to the thought the past should be different than it is
- choosing feelings to author memories
- letting feelings set the course of an experience
- letting feelings dictate actions, rather than using thoughtful consideration from a clear perspective
Loving feelings towards others can be covered up by unhealthy emotional attachments. You may be so angry at someone it is difficult to feel love for the person. To break through unhealthy attachment, figure out what you are angry about. Reconsider how you will let the past effect the present. Unhealthy attachments to the past can be due to believing your happiness in the present was dependent/is dependent on someone/something external. However, people and events merely trigger what exists within yourself. Knowing this can reduce unhealthy beliefs about experiences, and increase the power to see meaning in experiences. You can't erase painful memories; but you can decide whether to define yourself as a helpless victim of the past, or as a person able to let go of dis-ease.
Events of the past do not have to interrupt your happiness. Your perception of your experience is your emotional compass. Don't choose to see yourself as helpless. Choose to accept what happened, accept you can't change it, and know you can learn from it. Give meaning and purpose to your past experiences, to be able to see your whole life as meaningful. Free yourself from emotional investment against the people you think are responsible for pain in your life (including any emotions you hold against yourself). As you do this, you further a sense of control for your life today. Let go of resentment, guilt, accusation, and blame attached to the past, to allow yourself the freedom, energy, wisdom, and power to form healthy relationships in the present.
If you believe expressing closeness makes you less of a person, you will fear closeness. Thinking "men have to be tough" ... "softness is weak"... "men are logical, women are emotional" creates unreasonable perceptions and expectations, encouraging you to shut down feelings. These beliefs, which are sometimes called " unspoken rules," ignore the reality that men and women experience the same feelings. Do you ever think this way? Do others in your relationships have these beliefs? Awareness is a place to start healing from misperceptions.
You block yourself from expressing closeness when you think "I have to be right" ... "I have to be one-up" ... "I have to prove you are wrong or bad." These thoughts come from a competitive attitude. A healthy attitude strives to make the relationship empowering for both people. If you are afraid to admit your limitations, or if you have to have the only "right" answer, you fear closeness.
Do you avoid expressing feelings when you do not know what the response will be? You will fear closeness if you do not know you can cope with the discomfort which may arise from responses to your openness and honesty. Being open and honest are strengths. When you tell your truth, no matter the response, your truth is strength in and of itself.
Communication is an expression of 'awareness' and 'experience'. 'Experience' is how you are effected by what has happened, or is happening. 'Awareness' is your recognition of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, images, and memories. The more you are aware of yourself, the more you are able to express yourself clearly to others, and to recognize similar experiences of others.
Feelings are complex reactions involving physical and psychological responses. Thoughts have chemical responses. These chemicals are experienced through various parts of the body. Hence, we notice a feeling correlating with a physical response. Thinking someone is about to attack you may produce adrenaline (needed for expending physical energy), often creating a fight or flight experience. Thoughts of past abuse may create a tightening of muscles, experienced as anger or fear; increased sweat may correlate with fear; relaxation with relief; and abdominal distress with resentment. Changes in the body are often noticed before changes in mood are identified. In this way, the body may give clues before the feelings are obvious.
Feelings can alert us to danger, helping us survive and stay healthy. Some feelings function as indicators of our physical, mental, emotional, and social health.
Feelings are created by thoughts about people, places, things, and ideas. When thoughts are unhealthy, uncomfortable feelings may form. Many thoughts, opinions, and points of view are learned from life experiences. When we aren't getting what we want, we experience uncomfortable feelings. To feel better, reevaluate strategies or priorities. It may be best to change the thought, opinion, and point of view to meet goals in a more healthy way (to achieve a new perspective, increased acceptance, decreased judgment, a life lesson, a higher goal, a new insight). Be empowered: thoughts can create feelings; thoughts can be changed.
Thoughts are like thermostats. Thoughts set our attitude to create our feelings.
Feelings are like thermometers. Feelings give us information about our state of being.
To best communicate feelings:
- Be aware of what you are feeling and the thoughts creating your feelings.
- Take time to be clear in your mind regarding the goal(s) of your communication.
- If needed: clarify goals with a friend, write your goals, role play the conversation before having it.
Provide a clear expression of your feelings and thoughts. (Words are symbols, helping others understand your awareness and experience.)
- For example, saying "I'm feeling upset right now, and I would like you to listen to me" communicates both a feeling and a request.
- Do not assume another person knows how you feel or what you want.
- It is your responsibility to express yourself.
If you are feeling angry or frustrated, express yourself to the other person. This creates an opportunity to discuss and resolve potential issues. Before doing this, know your goal(s) for the discussion. If the other person will not cooperate in resolving issues, express your thoughts and feelings to someone who can help you resolve your feelings of anger and frustration.
It is often difficult to express uncomfortable feelings (sadness, anger frustration, confusion, disappointment, etc.). Typically, people are not encouraged to express these feelings. When not recognized, expressed, and acknowledged in productive ways, these feelings can grow from the inside out, forcing expression in unproductive ways at inopportune times. Feelings held inside may seem to lie dormant. However, they can act like a poison to self awareness and experience. Ignored feelings can obstruct your ability to think, feel, and express clearly.
Expressions of feelings may be met with invalidating responses: "You shouldn't feel that way," or "Don't tell me feelings like that". No matter what you predict the response will be, it is your responsibility to express yourself in most situations. (Some exceptions: situations that may become abusive; or, when the other person has made it clear they are not interested in knowing more about you).
Stay aware of your feelings. Do not try to push them away, cover them up, or pretend they do not exist. They are information for you, about you. No matter how uncomfortable they may be, feelings are a gift, a way of knowing yourself more deeply. For others who care about you, your feelings are a precious piece of information about how to connect with you in a more intimate way. Becoming more aware of yourself and others leads to increased acceptance and caring. You cannot avoid all conflicts and disagreements; but you can resolve them in a more productive and loving way.
Feelings are not to be argued about or judged. Feelings are indicators/barometers to be recognized as helpful information. To argue about a feeling is like arguing about the reading of a thermometer. When one person does not accept another's feelings as real, the result is usually unnecessary conflict.
Feelings are indicators of whether needs and desires are being met in healthy ways. Feelings do NOT inform you how to act in a situation. For example, you may want the other person to agree with your point of view. He/she may see your point of view as naive. In response, you may feel hurt and distant from the other person, wanting to avoid him/her (potential action). Your feelings, like a thermometer, let you know you are uncomfortable. Your feelings also tempt you to be distant from the other person (potential action). Remember, your feelings are the thermometer, not the decision maker. Do not use feelings alone to decide your actions. Your mind is the thermostat...Your mind must decide the best course of action, using the feeling (thermometer) as one indicator of the environment. The mind must see from a larger context than simply the feeling. The mind must also consider the goal of connection, understanding, and more. Thoughtful consideration reveals it is necessary to interact with the other person in order to determine what is wrong, how you both feel and think, and how to solve the problem. In this situation, your feelings give information about an unmet need or desire; they are not useful in deciding what to do to solve the problem. In this situation, using your feelings alone to decide what to do (be distant) could make the problem worse.
Expressing feelings can help you:
- sooth uncomfortable feelings
- gain greater self control
- increase closeness in the relationship
Not expressing feelings can cause you:
- more intense and confused feelings
- misunderstanding in the relationships
- physical problems
- feelings of helplessness and isolation
Your feelings are crucial information about You. Without this information, you would lack an awareness of your inner self - the depth of who you are beyond your thoughts alone. Remember while thoughts create feelings, the feelings stay beyond the thoughts. In each moment, choose your thoughts wisely, in order to create healthy feelings. Feelings are like a record of how you have perceived experiences. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings to increase clarity, choice, and creation of who you are and where you are heading on your amazing journey!
Giving Compliments and Verbal Affection
Genuine compliments improve closeness in relationships. Compliments let others know you support them. If you tend to have a critical frame of mind, complimenting others can help you let go of critical thoughts.
Look for opportunities to create compliments:
- Notice behaviors you appreciate. Encourage them to continue by complimenting the person. One of the best ways to let someone know you are pleased with changes is by clearly verbalizing what you like.
- Notice a small action creating a healthy connection. Tell the person.
- "Catch" someone doing something well. Tell the person.
In close relationships:
- You can have a strong influence on others' self-esteem.
- Notice ways you benefit from the atmosphere of the relationship.
- Praise the qualities and actions of others contributing to a healthy atmosphere.
- Compliment changes in the present, without referring to what you didn't prefer in the past. For example, say "Your words are so kind", not "You're finally so much kinder than you use to be".
- If you think of someone in a negative way, notice a way they bring support to your life. Tell them about it.
- Give surprise compliments: a card, letter, or picture expressing appreciation.
- Others have the right to opinions different from yours. They also have the right to express criticism. When criticized, respond nondefensively.
- Practice using the phrases - "I love you," "I'm sorry", and "Thank you."
- Notice destructive thoughts and replace them with productive thoughts.
- Give yourself compliments.
- Value accomplishments you may consider small - they are more significant than you know!
- In situations where you are tempted to express yourself with poor communication, stop and consider at least two other ways to communicate.
- In rough moments, remember assertiveness.
- Encourage yourself to stay with changes you want to make, even if they are difficult, awkward, and frightening at first.
To increase the sense of safety in relationships, create an environment where:
- people feel free to talk about feelings
- all feelings are acceptable
- everyone is encouraged to experience a high sense of self-worth
- all issues are acceptable
- people are more important than performance
- laughter and joy are encouraged
- the atmosphere is relaxed
- each person is responsible for his/her own actions
- people have energy
- growth and success are celebrated
- all members acknowledge existing stress, and work through it together
- people feel loved
- unity exists - differences are accepted
- respectful criticism is offered
- there is a sense of trust
Over time, as you approach communication more effectively, you will be more able and confident expressing yourself. Choose how you connect with others. You are connected, so create the connections you desire!