There is a big emphasis in couples therapy on using emotionally focused language. Couples are trained to use the phrase “I feel”. In sessions, getting to the emotional heart of the matter is imperative. However, in “real life” when we are in the middle of an argument with our partner, we often misuse this tool because when the fight or flight mechanism is activated, we want to talk about our reasons and our stories often missing each others communication of the emotional experience.
It goes something like this:
“I feel like you don’t even care.”
“I feel that you should have come home.”
“I feel like you are being distance.”
I feel sad when I believe that you don’t care.
I feel anxious when you don’t come home.
I feel defensive when I experience you speaking to me in a harsh tone.
The truth is, nearly every thing we think in our relationships is opinion, it is a story not reality. In healthy non-defensive communication, we are standing in full responsibility for our thoughts, emotions and experiences.
The next time you are engaged in an intense discussion, try doing this one thing:
OWN YOUR EXPERIENCE.
Examples of how to do this in those same conversations would be:
“I am in an experience that you don’t care.”
“In my experience, when people live together they check in with each other and always come home. This is the agreement I have always had in previous relationships.”
“When you are silent at dinner, I project that you don’t want to be with me and that we are distant.”
These subtle shifts in language allow us to take full ownership of our perceptions rather than unintentionally deflecting blame and judgment on our partner, which tends to elicit defensive responses.
When we own our experience fully, it is hard to argue since no one can tell you what you should feel or how you experience your life.
Try to practice this style of communication with everyone you come in contact with for the next week and observe what happens. You may be surprised.
If you would like to do further work to create more intimacy and better communication within your relationships, feel free to contact me to set up an initial complimentary consultation. It is my highest privilege to work with you to support you in creating more joy and connection in all of your relationships.