Relationships are complex. In fact, I'd actually go so far as to say that they are probably one of the most complex things in this world. That complexity means that there are a lot of different aspects and dynamics to take into consideration when trying to improve relationships, yet, despite the intense complexity, there are some super simple shifts in communication that we can make in order to transform the dynamics of our relationships.
The one that I am going to address today is probably one of the most important. It has nothing to do with changing your communication in order to accommodate the other person. In fact, it has little to do with others at all. Rather, what it all boils down to is you being able to really focus on you.
That simple shift in communication? To speak in a way that uses the word "I" or "me" in order to clearly state how you feel to others.
For those of us who are people pleasers, this simple little change in communication can be very difficult because we are so familiar and comfortable with focusing on other people rather than ourselves. It is also likely that we are surrounded by friends and family members who focus predominantly on others as well, so it is harder for us to make the change. However, when conscious effort is made it can make a huge difference in clearly establishing where another person ends and you begin.
Many of us are walking around talking about or complaining about other people and things. We spend all of our energy saying thinks like "Jack didn't do X, Y, Z" or "Sally has Z going on in her life now" but we never actually say what is going on with us. Rarely do we ever simply talk about ourselves.
Not only that, but in the moments when we are attempting to refer to our own experience we talk in general terms like "Dealing with X was so frustrating." Other times we state our frustrations but focus completely on the other person by saying something like "Jake is such a pain. He never gets his work done on time."
Other times, we may even do something that's even worse: We refer to the other person when we really mean to be talking about ourselves. I used to be terrible at this! We may do this by saying something like "You know, dealing with Maggie is very stressful" or "You know how hard it is."
When we express our frustrations and emotions like this we are actually detaching ourselves from our own personal experience. In other words, our way of communication is basically telling the world, "I'm not owning my own experience. I'm not acknowledging how I'm feeling. I'm not taking personal responsibility for my own experience." Rather, we focus on the experience of the other person when what we should really be doing is identifying how we feel and what is difficult for us—communication.
So what does this shift in communication look like in context? Here are some examples:
- "My mom keeps ticking me off. She keeps complaining about X, Y, Z and doing…" can instead be "I feel so stressed and upset because my mom does…"
- "My ex-boyfriend had so many problems that I didn't even know how to deal with it…" can turn into "Dating my ex-boyfriend was really hard for me, because…"
- "There's so much work I have to do for school. Why do they have to give us so much work?" can turn into "I feel overwhelmed with all of the schoolwork I have to do right now."
Ultimately, it's not very proactive to continuously talk about other people and how they are impacting us. It's more proactive to simply state how we feel and express our own experience by expressing it using "I" or "me" in our sentences and to state how we feel.
By doing this, we actually open the door to allow ourselves to receive the very thing that we desire deep down: emotional support and understanding.
Upon making these types of statements to clearly stating how this experience impacts us, we can then take the next step and (if others are open to it) say what we need right now. That can simply be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or advice.
Being clear, open, and honest about how you feel through your communication with others can really help transform an imbalanced relationship into a balanced and supportive one.
Today, I challenge you to start focusing more on how you feel and to begin to share your experiences by using the words "I" and "me" and stating how you feel.
Get out a pen and paper or journal. Write down a stressful or difficult event or experience from this past week that you have had that you shared with someone. Keep Reading...
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