I used to argue with my sister. Well… I still do even though we’re both almost thirty, but not nearly so often. When we were kids, we got in nasty fights and often-times this would include fighting with our mother.
Unlike many teenagers and their mothers, my Mom insisted on talking through our feelings rather than reacting, shutting down, or avoiding. We might as well have been like girl scouts around a campfire holding a “talking stick” because it was really that organized. We did not interrupt–and if we did, someone would say, “Excuse me, (so and so) was still talking,” and the other person (no matter how angry they were) would say, “I’m sorry, please continue.” (As a matter of fact–and this is an aside–my mother taught us as children to never say “shut up” when someone was speaking because it meant we had no interest in what the other person was saying and that this was rude and inconsiderate.)
We sometimes spent hours sorting out our feelings in order to find workable solutions. It was horrible to be a teenager and be forced to talk about everything, but in another way it was great. Because of that we were much closer and understood ourselves and each other much more than most of our peers. And let me tell you, who needs to be grounded when you spend three hours talking about why and how what you did was wrong! It was a great punishment! 😉
There is something lasting I learned from this: it is easy to react, to say things we don’t mean. But it is a whole other thing to identify where the feelings are coming from, actually feel them, and then say what you honestly feel and mean.
We learned to preface our statements with, I feel. “I feel… that is a poor excuse for your behavoir, even though I understand how you could react that way.” “I feel… hurt when you tease me about _______.” It was easier for the person to apologize for their actions or empathize with my feelings if I wasn’t accusatory or reactive. For example, “You always tease me and don’t care what I feel. You are such a jerk.” No one is going to respond well to that one. What if they really didn’t know it was hurting you? Isn’t it likely they deserve the benefit of doubt?
Depending on how well you know the person or how much that person is capable of responding to you with equal maturity, you will have varying degrees of success. But I have found that approaching communication with two simple words, “I feel,” has saved me from a lot of unnecessary complications of easily solvable issues. And my relationships seem to be a little nicer than they might be otherwise!
© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.