Express Difficult Feelings
Versus Thoughts and Beliefs
Feelings and thoughts are different, but also
are one and the same. They are like the head and tail of a coin. We
react to events with both thoughts and feelings. Feelings are
emotions, and sensations, and they are different from
thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, and convictions. When difficult
feelings are expressed, the sharp edges are dulled, and it is easier
to release or let go of the bad feeling. If we only express our
beliefs about the event and not the feelings, the bad feelings linger
and are often harder to release. Whenever someone says, "I feel
that..." the person is about to express a belief, not a feeling.
For Expressing Feelings
||Try to be specific rather than general about how you feel.
Consistently using only one or two words to say how you are feeling,
such as bad or upset, is too vague and general. What kind of bad or
upset? (irritated, mad, anxious, afraid, sad, hurt, lonely, etc.).
|| Specify the degree of the feelings, and you will reduce the chances of
being misunderstood. For example, some people may think when you say,
"I am angry" means you are extremely angry when you actually
mean a "little irritated".
||When expressing anger or irritation, first describe the specific
behavior you donít like, then your feelings. This helps to prevent
the other person from becoming immediately defensive or intimidated
when he first hears "I am angry with you", and he could
miss the message.
||If you have mixed feelings, say so, and express each feeling and
explain what each feeling is about. For example: "I have mixed
feelings about what you just did. I am glad and thankful that you
helped me, but I didnít like the comment about being stupid. It was
disrespectful and unnecessary and I found it irritating".
for Expressing Feelings
The two following - I feel statements
and I messages will help you:
confront someone when you are bothered by his or her behavior.
difficult feelings without attacking the self-esteem of the
for you and the other person precisely what you feel.
feelings from building up and festering into a bigger problem.
||Communicate difficult feelings in a manner that minimizes the other personís
need to become defensive, and increases the likelihood that the
person will listen.
When you first start using these techniques
they will be cumbersome and awkward to apply, and not very useful if
you only know them as techniques. However, if you practice these
techniques and turn them into skills, it will be easy for you to
express difficult feelings in a manner that is productive and
Which of the two methods you use for expressing
your feelings should depend on your goal, the importance or
difficulty of your feelings and the situation.
feel statements are used in situations that are clear and
fairly simple, when you what to express yourself and avoid a
buildup of feelings without attacking or hurting the
self-esteem of the other.
messages are used in more complex situations to clarify for
yourself and the other person just what you are feeling when a) you have
difficult negative feelings, b) you confront someone and want
them to change their behavior, and c) it is very sensitive and
important that the other person accurately understand.
These statements take the form of "When
you did that thing I felt this way. That thing
is a behavior of the other person, and this way is your
specific feelings. Here are some examples:
felt embarrassed when you told our friends how we are pinching
liked it when you helped with the dishes without being
feel hurt and am disappointed that you forgot our
It is called an I message because
the focus is on you, and the message is about yourself. This is in
contrast to a You message which focuses on and gives a
message about the other person. When using I messages you
take responsibility for your own feelings, rather than accusing the
other person of making you feel a certain way. A You
message does not communicate a feeling, but a belief about the
other person. The essence of an I message is "I have
a problem", while the essence of a You message is
"You have a problem".
There are four parts to an I
- When ...
Describe the personís behavior you are reacting to in an
objective, non-blameful, and non-judgmental manner.
effects are ... Describe the concrete or tangible effects of
that behavior. (This is the most important part for the other
person to understand - your reaction.)
feel ... Say how you feel. (This is the most important
part to prevent a buildup of feelings.)
prefer ... Tell the person what you want or what you
prefer they do. You can omit this part if it is obvious.
The order in which you express these parts is
usually not important. Here are some examples:
When you take company time for your personal affairs and then donít
have time to finish the urgent work I give you, I get furious. I
want you to finish the companyís work before you work on your
lose my concentration when you come in to ask a question, and I
donít like it. Please donít interrupt me when I am working
unless it is urgent."
is very hard for me to keep our place neat and clean when you
leave your clothes and other stuff laying around. It creates a
lot more work for me and it takes a lot longer, and I get resentful
about it. Iíd prefer that you put your clothes away and put your
trash in the basket."
resent it when your flirting with the women keeps you from having
time for your work, because it means more work for me."
expressing a feeling at all, expressing a belief or judgment.
a disguised You message.
expressing negative feelings.
nonverbal body language contradicting the words. For example,
smiling when irritated.
techniques and turn them into useful skills. Make it easy for
yourself to spontaneously express difficult feelings in a manner that is productive and
If you are having trouble coming up with more
than 3 or 4 words for feelings, here is a Feelings