Now that you have had time to practice your listening skills, it’s time to learn how to express yourself more effectively.
You’ve been the supportive listener. You have told your spouse, friend, or colleague what you think they are feeling based on what you heard them say. And you’ve done it in a kind and respectful way. They now sit, looking at you, waiting for you to say something. It’s your turn. So take a deep breath and jump in. It’s scary. But be you, bravely.
Assertive Communication gurus break the speaker’s part down to three things: “I think…” “I feel…” “I want…”
I Think–This is where you state your observations, the situation from your point of view.
I Feel–This is when you say how you feel: “I feel angry, sad, ashamed, guilty, happy, excited,” etc.
I Want–Now you say what you want.
Here’s an example of how NOT to use this formula: “I think you are a jerk. I feel like you always do some stupid thing to make me mad. I want you to stop being stupid.” Even if that is true, your message will fall on deaf ears, and you will only push the person further away. AND they are more likely to continue behaving in ways that hurt you. They will certainly get defensive and probably attack you right back.
Here’s a different example: “You said you would call me last night when you got off work, and you didn’t.” (This is your observation: the “I think” part without the “I think.”) “I feel frustrated when you don’t do what you say you will do. I feel disrespected, like I don’t matter.” (These are your feelings, not your accusations.) “I would like it if you would call when you say you are going to.” (This is the “I want” softened up a bit for those of you who don’t like to sound demanding).
Is that it? Why so much on listening and this little smidge on actually talking? Well, because the listening part is harder. Trying to hear and understand the other person sometimes takes more patience and skill.
Learning new communication skills is not easy. It means being willing to look at things we aren’t doing well and begin to change our thoughts and our behavior. Counseling and/or coaching is quite helpful for individuals and couples who want to make such changes but get stuck when they try to do so on their own. I urge you to find a professional you feel comfortable with who can help.
I am a mom, wife, daughter, friend, professional coach and licensed marriage and family therapist who is always seeking ways to be a better person today than I was yesterday.
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header photo credit: The next morning via photopin (license)