4d. THT: Words for Better Communication
THT: COMMUNICATING OUR FEELINGS WITH NON-BLAME WORDS
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” ~Bernard Shaw
So here is a Take Home Technique (THT) for communicating our feelings in the moment to bring a man closer and create connection. This will also serve to instantly reconnect a man who is acting distant and withdrawn.
Note: Don’t know what a Take Home Technique is? Find the answer in the “Recent Posts” list (panel to the right), or in the Archive Library. Look for “2. What is a THT — Take Home Technique?”
THT – Words That Blame vs Words That Take Responsibility
When we relate how we feel in the moment, it is important to speak a language that men will hear and understand. It is even more vital to use words to convey the message that you are not holding him responsible for making you feel the way you do. This is tough because our first inclination is to blame the source of our frustration or hurt. He said this so we feel that. If a man feels he is being blamed when you tell him how you feel, it will not bring him closer. It will push him further away. So I’m going to say it flat-out. A bit of tough love. He is not responsible for the way you feel and the way you react to him. You are.
[NOTE: There is an exception to the say-how-you-feel-in-the-moment rule: if a man is explosively angry and/or intentionally hurting you with his words, don’t react… ACT. Get out of the room. Retreat. Don’t stomp out or slam the door. Just tell him you have to go to the bathroom and leave. If you’re at home, or in a safe neighborhood, take a walk or go for a drive. Let him cool down before you tell him how it feels to hear him say what he said. Reacting to his anger in the moment only escalates the problem and he will not be able to hear what you are saying. And there is a greater chance that you, in reaction mode, will say something in return that may make the situation worse. Anger is an instinctive state devoid of higher reasoning. Fighting back does more damage than good.]
It is vital to realize that the source of the pain you feel comes from inside you, not from him. Remember the self-assured, radiant woman who is so confident within herself that she never takes anything a man says as an insult? That woman knows a man is not the source of her emotions. She knows she has a choice when emotions arise, to give them weight or let them pass. She feels what she feels and shares openly, because she knows nothing a man says or does can knock her off-balance. She does not seek a man’s approval in order to feel good about herself. And men, drawn to her inner strength, which they call an “indescribable allure,” find her intoxicating and irresistible. We can all be that woman. It starts with truly feeling our own feelings, taking responsibility for them and then communicating them in a non-accusatory way. Once we do, a true lasting connection with a man begins. Then it is simply about choosing the words to convey the feeling.
Here is a list of sharp-edged blame words to avoid, followed by a list of softer edged words and messages that convey feeling without blame. Remember to always put “I feel” in front of these words, not “I am.” I feel confused has a completely different connotation then “I am confused.” “I feel” conveys a temporary status that reflects your inner state of being in the present moment. “I am” is a statement of fact about who or what you are. And, of course, never say “You make me feel…” which is a direct and blatant statement of blame.
SOME WORDS TO AVOID (when conveying that something he said or did was uncomfortable or painful in someway) plus usage examples:
• Hurt “You hurt me.” “I feel hurt.” Hurt is first and foremost a verb (an action word). That means someone has to be doing the hurting. And that means you are blaming him. [Yes, the second definition of hurt in the dictionary is a noun, but that pertains only to physical damage.]
• Abandoned / Neglected “I feel like you’ve abandoned me,” is obviously a big no-no. But even “I feel abandoned,” or “I feel neglected,” creates equal blame because again someone has to be doing the abandoning or neglecting and that would be him.
• Abused I feel abused. Same as above.
• Accused /Blamed “Are you accusing me?” “I feel like you’re blaming me.” Believe it or not, asking him if he is blaming you IS blaming him.
• Upset “I get upset when you…” or, “I feel upset because you…” [You are making him responsible for your being upset which means you can only feel better if he changes. That’s blame. Even if you truly feel like it is his fault, blame will only results in further conflict and leaves you powerless to change your own state of “upsetness.”]
• Offend / Insulted “That offends me.” “I feel offended when you…” “I am insulted by…”
SOME WORDS/ STATEMENTS TO USE INSTEAD (omitting the word “you”):
• Pain / Ache “I feel an ache inside when I hear those words.” “There is a pain in my heart when I think about this.”
• Confused “I feel confused about this issue. It confuses me to hear that.”
• Don’t know “I don’t know how I feel about that.” [This is something a man can instantly identify with and it says in very short order that you are uncomfortable. One of the best responses in the heat of the moment.]
• Uncomfortable “I feel uncomfortable about this.”
• Embarrassed “I feel embarrassed when I hear things like that.” Not “It embarrassed me when you said that.”
• Smarts / Stings “Wow, that smarts,” or “That stung,” is a quick easy way to say something he just said that hurt without attaching extra weight to it.
• Tenderness As in… “There’s a bit of tenderness in me around this subject.”
• Unsure “I’m unsure of how to feel about all this.”
• Unhappy “I feel unhappy about the way things turned out.”
• Displaced “I feel displaced lately.” [This word can be used instead of neglected, if you really must say something about feeling the lack of his presence in your life. He will usually ask what you mean. Follow up with another “I feel…” sentence, like “I feel the absence of connection,” or “I been feeling isolated lately.” But the best way to react to neglect is to get busy with your own life so that you don’t feel the neglect. Start a project. Focus on something besides him. Don’t chase him. He will eventually show up and you will have to squeeze him in somewhere (this is a real Passion Promoter). Remember: In relationships Neglect is only abuse if you are playing the victim.]
• Unconnected / Not connecting “I feel unconnected.” Or, “I feel as if we aren’t connecting,” is acceptable, just don’t add, “…like we used to.” Anytime you bring up the past you are disrespecting the present moment.
• Off-Balance / Off day / Out of Sync “We’re having an off day, aren’t we?” “I’m feeling off-balance (or) out-of-sorts this week.” “We seem to be out-of-sync lately. Let’s try to get back on track.”
To start, because we won’t always be able to catch ourselves every time a blame statement pops up, (sometimes, in the process of trying to change this habit, blame words just slip out before we realize they are accusatory), a good policy would be to replace the word “you,” with the words “a man.” This is a quick fix that is only half way there, but it will help (a bit). So instead of saying, “It makes me uncomfortable when you say things like that.” At least it will come out, “It makes me uncomfortable when a man says things like that.” It is still blaming, but at least it is not specifically blaming him… just the category he is in (men).
The better statement, of course, would be… “I feel uncomfortable hearing things like that.” With this statement, you take complete responsibility for your feelings and leave it open for him to take responsibility for his… but don’t expect him to. That will create new tension. Just stop with your own, knowing that you are not covering up who you are, having been honest in the moment, and taken responsibility for how you feel.
It may not happen overnight, but this one change in the way you communicate can completely transform your relationship (and it can happen faster than you think). If your man is accustomed to hearing subtle (or not-so-subtle) blaming statements from you, he will suddenly feel lighter and happier when those statements and words vanish from your vocabulary. He might not know why he feels better but he will be able to breathe easier around you and soon begin to feel more connected to you (because you are inviting him in). And with connection, comes affection!
AUTHOR’S PERSONAL NOTE:
When I began communicating this way in my relationships, the change was mind-blowing! Any relationship (not just love relationships) can benefit from this “blame-less” method of communication. With consistency, partners, friends, colleagues, siblings, can go from cold and distant to tender, loving in a very short time! Experiment with it! Try this with your boyfriend or husband and note the changes that take place. Because men often stay in the present moment, their reaction time can be very swift. So if you are changing your interaction in the present moment, you may see a positive response in the present moment as well. It depends, of course, on how much “water “there is under the bridge. If there has been years of resentment building up between you, it may take a while longer for him to even realize you have changed the way you talk to him. But even if he doesn’t notice, he will have a gut level response that something has changed and he will begin to feel more comfortable around you. Try it and see for yourself. You’ll be surprised at the results!