When you want to discuss an issue with your partner, it is tempting to launch straight in with criticism. However that is not helpful. Moreover it is even harmful to the relationship. Here are some guidelines on how to have a healthy discussion that will get better results:
How to Have a Healthy Discussion
Instructions for the Speaker
If you are the speaker, talk about your emotions in the following way:
i) Use ‘I feel’ + an emotion word eg: ‘I feel upset/angry/frightened.’
ii) Avoid using ‘you’ statements such as ‘You have upset me.’
iii) Do not take this opportunity to blame or criticise your partner.
iv) Take responsibility for your own emotions. Nobody forces you to feel a certain way.
Try to be aware of the distinction between thoughts and feelings. ‘I think that the reason the situation is upsetting…’ is a correct way to express a thought, as opposed to the feeling “I feel upset by the situation.” You can use both, but try to avoid using ‘I feel that’.
Instructions for the Listener
If you are the listener, don’t plan ahead what you are going to say. Instead do the following:
i) Identify the emotion behind your partner’s words even if they did not use an emotion word.
ii) Validate the emotion, letting them know they have permission to feel that way. Complete the sentence “It makes sense that you would feel that way because…”
iii) Empathize with your partner, letting them know that they are not alone with their emotion eg: “It makes me sad that you feel like that.”
iv) Above all accept your partner in their state of emotion and communicate this to them.
v) Do not try to fix your partner. Instead you can try to help your loved one by offering your support.
Some Healthy Ways to Deal with Uncomfortable Emotions
- It is important to understand that all emotions are acceptable.
- We should certainly not discourage people from expressing their emotions.
- Remember that hidden emotions can lead to deception and loneliness.
- Suppressed emotions can lead to a range of problems including stress, anxiety and depression.
- Ignored emotions can lead to a decreased immune system.
If you would like to learn more about how to have healthy conversations with your partner, work with me.
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