I may get some slack for this post because there will be a lot of people who disagree with me wholeheartedly and I am okay with that. What I want to talk about this Sunday morning is “I Feel” statements.
Somewhere along the line in couples work, or really any kind of relationship work, one of the solutions to conflict that was taught was the “I Feel” statement. The belief behind this was that if you explained yourself from the position of how you feel then your partner (or friend/family member etc) couldn’t dismiss where you are coming from because your feelings can never be wrong. While I firmly believe in rooting yourself in your emotions and understanding how you are feeling (those that have worked with me can attest to that!) I also don’t believe it is the be-all-end-all of conflict resolution. Stating how you feel is critical but it doesn’t mean the other person is to blame for our emotions. Making it their fault that wefeel a certain way doesn’t move the situation forward, nor does it get us to focus on taking accountability for our feelings. This is not my way of saying that our partners can’t impact us. Of course they do.
Rather I think we need to step away from using our feelings as a way to “win” an argument and instead validate our feelings by acknowledging, processing and understanding them and then by moving towards finding a way to work through the issues together.
Here is what I think we need to do instead: when we are in conflict it is important to address what we are feeling but it doesn’t necessarily mean we are off the hook. It is okay to feel hurt/angry/sad/overwhelmed etc. but that needs to lead to a discussion and both of you will have to bend towards the middle. Be willing to realize that while your emotions are justified, your partner will have some feelings about the issue as well and those emotions are just as important as yours. When you use “I Feel” statements, don’t stop there. Instead complete the sentence by letting your partner know what has impacted you, how you feel about it, and some ways you can work together in the future to move forward.
For example “When you don’t listen to me it makes me feel hurt because the message I receive is that what I have to say isn’t important to you. In the future can you please try to pay attention and respond to me when I am talking and I will be sure to start these conversations when you aren’t in the middle of doing other things.”
This should not be a one-way street about what your partner needs to change to make it better. Instead it should be solutions that will leave you both feeling like you’ve gained something through the compromise.
Bottom Line? Tell your partner how you feel and hold your own around how you have been impacted. Your reality is very true to you and deserves to be validated. Then move on and focus on how you want your relationship to move forward and what you can both do to make it happen. After all, what matters most is not that the issue has happened, but rather how you both can heal from it.