Anyone who has read any type of advice about relationships knows there are essentially two skills one must learn to have a successful one.
- How to communicate your feelings
- How to listen to others communicate their feelings
Talk and listen…it seems simple enough. Most close and loving relationships are usually born from this simple exchange – you probably liked what the other person had to say because you were listening, and the feeling was presumably mutual. However, it is common knowledge to those working on relationships that mastering these abilities can take years of practice and be incredibly difficult.
Step one comes to me more naturally than it does to most people. Not just because I am overly talkative, although I usually am, but because I have always made the effort to stay in touch with my mental state. Burying emotions doesn’t work for me – I would rather stare a painful situation straight in the face for hours on end, letting it sear me but never letting it go. Though this can be both good and bad, it does allow me to know exactly how I am feeling about a number of things at any given time. I know exactly what layers of emotion are tucked inside my brain, and in what order and quantity they sit there. I can easily point to the small packets of dissatisfaction I’ve been carrying for over six months. I can talk about the frustration I’ve felt in this particular season of life while at the same time know the happiness I feel for the day’s events.
It isn’t always easy for me. As humans, we often let those emotions settle into places we cannot reach but can still unconsciously feel. In the midst of our daily hectic lives they get lost and they get muddled. So how do we talk about those feelings? Something Joe and I have started doing is simply saying Check in with me, how are you doing? This tells the other person that we are creating a safe space to lay everything, whatever everything is, out in the open. It signals to the other person that we really want to know exactly how they are feeling, and that we care what emotions they have. Most importantly, it simply creates the time to assess and open up. Doing this is never easy, but by allowing more times to practice it becomes easier. Every occasion is different, but we must allow a conversation to start and go wherever it wants to go.
Even though I feel as if I am in touch with my emotions, when I take the time to honestly and thoroughly answer this question I am often surprised by what I have to say. I had not realized I was still feeling anger from that situation a week ago. I had not understood why I had that slight nagging feeling. I had not taken the time to recognize the happiness that came from a simple interaction today. I discovered how therapeutic it is to take the time to “check in” and be honest with someone. You not only learn more about yourself, but about the other person and how they are really reacting to the world. Discussing these feelings often lets them float away freely afterwards; you have new room in your soul for whatever life brings next.
In this new year, one of my resolutions is to take the time to ask. I don’t want to be satisfied with the “How are you?’s” anymore. It is time to talk about feelings.