Relationships are tricky. Feelings can be complicated.
Arguments and emotional turmoil can be the result of miscommunication and a lack of self-awareness. A lack of connectedness with oneself and others is often to blame.
Dr. Tyler Rogers is an assistant professor of counseling at Richmont Graduate University. He has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Mississippi where he explored, “The relationships between advocacy competency, adult attachment styles, climate and comfort in training, and social empathy.”
In short, he is a relational expert.
But it does not take an expert to know that relationships can be tough. Friendships, romances, and family ties, all can be sources of both exceptional joy and great discomfort.
Many times, outside factors can cause waves in relationships. Other times, it’s our internal responses that cause the turmoil. We cannot control the external factors, but we can choose how we respond. “Volatility is common in relationships, and often it’s because we don’t know how to accurately and honestly express ourselves,” Dr. Rogers said.
Dr. Rogers has three, “very simple, yet very difficult to execute” tips for navigating and fostering emotionally healthy relationships.
Feelings are universal. Regardless of religion, race, and culture, every person on earth has felt happy, sad, shame, anger, joy, fear, and confusion. “The universal language of feelings allows people to connect and empathize with each other,” Dr. Rogers said.
To connect well with others, you first have to know how you feel. We often give an array of reasons why we’re angry without just stating that we are angry. This is more accusatory than honest. Conversations are volatile from the get-go.
The first step to resolving conflict is to dig into the core of the issue. This process begins with self-examination. One cannot explain how the something or someone made them feel until they take time to explore their feelings and then define them.
“For healthy relationships, you first need to learn your feelings,” Dr. Rogers said. “Define how you are feeling in a given moment. Be aware of what you are feeling first before you explain the inducing factors to someone else.”
It sounds easy, but this takes practice. Our feelings can become lost over the static of our busy lives. It’s not until we sit, dig through and examine how we feel are we able to accurately communicate. “Otherwise, it’s like shooting from the hip,” Dr. Rogers said.
“Be able and willing to tell the truth,” Dr. Rogers said. “It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to sugar coat this: I am really angry.’ Expressing how you feel is the second way to own it. By doing so, you take responsibility for your feelings.”
People might tell you to “not sweat the small stuff.” So we often try to hide what we feel. God is an emotional being, we are made in his image. We neglect our humanity when we brush our pain under the rug.
“Feelings are not a choice,” Dr. Rogers said. “They are more visceral. What you do with content and knowledge are choices. Who you vote for and how you arrange your Fantasy Football lineup are choices. Feelings are the basic things that happen in all of us. You respect your value when you take ownership of the way you feel. This allows you to be seen by others as who you are without hiding behind morals, religion or extraneous circumstances.”
Have the courage to tell others how you are feeling. Be honest. Be truthful. Don’t minimize your feelings.
Communicating exactly what you feel allows you to connect with one another. It becomes a shared experience. Transparency cultivates intimacy and empathy. Even if someone does not agree, the door is opened for them to know you better. Respect is the desired outcome.
“Do to others, as you would have them do to you,” is called the Golden Rule. We desire to be heard when we share our inner thoughts. This sentiment goes both ways. Others, too, want to feel heard.
“Be available and listen,” Dr. Rogers said. “It takes practice to learn how to listen while not being defensive or minimizing. Someone might be angry at you, but you can still listen while knowing that it is not because you necessarily did anything wrong. Expectations might have been miscommunicated. By listening without becoming defensive or minimizing, you open the door to connect better and find a solution.”
Listening gives you the opportunity to win the heart of people, not necessarily the argument. Which is more important to you?
Feelings are complex. Understanding what we feel can be murky. We create bridges for authentic conversations and emotionally healthy relationships when we define how we feel and communicate honestly.