For some of us – getting emotionally naked – is about as appealing as stripping off all our clothes in the middle of a busy supermarket. No thanks! We’d prefer to keep ourselves well and truly covered up. We fear that if others knew what we felt inside – they’d reject us, laugh at us or criticise us.
Too often we believe that we have to edit, pretend or cover up in order to belong and be accepted. Actually, the opposite is true. If we want to truly belong and be loved … we need to be seen for who we really are – feelings, fears, flaws and all.
As Batman says in the new Lego movie, “Yeah we’re flawed but that’s what makes us relatable.”
So, how can we express our feelings in a way that builds connection and doesn’t alienate people? Here are my 7 tips to get you started:
1. Know your why
How are your relationships at the moment? Do you feel known, seen and understood by those closest to you? Do you have people you can confide in and feel closely connected to? If you know there is room for improvement – think about what you want to change and why.
2. Start with yourself
It can be hard for others to discover what you’re feeling if you’re not sure yourself. I’d recommend using a journal to reflect on your day. Try to use feeling words as you describe what you experienced.
3. Switch on your ‘trust-o-meter’
We won’t want to get emotionally naked with everyone. We need to be careful about what we share and with whom. Look for good listeners and trustworthy people – people who won’t broadcast your innermost secrets all over social media. Start small and build up to bigger things once you know you can trust the person and you feel comfortable sharing with them.
4. Pick your moment
Emotions can be heightened when we’re hungry, tired or hormonal – so it is good to be aware if any of those factors are at play. Also, you and the other person are unlikely to be able to have a deep conversation if one or both of you are distracted, in a hurry or feeling stressed. Try to find a time when you’re both feeling relaxed and can give each other your full attention.
5. Search for the good
Researchers discovered that good relationships thrive when there are at least five positive interactions for every negative one. That means if we want to share negative feelings about someone – it will help if we’ve shared lots of positive ones during our relationship with them. The more connected we are to someone – the easier it will be to face difficulties, hurts and challenges together.
6. Own your emotions
When expressing feelings, it helps to own them. So, for example, it works better to say, “I felt sad when you forgot my Birthday” rather than, “You made me sad when you forgot my Birthday.”
7. Dig deep
Sometimes, our behaviour and emotions are being driven by deeper feelings underneath. Try digging deep and seeing if you can discover what is really upsetting you. Fear and shame can often be lurking below anger, for example.
Daring to bare who we are on the inside – probably won’t be easy to begin with but it will get better with practice. Hopefully, the more you reveal what you feel on the inside (good and bad) – the stronger and more authentic your relationships will become.