Valentines are coming, love is in the air. I also wanted to add my two cents to the discussion on feelings. If you follow my blog, you already know that I’ve written a number of posts on managing difficult emotions. Today’s topic is equally important. Why is it important to communicate our emotions? Why is it so vital to talk about feelings? And this time all of them – the ones we like and the ones we don’t.
Why do we communicate?
As a linguist, I couldn’t talk about communication without mentioning language and its functions. There are 7 functions of language:
- Informative (simple data transfer between two or more people)
- Emotive (talking about emotions)
- Instrumental (making somebody do something)
- Phatic (to keep the conversation going)
- Metalinguistic (to talk about language)
- Poetic/aesthetic (to have fun with words)
- Performative (when language is used to perform an act, e.g. “I declare…”)
For a very long time, I was convinced that the first of these – giving and receiving information – is the most basic and most important one. It struck me no more than a year ago that in fact, for every human being the most basic function of language and communication is to maintain social and emotional relationships.
How do I know that?
Just look at the development of the Internet. There is a huge load of data and information everyone can take from. And where do we spend most of our time? Learning new ideas and skills? Not really, no. Instead, we keep scrolling through our social media feed! Social media are all about emotions. Just look at comments under any random post. Most of the discussion is not based on knowledge, but on what we feel about the topic.
Also, what are the first words a baby learns? They are those which carry the most emotional value to the child, like mommy.
Why should we talk about our feelings?
I used to believe that saying “I love you” just once is somehow binding and I don’t have to repeat it. Now I realize that it is not about making a statement. It is about speaking out of your heart at that particular moment. It is about sharing what you feel.
By sharing what we feel, we allow others to see us whole. We build trust this way and allow others to help or just to be with us if we have difficulties dealing with our emotions. Additionally, if we’re going through difficult emotions, the other person might just be there for us, suggest solutions or help solve the problem. Most often just being there is enough as it helps us accept what we feel and live through the emotion.
So how does it actually help to speak about our feelings:
- It allows to fully realize and be grateful for our feelings of love towards our closest ones, be grateful for the fact that they are here with us, close to us.
- Expressing our optimism and sharing our happiness helps create a more friendly atmosphere. This, in turn, makes other people enjoy your company more, it lowers stress levels for you and the people around you, which helps in a more harmonious development.
- Speaking about our unpleasant emotions allows us to acknowledge and accept them as a part of us. Thus, it allows us to accept ourselves fully as human beings. If you don’t accept yourself, you’ll find it difficult to fully accept others either.
- It makes it possible to vent, to experience the emotion. That way we feel relief if it was a burden.
- It allows us to see our situation from another person’s perspective thus helping us develop empathy.
- Just stating your emotions at a difficult moment may solve the whole situation and turn it to your good.
Number one is the reason why we should say “I love you” more than once. To avoid making it an empty phrase, you can add some genuine information, e.g. “I really enjoy your sense of humor” or “It makes me feel good to watch a movie together with you. I feel relaxed then.” Also, noticing what the other person does for us may make her day or at least put a smile on her face. These simple things, little acts of love, allow us to strengthen our relationships and make them last.
How to talk about feelings?
Many of us find it difficult to talk about emotions. In our hectic lives, we rarely find the time to stop and reflect. That’s why we don’t often realize what we actually feel.
1. Practice mindfulness
This is why the first step to talk about feelings it to actually pause for a moment and look inside yourself. Try to realize, what you feel at this very moment. Then try to realize what you feel towards your child, your parent, or your significant other. If you feel angry or scared, that’s fine. If you do, it means something. Maybe your teen likes to ride a motorbike fast and you’re concerned about his safety? Maybe you’ve just had an argument with your partner and your anger is still fresh and unprocessed? Don’t judge yourself or your emotions. Just try to realize, what they inform you about?
2. Speak about yourself
Try to think about how to put what you feel into words. Avoid judging yourself or others. If you’re not used to it, you may first write a few sentences on paper. Make sure they start with “I” and that they precisely describe your state of mind.
3. Be empathetic
If you want to get some space to share your emotions, make sure to be ready to provide it for the other person, too. When they start talking about their feelings, don’t judge and don’t advise unless asked to. Try just to be there for your close one and acknowledge what they feel. Phrases such as “This must be hard” or “I’m happy for you” help create the bond of empathy between you and the person you’re talking to.
To sum up…
Talking about feelings does not only help ourselves. It is vital for any relationship, be that romantic or between a parent and a child. Also, it builds trust and understanding. Sharing our emotions allows us to develop in the same direction and learn each other as we grow. Let us grow together.