In the last blog we explore the first two parts of the Authentic Communication model – facts and judgements. You may want to take a look at this before you read on…
In this blog we are going to explore sections 3 and 5 of the model: ‘Feelings’ and ‘Wants’.
Please note, now that we’re working with 4 different aspects of the model altogether – facts, judgements, feelings and wants, statements from each different section have been colour coded for clarity. Facts are written in red, judgements in green, feelings in blue and wants in orange.
The Feelings and Wants sections are the two sections most likely to expose our vulnerability. Most of us find the idea of vulnerability pretty scary, and because of this we are likely to avoid the Feelings and Wants parts in our communication. This may not be conscious, and even when we believe we’re being totally honest, you will see the Feelings and Wants aspects are rarely stated clearly. The paradox is that it is only in exposing our vulnerability that we really share of ourself with another – and is that not what communication is really about? If we really want to be heard then we will need to risk showing our vulnerability and this means including our feelings and our wants in the conversation.
There are many ways we avoid saying what we’re feeling. Some common examples are:
We may give our Judgements, ‘You’re a liar’, ‘You’re cruel’, and assume the other person picks up how we’re feeling from this. We may be shouting. It may be ‘obvious’ that we’re angry. But how often do we actually state that? ‘I feel angry!’
We may give these judgements ‘You don’t love me anymore’, ‘You’re always at work’, and assume the other person knows what we’ll be feeling about that. We may be crying or looking upset when we give these judgements, but how often do we say, ‘I feel really sad’ ?
Equally we may make judgements that show we feel frightened. ‘You’re going to ask me to leave’. ‘You don’t want me working on this project’. It may seem obvious to us that we find this a scary thought, but how often do we actually say ‘I feel frightened about this.’ ?
INCLUDING OUR FEELINGS.
In our model we encourage you to say, in one simple statement, the feeling, or feelings you have. We also encourage you to stick to what we see as the four most fundamental feelings:
Below are some examples which include the facts, the judgement and then the feeling. So that the separate sections are clear we’ve coloured the facts red, the judgements green and the feelings blue.
If the fact is that our partner was in the pub when they had told us they were at work we might say:
‘Yesterday when you were in the pub when you’d said you were at work I thought that you had lied to me and I felt really angry.’
Or, if the fact is that our boss didn’t return our call.
‘You didn’t return my call yesterday. Because of this I started to think that you don’t want to work with me any more but you don’t know how to tell me. I felt frightened.’
Or if my son wanted to spend Christmas with his dad this year instead of me I might say.
‘When you told me you want to spend Christmas with Dad this year it started me thinking that you might prefer being at his house, and thinking that makes me feel really sad.’
We hope you can see how adding the feeling so clearly deepens the level of communication, and also the level of vulnerability. We may not want to communicate this deeply with everyone, but if we really want to be understood and heard then including our feeling can really help.
So far so good. We’ve said everything now haven’t we? No! This is the mistake so many of us make so often. We have actually left out the most important part of the conversation – what we actually want from the other person.
Usually we are communicating because we want something to be different. Or sometimes it is simply because we want to be heard and understood. Whatever our reason we want SOMETHING from the other person. Yet wanting something from someone is potentially a very vulnerable position to be in. So without really realising it we may slide off actually saying what we want.
For example, if John’s partner is in the pub when she’d told him she was at work he may be really upset with her, He may tell her all his judgements and feelings – but what does he actually want from her? It may seem to him that she ‘should’ know what he wants, or that it is screamingly obvious what he wants – but it is still, we believe, the responsibility of the person communicating to state clearly what they want.
Does he want her to tell him honestly where she is all the time? Or does he want her not to flirt with other men? Or does he want her to come home to him if she’s not at work? Or does he want her to give up drinking?
He may think she knows what he wants, but she may really NOT know. So it is important for him to state his want clearly. It is important to state it as clearly as possible. It’s not necessarily helpful to say ‘I don’t want you to lie to me ever again.’ Or ‘I just want you to be more responsible’. These are too vague, and include hidden judgements of the other person.
Now, of course, if we ask for something we don’t necessarily get it. This is why stating our want makes us so vulnerable. We have to state it knowing we may not actually get it. This can be the reason why many people don’t clearly state their want. It can just be too painful.
INCLUDING ALL OF OURSELF.
So to conclude, let’s look at an example including facts, judgements, feelings and wants. Let’s go back to the example where John’s partner was in the pub when he thought she was at work. Different people will have very different thoughts, feelings and wants in response to this situation, but one example might be:
‘When you were in the pub the other day and you’d told me you were at work. (Facts. He may want to double check that she agrees with this as a fact before we go on). I thought you had deliberately lied to me. I started to believe you were avoiding being with me and you’re not enjoying my company at the moment. (John’s thoughts and judgements). I felt angry and also frightened. (His feelings). I’d really like you to tell me honestly how you’re feeling about our relationship and if there’s anything you’re finding difficult at the moment. (His want from her).
This is clear communication and offers many opportunities for John’s partner to respond, and for communication to flow between then. It may be that she is having difficulties with the relationship, or it may simply be that a colleague invited her for a drink and she fancied going. There are many different possibilities, John can’t know the truth until they begin communicating, and beginning a conversation in this way gives a good chance of them getting to the bottom of things and understanding each other more deeply.
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