to principle number two
CLOSENESS HAPPENS AT THE
level of feeling. So when you're talking, keep trying
to express your feelings. And when the other is talking, keep
trying to discover her feelings. No matter what you're talking
about, it is almost sure you have some feelings about it. And
no matter what the other is talking about, try to elicit her
feelings about it. That's where real connection happens.
I was talking to my son last night. I tend
to fall into the role of the teacher, especially with him, which
is fine when he asks me for advice, but even then, I can focus
on feelings. I don't know what you naturally drift into. But
the principle is the same no matter what it is. As you notice
yourself drifting, come back to feelings. Keep returning
home to that base.
My son was waxing philosophical about jealousy.
"I think if my girlfriend left me for another man,"
he said, "and I felt upset about it, the upset would be
created by me, not by her. If I could become free of selfish
neediness, I would not feel jealous or sad."
I wanted to argue with him. His idea seemed
idealistic and naïve. I was about to drift into teaching,
but I stopped myself. I remembered that I really want to be close
to my son. And I reminded myself that closeness happens at the
level of feeling, so I argued with his position, but from personal
experience, revealing personal feelings.
"I don't know. That sounds good, but
if Klassy (my wife) had an affair and I found out about it, I
would not only feel jealous, I would be stunned because we know
each other so well. I trust her." I was stumbling a little,
but I went on: "What you're saying sounds good in theory,
but I think it's too much of an ideal." Here you can see
I started to drift away from talking about feelings, but I caught
myself. "I guess it just worries me to think if something
like that happened, you would not only feel jealous and hurt,
but you'd be beating yourself up for feeling jealous and hurt."
As I spoke, I was getting clearer about what I wanted to say
at the level of feeling. And I said, "I just don't want
you to suffer any more pain or sorrow than you have to."
This is totally different from what I used
to do. In the old days, I would have given him information about
the biology of emotions in mammals or something and he probably
would have felt lectured to. But because I kept coming back to
feelings, what I said brought us closer he learned more
But as you'll find out, revealing your
feelings is only half the formula. Listening is the other
half. Listening for feelings.
Listening starts with asking questions
that will help you discover feelings (or the circumstances that
led to the feelings). After I said what I said above, I asked
my son, "Did something happen that got you thinking about
this?" And our conversation moved away from an abstract
debate over a philosophical point to a conversation that brought
A FEELING NAMED DESIRE
Desire is a feeling one of the most
important feelings to reveal. Your desires are a very important
part of you, an intimate thing to divulge and to listen for.
When I was first learning about revealing
what I feel, I spent two days really concentrating on it. But
I made a crucial mistake. I was thinking of it as "show
what you feel." So rather than hiding my emotions, I let
them display on my face honestly. I had a terrible day.
The reason it didn't work is that first,
nonverbal communication isn't clear. But more importantly in
this case, I didn't tell people what I want. The only way people
knew what I wanted was when I was displeased I didn't get what
I wanted and showed the negative feeling on my face.
I learned that if you reveal what you feel
but not what you want, people don't know what you want, so you
will dislike some of what they do. Which you will display on
your face. So revealing what you feel becomes "showing negative
emotions" it expresses itself as being critical.
You need to back up a step and ask yourself what you want. Reveal
what you want.
If you don't say what you want, then "revealing
your feelings" ends up being non-understandable, confusing
criticism. You are not-liking people when they do what you don't
want rather than telling people what you do want.
What I've found works pretty well
a good rule of thumb is to try to fill my conversation
with "I want
" and "I feel
putting your talk into those two forms as much as you can. Keep
coming back to it. And help others express what they want and
THE SECURITY OF VULNERABILITY
When you reveal your feelings to people,
you are more open to criticism, hurt feelings, ridicule, and
rejection. That's why we don't do it. It makes us vulnerable
to emotional pain. But let's look a little beyond the immediate
threat. As you form more close friends, you will feel more and
more secure. You become part of a network of allies. You have
confidantes. You feel surrounded and supported by close friends.
This comfortable, secure feeling is one of the ultimate rewards
cultivating closeness can bring you when you're willing to reveal
Bare your soul. Yes, you will sometimes
get hurt. But closeness is worth the trouble. Yes, you will stumble
and fall. But you can try again tomorrow. No, you may not be
very good at it yet. But you can get better.
Closeness comes from communication at the
level of feelings. You can discuss politics or philosophy or
gossip or opinions for hours and not feel one iota closer to
the person you're talking with. If your feelings and the other's
personal feelings are not mentioned, all your talking will not
make you feel connected.
LISTEN FOR FEELINGS
Reveal feelings. That's a simple principle
you can remember and it will take you a long way. The meaning
of "reveal" goes in two directions: On the one hand,
try to reveal what you feel so others know you and can connect
with you at the level of feelings.
The other meaning of "reveal"
is also relevant: When you brush away sand, you reveal what's
below. When you listen well, and listen for feelings, you reveal
what the other feels. He reveals it to you with your help. Often,
your efforts will help him reveal what he feels to himself. He
may not have known he felt that way until you helped him uncover
it. You helped him reveal his feelings. Empathy is the key (click here to learn more
Let's say you're talking with a friend
and she says, "My boss is on my back." She looks worried
and a little angry.
You're listening for feelings you
want to discover her feelings about the situation, you want to
help her reveal her feelings, so you say, "That must make
you feel worried and maybe angry."
You might ask why you should make
her feelings explicit. She had a look on her face, and you saw
it. The communication took place, right? Why bother saying it
out loud? Why make it verbal? Because nonverbal communication
is too easy to misinterpret. Her facial expression might have
been indigestion. Your interpretation might be wrong. The "communication"
that took place might not really have taken place like you assume.
You won't know until you make it verbal.
Not only that, the fact that you're bringing
it up and talking about it lets her know that you know. That's
different than just sending out the communication. Merely speaking
is not what makes people feel connected otherwise speaking
aloud by yourself would take away loneliness. But it doesn't.
A vital part of connecting is knowing the other knows
what you feel.
Sometimes it's difficult to listen for
feelings. You have to put out effort. You have to try. It took
me awhile to see and hear Klassy's hurt because the way she tends
to express herself when she's hurt is to angrily attack. I used
to be so busy defending myself I never noticed she was really
hurt. But it makes a big difference to recognize that. When I
recognize it, I don't bother trying to defend myself. If you
know an animal is scared and lashing out desperately, you don't
keep trying to dominate it. You back off. You try to reassure
the animal that you mean no harm. This is an entirely natural
response. When I recognize Klassy's anger as hurt, the conversation
goes much differently. Much better. And I discovered this by
listening for feelings.
Principle Number Three:
Reveal feelings yours and theirs.
Keep returning to feelings.