Matching Words & Feelings

 Communication In Realtionships 

   Matching Words and Feelings in Communication

Most of us have difficulty communicating in ways that reflect our true feelings. Research has shown that only 5% of people consistently use the emotionally honest leveling response when interacting with others.  50% placate, 30% try to escape by blaming others, and 15% intellectualize by hiding feelings in computing (rationalization), and half try to distract others from the situation by hiding their feelings in irrelevant actions. These four methods of communicating are termed incongruent because there is no or very little relevance or congruity to the real feelings underlying the com-munication efforts.

Everyone tends to use the incongruent responses when they are under stress, feel bad about themselves or don’t feel they can freely talk about what is going on. Each of the four responses above covers up what the speaker is feeling inside with a contradictory communication posture.  These cover-ups are due to anxiety about confrontation, criticism or rejection.

Contrary to these incongruent methods of responding, is leveling. Telling it like it really is. Leveling is honest communication because in it, words and feelings match.

We learn these patterns in our families of origin and they look like this.  Placating was done to avoid someone in the family’s anger or rejection. It is putting the other’s needs first and it is a tacit agreement to avoid conflict. When someone was upset they tried to make that person happy, even if they felt resentful underneath.

When family members responded in a blaming way, they avoided blaming themselves for a situation that felt threatening or out of control. They disagreed and made accusations, implying that anything that was wrong was not their fault. Despite their outward anger, they probably felt alone and anxious underneath.

When the rationalization of computing response was given, they avoided the threat of vulnerability by intellectualization and unemotional detachment. They assert control by fact finding and insistence on a rational, logical approach. Despite their outward restraint, they were tense and worried underneath.

When they used distracting response, they tried to avoid danger by changing the subject and taking irrelevant action. They may have appeared carefree or scatterbrained, but their distractions covered up empty and scared feelings.

If you find yourself using any of the incongruent responses learned in family structures, you will recognize the four unhealthy responses were made because of the underlying beliefs listed below, all of which can be deleted and rescripted as new programs which will result in a healthier exchange of honest feelings and thoughts.

 low self-esteem: Nobody cares what I really feel.
 high stress: I can’t stop to figure out what I feel.
 basic instinct:  It’s not safe for me to be honest.
 fear of rejection:  If I show what I feel, they won’t like me.
                  (think I’m odd, etc.)

The four unhealthy responses are attempts to adapt safely to an unsafe environment. 

In contrast to speaking in ways which do not reflect the way you really feel, leveling is the only successful method of communicating for a healthy relationship. In it we make a conscious effort to notice what we feel and to convey that in what we say. This does not mean lack of restraint or insulting your mate.  Feeling free to reflect your feelings accurately, and consciously choosing to do so, is critical to healing and changing family patterns and relationships.

Your partner is not psychic. They cannot guess what your state of mind is, what your needs are, when you need comforting, when you need space. They have even less of a chance of meeting your needs if they don’t know you. And without a commitment to honest communication, they will never get to know the real you. The aim of marriage is to become more deeply involved in each other’s lives in a supportive, loving way, without usurping the other’s identity, or trespassing on their boundaries and rights. This is not possible without honest feedback.

There is nothing to be gained by hiding your feelings with cover up speech because eventually what you have stuffed underground will come out at the wrong time and explode in your face. Far better to air you opinions and feelings up front and give your partner the opportunity to adjust and rethink his behavior, as you will for him, for the sake of a harmonious yet honest and growing relationship. Not only will lack of honesty stunt the growth of your closeness as a couple, but it will move it backwards from where it began.

Though leveling takes courage, the rewards of clear communication and more productive action are worth it.

 You can learn to survive confrontation and learn to gain its benefits
            once you have deleted the programs underlying the fear   
            of  confrontation.

 You will be connecting in a genuine way with your mate which is  
            essential to building a lasting relationship. 

 You will relieve stress on your body and your mind. Un-experienced
            and unresolved feelings and issues stuffed in body tissue cause

 You sense of self worth will increase as you allow your partner to
            actually experience your value versus backing down as though you
            were less important than they.

 You will gain self-confidence in your ability to stand up for yourself while remaining gentle and loving.

All of these are essential for you as a person and for your relationship.

Here are some jumping off points for an honest discussion of your fears and trepidations about communicating in concordance with your feelings.
This exercise will change the way you experience each other and yourselves for the rest of your lives. Compassion and understanding are common benefits of this conversation.

List now any of these avoidance techniques you have noticed yourself using in your relationship.

List any you believe your partner may be using.




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