With Easter very quickly approaching (hey, wasn’t it just Christmas?), most of us will be spending time with family in the coming weekend. Although family time is incredibly precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted, it can still be very difficult for some. How does time with people we love end up being so tough sometimes?
Well, for one, it’s because we often put on our “everything is A-okay” masks and don’t express ourselves honestly or openly. Deep down, we fear vulnerability, so we put up a wall that blocks anyone from seeing how we really feel. We stuff our emotions, pretend everything is okay, and sweep any conflict or complaints under the carpet (‘til next year). Or, we find the path of least resistance is to keep a grudge and revert to passive aggressive behavior rather than reconcile. (Hmm…how’s that working for you?)
Many (especially us guys) have been led to believe that expressing our feelings is a sign of weakness. That’s not the case at all—it’s actually a sign of emotional maturity! But whether it’s from our upbringing or a distorted perception of “weakness,” we pay a price if we don’t express our feelings. Being honest and authentic with others is a healthy practice. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
“What’s so wrong with not sharing how I feel?” many may be asking. Plenty! First off, it deprives others of knowing how you really feel (How can they contribute their support if they don’t know what’s wrong in the first place?). Second, suppressed feelings can cause stress and, if severe, illness and depression. Third, deep-rooted offenses and resentment they can cause explosive reactions when they’re eventually released. The balloon pops rather than gently losing its air. Not good—for anyone!
I encourage you to learn how to freely and appropriately express your feelings to the people in your life. Here’s a short test to help you judge how easy (or not) it is for you to be “real.” Consider the following phrases and ask yourself how often you share them with others:
I love you I’m proud of you I respect you
I appreciate you I made a mistake I admire you
I was wrong I care about you Please forgive me
I’m sorry I’m grateful for you I’m worried about…
Some of these are naturally easier to express than others, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Expressing your feelings and communicating openly and honestly are life skills that CAN be learned and refined. With that, here are three simple tips to help you open up:
- Be sincere. Speak the truth, and speak it from your heart.
- Be mindful of your body language and tone of voice. Certain body language (arms crossed, hands on hips, standing above the other person, etc.) or voice tones may counteract your words. Sincerity is key to any apology. .
- Avoid finger pointing and accusations. Instead, talk about how certain situations made you feel and strive for understanding.
As we enter into this spring holiday, I hope you enjoy your times of togetherness. Use them to practice expressing the “real you” and maybe to repair a strained relationship. Remember, successful people express themselves not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.
How would you rate when it comes to expressing yourself? Are there phrases on the above list that you have difficulty saying? Why?