How to Share Uncomfortable Feelings in 6 Steps
"I have something I need to tell you."
Just reading those words can send chills down your spine.
I bet, just by reading them, you immediately conjured up feelings and images about what's coming next.
For me, those words signal that something difficult or surprising is to follow.
And that's what we're going to address today--sharing uncomfortable information.
I used to DREAD it. Now, I'm learning to love it, if that's even possible.
I'll walk you through the steps you can take to learn to love it too.
Why Share Uncomfortable Feelings?
Before we can address how to share difficult information, we need to talk about why you might do that in the first place.
After all, isn't uncomfortable information uncomfortable for a reason?
Is it necessary to share this kind of information at all?
Yes. And yes.
If you're feeling like you really need to say something--or share something--with another person, and if it's causing you discomfort in any way, it's a big sign.
And it's not a sign something is wrong with you. It's just data.
Your emotions are signals. Like traffic lights that alternate between different colors, your emotions are simply trying to tell you something important.
And you have a choice.
You can pretend the feelings aren't there and push them away. Or you can accept that they are trying to tell you something and learn to respond in the best possible way you can.
When you have a feeling like shame, or guilt, or anxiety, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It just might be trying to tell you something important.
And if you have these feelings in relation to another person, it most likely means you need to take action to transform those feelings into ones that are a bit more tolerable for you.
But remember this important point: you are not your feelings.
You are not anxiety or disappointment, or doubt.
You're a human experiencing human emotions.
So let's get on to part two, shall we?
How to Share Uncomfortable Feelings
Sharing uncomfortable information starts with you.
Only you know how you are feeling, and only you know what those current feelings are like.
They might be terrorizing your mind, or they might be lodged somewhere deep in your body, like your gut or between your shoulder blades.
Identify that first and foremost.
Most people tend to hold their anxiety in certain places, for instance. The better you can get at identifying what you're feeling--and where it's located--the better you'll get at quickly spotting the meaning of what's going on for you.
And then...you can start to share that with others.
Below is a simple plan that works for me.
Take what you need from it and try it out for yourself. If one step seems out of order for you, replace it with a different one.
It's your life, and you know it best.
A Simple Plan For Sharing Uncomfortable Feelings
1 - Identify what you're feeling and put the feelings into your own words
If you've been following along with The Mental Health Update for a while, you know I often start with a first step that includes identifying what's going on. I do this because, if your feelings are not clear to you, how do you think you'll be able to make them clean to others?? This is so important. Before you even begin to think about sharing uncomfortable information, you have to get that information clear for yourself.
I always like to write down what I'm feeling. Writing out your thoughts and feelings has been shown to help you process what you're dealing with. And it also helps you get some much-needed distance between your feelings and yourself. Because, again--you are not your feelings. You're just a human experiencing some passing emotional states.
2 - Mentally rehearse what you'd like to say
Once you have your feelings clear and down on paper (or computer, or papyrus, or whatever), Start to think about what you want to do next. This thinking step is where you begin to create a new reality for yourself. Once you think something, then you can achieve it.
Think about that. Any goal you've ever accomplished had to start as a thought.
3 - Then, take the words and visualize your perfect conversation with another person
This step is backed by research. Visualization has been shown to have massive benefits. For athletes, for people recovering from broken bones and surgeries. For all kinds of situations. When you visualize yourself doing something, your brain doesn't know that you're not doing it yet.
Your brain acts as if it's already done, and research has shown that people receive mental, emotional, and physical benefits before they ever take action.
4 - Put it into action
This is the part that most people dread: actually having the uncomfortable conversation with another person. But--and this is strange--it's often the easiest part. Once you start sharing what's on your mind, you're creating a new reality for yourself. You're being brave and taking control of your future.
You can't control what people will say, but you can control how you respond.
5 - Stay in the moment during the conversation
Whatever happens in the conversation, do not return to thinking and visualizing mode during this step. Stay open to whatever happens next. As long as you follow along and do your best to connect with the emotions behind what the other person is saying, you'll be OK.
6 - Remain vulnerable AND honest
This final step is so critical. You were vulnerable and honest when you started the conversation, and you need to remain that way throughout the conversation.
All your prep work could be for nothing if you choose to return to old habits. It's not even as important what you say in response to the other person. Mainly, you need to maintain open body language and an accepting presence.
If that sounds vague to you, let me explain.
The most important thing you're doing when you choose to have an uncomfortable conversation with someone is modeling good behavior.
You're showing more than you're telling.
And the simple act of going first, of being the person to come forward with difficult news, is enough to inspire others.
Starting the conversation is the hard part.
If you can continue to model good behavior with honesty, vulnerability, and acceptance, you will change hearts and minds.
It may not happen in one conversation, but it will happen.
Do the prep work.
Get your feelings clear for yourself.
Step into a new reality that you're in the process of creating.
Stay open to whatever happens.
It sounds so simple when you write it down. And it can be.
Because you have more power than you realize.
And part of your task as a growing, improving human being is to use that power to have open, honest conversations.
You owe it to others, and you owe it to yourself.