As we continue this small series on communication, today we'll look at an important piece of communication that happens all too often in relationships: trying to reason a person out of their emotions, or to put it another way--trying to change a partner's emotions--just as the above tweet phrases it.
To begin with, very rarely does a conversation begin with the intention of wanting to change a partner's emotions. No matter what form the conversation takes, thoughts will unfold and emotions will surface. Only after the conversation continues for awhile does the "change what you're feeling"-card get played.
Partner 1: "You know I don't like it when you tell me you're coming home at 5PM, but then roll in after 6PM."
Partner 2: " What's the big deal? You told me once many times before you'd prefer it if I left work at work and not brought my work home with me. Well...staying an extra hour is the cost of that!"
Partner 1: "Well could you at least call me and tell me that? I heard on the news there was a really bad accident on the highway and when I heard that--I immediately thought of you, thought about how I hadn't heard from you and was afraid that something happened!"
Partner 2: "What are you afraid for? Nothing happened. I'm fine. Look (points to himself) I'm all one piece. You shouldn't have to feel afraid.
Partner 1 begins the conversation with expressing some frustration, and underlying that frustration is the feeling of being hurt. Partner 2, however, doesn't acknowledge the frustration or hurt. Rather, there is an attempt to explain or reason it away. When Partner 1 expresses further emotional words, there is the attempt of Partner 2 to diminish them.
Attempting to explain or reason away another person's emotions is the work of the active mind. At times, it takes the form of a mental exercise utilizing facts, logic, and presentation--almost akin to what participants do in a debate format.
What's lost in these debate-style exchanges is UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE.
It's not one person's role to tell the other how they should feel. In fact--the person who is experiencing the emotion cannot even tell himself or herself what to feel or what not to feel! (Next time you feel sad, try telling yourself "Don't be sad" and see what happens.)
Rather, pay attention to what you observe in the other person--
and respond with understanding and acceptance.
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