There are many times, even daily occurrences in life when we disagree or have different views with another person whether it is at home, work or with friends. How do you react in such situations? Do you find that you shy away, not express your views and avoid conflict at all cost? Perhaps you have left relationships at that point when the honeymoon period is over and you might disagree and have to discuss about something that feels difficult.
Not expressing your views may leave you deep down resentful because your voice has not been heard and your opinion considered. This can have an affect your mood and you feel like there is no point. There may be a deep rooted fear that disagreements turn into nasty arguments and even break down in the relationship so it is easier to hold back and bite your lip when you really would like to say how you feel.
Even if for a long time you have not expressed your views, you can become an effective communicator and get your voice heard. Here are some tips on how to communicate better and get your voice heard.
Where does it stem from and what to do with it?
Understanding where avoiding conflict and not expressing yourself stems from allows you to make changes to your communication style. Not saying anything is also a way to communicate, although it is not a very effective way for you to get your thoughts and feelings heard. It can lead you to feeling frustrated and angry. In the long run it will affect your mood and you may feel low or anxious.
Let’s think back. There could be a number of reasons why you have learnt to not express your option. Have there been any times in your life when your opinion or views as a child or later on were not considered? Perhaps you learnt early on that your opinion does not matter or you have to be “a good girl or boy” and not say anything. Not saying can be a coping mechanism you learned as a child when there was, for example, emotional neglect, physical or emotional abuse or other type of unsettling or frightening events going on in your life. Perhaps your parents used to argue a lot in front of you and it was very upsetting for you.
There may be a particular type of person that you feel difficult to express your views to. Think if there is anything about this person that reminds you of someone in your past? Recognise similarly that this may affect you and how you respond to people. It may be that you do not want to express your views to men but are able to say to a woman, because you, for example, had an authoritative father and a better relationship with your mother or vice versa.
Not expressing your views might have been a way to cope when you were little, but is not serving you any more and helping you to live your life to the full and getting your needs met. It is time to try something different and find an effective way to communicate your needs. Spend a moment giving a mental hug to that inner child who did not get noticed and was not able to express their thoughts and feelings. As an adult you can give yourself what you need and want, and learning to express yourself effectively is a step forward.
You, your thoughts and feelings matter!
We all have an equal right to express our feelings, views and opinions. It is a part of life’s wonderful richness to have diversity and different views. Disagreements do not have to lead to full blown arguments and unrepairable relationships between people. People can disagree, still continue respecting each other and are able to either work side by side, be in a relationship or be friends. For example, there are many couples who may have different political views or other strong opinions, but are able to put these aside and live happily together. Perhaps the differences in opinions bring some spice to the life and make it more interesting.
Shying away from a potential confrontation and not expressing your views is not getting what you want in life and can make you really unhappy. Perhaps you feel that you need to agree with others all the time so that you are liked. It is a cliché but true that you cannot please everyone and in fact expressing yourself may earn you more respect by those around you. The important thing to remember is that you are valuable and you deserve to be heard.
Getting your thoughts and feelings heard: “I” language
It can be a very daunting idea to start speaking up and stop saying “yes” when you mean “no” and expressing yourself. A way to be assertive and take ownership of what you say is by using “I” language. This means starting your message with, for example:
When you focus on yourself, this is more easily accepted by another person than if you were to say “You…”, which may be considered as confrontational by the other person and is unlikely to get a satisfactory result.
“You have to…”
A more effective way to communicate is by saying how you feel (e.g. sad, angry, unappreciated…) when something happens (e.g. in relation to your partner’s behaviour), state what you would like instead and check with the other person if they are happy to do that.
“I feel X when Y happens. I would like Z instead. Is that OK with you?”
People are more likely to respond positively when you speak from your heart and express how you feel in relation to their behaviour. Trying to find a solution is a more positive way to approach the situation and not accusatory, and more likely to reach a mutually satisfactory result.
Find a common goal
If you disagree with your partner, work colleague or friend about something and you need to negotiate to get things done. Try to find a shared goal to work towards. It is a lot easier to negotiate when both parties understand that you are working towards a common goal.
Taking small steps
If expressing your needs is new to you, it is likely to cause some anxiety. Start practicing by expressing yourself to people who you feel most comfortable with; a supportive friend, family member or a colleague. Take small steps which allow you to become more comfortable and confident with communicating your thoughts and feelings. Don’t be surprised if people around you are a little bit taken back by your new approach to communication. Don’t worry people will generally get used to you changing. People who love you want you to be true to yourself.
Hopefully by starting to express yourself and being more in tune with your own needs has a positive effect on your mood and life in general. If you would like to have more assistance with starting to express yourself, therapy can help. Please get in touch and together we could think about how to remove those emotional blocks that are stopping you from expressing yourself.
Dr Mari Kovanen, CPsychol, is a Counselling Psychologist in private practice on Harley Street and in Reigate. firstname.lastname@example.org