4 Ways To Effectively Communicate (To Your Ex) Your Feelings And Needs

Break-ups bring with them a mixed bag of emotions and feelings – hurt, anger, guilt, resentment, shame, regret, and even hate. Regardless of what friends, family, mentors, therapists, coaches etc. may say, whatever you feel is authentically and validly what you feel.

You have a right to your feelings. You have a right to feel hurt, angry, upset, guilty, or frustrated.

While whatever you feel is undoubtedly what you feel, and is authentic and valid, it’s important that how you express whatever you feel doesn’t hurt your chances of attracting back someone you still love and want to be with.

In his controversial book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, psychologist Marshall B. Rosenberg shares The 4 Fundamental Principles of Nonviolent Communication.

The premise of nonviolent communication is that when we communicate our feelings with the intention to manipulate others, we are engaging in a type of “violence.” We are essentially using our feelings to coerce or punish someone for not acting how we would like them to.

Nonviolent communication also known as empathetic communication or collaborative communication helps us better communicate how we feel by:

  • Observing what’s happening – what’s really going on that you either like or dislike?
  • Identifying our feelings about it – anger, joy, hopeful, inspired, lonely?
  • Figuring out what need we have that is driving that feeling
  • Asking for what we need (directly and clearly)

The whole book itself is a little hard to implement and controversial in some places, but these simple practical tools are remarkably useful for improving how you communicate your feelings (and needs) and can significantly increase your chances of attracting back your ex.

1. Observation

To communicate our feelings effectively, we must focus on the facts before we begin assigning meaning or judgment to them. If someone doesn’t show up to a date we had planned, that’s the only observable fact I know. But when I start thinking, “This person is very rude!” or “They must hate me!” then I’m assigning meaning to my observations that may not be true. It’s important to stick to the facts if we want to engage in honest communication.

2. Feelings

To communicate our feelings effectively, we must be honest about our feelings without being judgmental or evaluating others in response to them. When your boss declines to give you a raise and you say, “I feel this isn’t fair!” that’s reflecting a judgment on your boss (“He’s unfair”). Instead, it’s more proper to say, “I feel upset because…” or “I feel angry because…” which focuses on the emotions you’re feeling without turning them into a judgment onto others.

3. Needs

To communicate our feelings effectively, it’s helpful to understand that some feelings are “expressions of needs” that aren’t being fulfilled. It’s important to communicate your needs in a direct way. If a wife tells her husband, “You spend too much time at work” – so the husband takes a day off and plays a round of golf instead – she might be still upset if the true need she wanted to communicate was, “I wish you’d spend more time with me and the family.” If you don’t communicate your needs to others, they won’t know what you’re asking of them.

4. Requests

To communicate our feelings effectively, it’s important that we speak about our feelings and our needs in terms of “requests” rather than “demands.” When we speak about our feelings with the expectation that people should just know what we want and comply to it, we aren’t putting in the necessary effort to make our feelings understood. By making a request for a specific change, we give others a much clearer idea of what it is we are asking of them.

But before you communicate your feelings make sure to honour their authenticity and validity.

As I said in the beginning of the article, emotions and feelings during and after a break-up are a mixed bag. And when you add in there anxiety, worry, persistent thoughts, biased perceptions, unhelpful beliefs and bad relationship advice, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is a “feeling”, what is a “thought” and what is “reality”.

I know this because I work with so many people who still love their ex very much but are so angry with something their ex said or did that they can’t see that their ex is taking responsibility for their words or actions and making an effort to be better. There is a contradiction between what they think, what they feel and what is happening. I have also worked with men and women who so badly want their ex back that they can’t see that what they feel does not match or fit “what is” in the moment.

In another article, I will discuss and provide tools for dealing with when your feelings are telling you one thing, your thoughts are telling you another, and direct “reality” is telling you something else.

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