One of the most common theme in all my articles is “emotional connection”. Without emotional connection, your efforts to contact and communicate with your ex are pretty much useless.
You may even find that you are in regular contact, but it feels like your ex is just being polite; something is missing. You suspect it’s “emotional connection”, but you don’t know what “emotional connection” is, or how to go about creating it.
What exactly is emotional connection?
Different people have different definitions of what emotional connection is. This is my definition.
Emotional connection is the ability to feel the other person’s emotions like they were your own; and reflect their emotions back to them in away that validates their experience.
It is a step further than “empathy” where you feel the other person’s emotions alongside them; or as someone put it “as if you had ‘caught’ the emotions.”
Emotional connection goes further than an empathetic response
For example, empathy is if someone is happy, you feel their happiness. Not feel “happy for them”, but genuinely feel their happiness. If they are sad, you feel their sadness and you are sad too. Emotional connection is when you feel their happiness and are able to reflect it back to them the way they experience it.
This is not the same as “active listening”. In ‘active listening” you paraphrase and reflect back what the other person is saying; but you may not necessarily feel what they feel. Emotional connection is about what someone else feels and what they may not be saying in words but somehow being communicated.
Some people are naturals at tuning in to emotions. They are always emotionally present and as a result feeling the emotion someone else feels and communicating the emotion in validating ways comes easy and naturally.
Many others however struggle with ’emotional connection’. This is mostly because they put themselves at the center of (and sometimes dominate) conversations and experiences. As a result fail to pick-up what the other person is feeling or reflect their feeling back to them. They think they are “emotionally connecting” but the reality is that they are “just communicating” at best, and talking to themselves at worst.
So… feeling what the other person is feeling; AND reflecting back to them in away that validates their experience and their emotions.
Here is an example many of you may relate to. You contact your ex and they seem upset about something. Many people who are emotionally insecure will automatically assume it’s about them and conclude that their ex wants “space”.
The more emotionally-aware person will ask to try to understand the source of their ex’s upset and feel their emotions. But where they fall short is upon hearing it’s not about them (it’s about something at work for example), they will try to reassure their ex that everything is going to be okay. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not emotional connection. Other people will try to change their ex’s mood (feelings) with humour; or share a similar experience etc. This is good, but it’s not emotional connection.
In fact, trying to change or distract someone from feeling what they feel often creates emotional disconnection. Why? Because that’s not validating their experience or emotions. It’s actually dismissing or trying to distract. Your intentions may be good, but they will not feel that you are emotionally connecting.
Some people call emotional connection “connected energetically”, and they may be onto something. E-motions are energy moving through the body (energy in motion) and if you are physically close to that body you may be able to feel the energy in motion. For example, if they are happy or sad, you can feel their happiness or sadness in your own body. It’s also somewhat easier to emotionally connect if you are talking to them on the phone and can pick up on some of their emotion/energy. It’s harder to emotionally connect by text or email so you rely on being present and trying to feel how the other person is feeling, then reflect their emotional experience back to them.
This is different from communicating your emotions or talking about how you feel
When communicating emotions, the emotion goes one way, from transmitter to receiver. For example, “I am angry at you” or “You disappointed me.” The goal is to communicate how you feel. Make them understand that you are angry or disappointed. With emotional connection, transmitting and receiving an emotion is the goal.
When someone says “I am angry at you” for example, you not only hear what they are saying; you actually feel their anger. The emotional connection is complete when they feel that you feel what they are feeling and respond to it in some form.
Their attempt to transmit the emotion they feel is what Dr Gottman calls “bid for (emotional) connection”. If the other person doesn’t feel that you felt the emotion they were trying to transmit and didn’t respond to it accurately and appropriately, they’ll feel there is an emotional disconnection. They may respond but feel that something is ‘missing’. Sometimes it feels like they are just being polite.
If you consistently miss, misinterpret or ignore their bid to connect on an emotional level, they emotionally wall off, close down and don’t let you in on how they feel. It’s like they are there but you can’t reach them. You find yourself struggling to sustain conversations beyond “how are you”, “how’s your day” or “what are you doing?”
To learn more about how to emotionally connect and why it matters when trying to attract back your ex; enter “emotional connection” in the site search and go through the articles on how to emotionally connect. You can also sign up for one-on-one coaching, and I will help you emotionally connect with your ex via text, email, phone calls or in person.