To all who have written me emails and left comments expressing how much you appreciate my articles on emotional connection, I want to say thank you for making it hard for me to keep my ego in check. But since I love you all, I will accept your words of appreciation and encouragement. That’s how self-less I am (wink, wink).
Joking aside, it’s nice to see so much interest in genuinely trying to emotionally connect with the people we love and want to keep in our lives. With so much going on in the world of tweets, texts and instant messaging, genuine emotional connection seems something from last century… but maybe not.
As long as we still respond to emotions and feelings even when they are not apparent, emotional connection is still as relevant today as it was in the last century, and that’s a good thing.
But it’s not just connecting to the emotions of others that is important. Emotional intelligence and maturity is part about other people’s emotions and part about our own emotions. One needs the other.
I talk to so many people who say “I am more emotionally open than my ex” or “I prefer to talk things through and not keeping it in” or “I let people know exactly what I think/feel” or ““I’m just sharing my feelings,” and think that because they share information with the other person, or are more verbally expressive, they are also more emotionally open and authentic.
1) A thoughtful act…
Sharing how you feel with the people we love is a huge part of a healthy relationship, but if it is an automatic reaction rather than a thoughtful act, it can do more damage than good, i.e., escalate a conflict, fuel drama and/or build walls.
Take for example “I love you” (perhaps the most emotionally moving words of all time), why, when and how we say these three words can make or break a relationship.
In a one setting and timing, they can get us a teary deeply felt, ” I love you too”, but in a different setting and a different time, they can get us a cold “I don’t care” or some other reaction that tells you that saying “I love you” was a mistake, ill-timed or offensive to the other person. Same exact words, two very different responses and outcomes.
When you are trying to attract back your ex, thinking about what you are going to share with your ex before you share it with them, and trying to envision a likely outcome can make the difference between a positive and negative outcome.
2) Good intentions, bad outcome…
Knowing when to hold back and when to say something is one of the main difference between an adult and a child. I am one of those that believes that children and animals tell the truth, they never hide how they truly feel. That raw unfiltered innocence is what goodness is made of. The difference is that as we grow older, we learn that there are consequences to what we say, when we say it and how we say it.
Like “I love You”, the words coming out of your mouth may be positive and your intentions may be good, but sometimes just because you want to say something or can say it doesn’t mean you should.
In my coaching I encourage my client to use the ACT approach to sharing their thoughts and feelings in text messaging, phone calls or face-to-face conversation.
A – Is this conversation Appropriate?
Things to consider are: timing of the conversation, timing in terms of where things are in the process of getting back together, the mood of the conversation, the mood your ex is in, etc.
C – Does my ex Care about what I think/feel?
Things to consider are: their previous reactions to similar conversations, your previous reactions to their reactions, the strength of the emotional connection at the time of the conversation, will it make your ex suspicious of your intentions etc.
T – Do they have the Time to respond
Things to consider are: is there enough time for them to respond, do they need to respond at all, do they feel that they need to respond right away, etc.
3) Think of the short term and long term impact…
Sharing feelings with someone you love is how you develop a sense of trust and identity as a couple, but when you are dealing with an ex, their perception of you and their feelings about a relationship with you means everything.
So before you click “send”, think about how your ex might react in the short term and how what you are sharing will impact your chances long term.
“Emotions are contagious, and you can impact the emotions of others by sharing how you feel,” says David Caruso, a psychologist and research affiliate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. He points out that emotions often arise suddenly, can be fleeting, and are dependent on a lot of contextual factors, from how well you slept to how recently you’ve eaten. “How you’re feeling in the moment can be the product of all these unrelated things,” Caruso says. And by expressing what you’re feeling, not only do you pass some of your emotion to others, but you also have to deal with the aftermath of that disclosure.
Say that, in a fit of anger or frustration, you share your negative feelings with your spouse or a close friend in a way that makes that person feel responsible. Opening up may be satisfying in the moment, Caruso says, but it could also be damaging to your relationship in the long run. In many cases, he says, it would be better for all involved if you took some time alone to come to grips with the real root of your feelings.
“A close examination of your emotions and an honest assessment of where they’re coming from can be more helpful than simply declaring what you’re feeling. If you’re just focusing on your emotions, you’re often missing the point,” says James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. “The examination is the helpful part.”