Every single day, we exchange with others. We talk, we write, we listen, we read.
Those skills which were incredible to us when we were born quickly became second-nature and we don’t have to think about how to do them anymore. We just do them.
Every day at school, work or any other place, we use them while being aware we can’t say “Yo dude” to our boss (lucky you if you can), or “Here’s my PPT proposal for next weekend’s plan” to your girlfriend. (Well, this one, you can but it’ll sound awkward without fault)
Situations are critical
When it comes to exchanging with others, being able to adapt to any situation is a skill we learn through years and years of practice.
Yet, there’s one kind of conversation which has always bugged me. One which, despite having encountered it many times, I still struggle with: expressing feelings.
It’s not just saying “I love you” or complicated negative feelings. It’s all of it. But let me give you a simple example.
When I first started going out with my girlfriend, she actually had to push me in my corner to make me admit I liked her. (There are cultural differences with the west with regards to how relationships start here.)
I was flustered, couldn’t find words, started speaking in vague terms at an incredible pace. I guess that was cute since, after a while, it somehow worked.
Difficult conversations are equally hard. Differences in culture and mindset have lived along with this relationship and caused frictions which we had to talk out.
It definitely isn’t like an argument you have with your boss. After all, for most of us, work is what we do to live and while we may not like our job, we are well aware there are a whole lot of similar ones.
Furthermore, such situations in the workplace usually have basic facts they are based on and rely much less on feelings.
I’ve always loved talking and often been complained to about the length of my ramblings. So why would that conversations about feelings make me stumble that much?
It’s all about Perspective
You already know where this is going.
The meaning it holds for us is different. The importance we give to those conversations is on a whole new level and cannot be compared to any other kind of conversation.
We want to say something but our automatically perfectionistic brain tries to say exactly what it means while at the same time not being fully aware of what that is.
Feelings are not fact. They vary based on many things, including our mood and our surroundings.
So trying to explain them in a perfect way is, quite simply, impossible.
We Fear Failure
Despite all this, we try our best to make our point go across as well as possible. We have something on our mind (again, whether positive or negative) and want it to be understood and accepted.
What if it weren’t understood as we wanted? What if our feelings were not accepted? What if the argument got even worse?
Everybody’s feelings are their own and while we sometimes get lucky and have rather common ones with someone else, they will never be exactly the same. Our perspective will thus always be at least a bit different from the listener’s.
That small difference is what is scary.
In negative conversations, we even have the extra goal of not hurting the other person’s feelings or at least make it the least hurtful.
All of this is also why breakup conversations are so complicated. After all, even though you may not love the other anymore, you don’t want to hurt them. Or maybe you still love them but you know it’s for the better. But will that other person get it that way?
No matter how hard and long you think about it, every single exchange concerning feelings will never go exactly how you want it.
So why don’t we all stop overthinking everything and just let our feelings out in the open?
It won’t be always easy, but, overall, a world with more openness and honesty will always be better.