Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feelings, nothing more than feelings...

There's a lot of talk in the poly community about ways to communicate, methods to discuss things, the "how to" of sharing with others. Many of the ways that are used are feeling based. NVC, using "I" statements, and various other techniques common in psychotherapy.

Here's my question: Do we get so bogged down in how we "feel" that actually coming up with useful practical solutions gets lost in the shuffle? Feelings are never wrong, so there is no need to defend them in conversation. A person can talk from dawn to dusk about how they feel about something, and never move onto actual problem-solution discussion. Moreover, they can avoid being wrong, or right, or taking a position on something entirely by sticking strictly with how they feel.

Let's try an example: "I feel unhappy when this boundary isn't honored." OK, so what? What does that _mean_? It's a cop out. There is no course of action asked for, no solution sought, it's just saying what is felt, sharing that signifies nothing. If it isn't taken to the next level: "This will be my response the next time this happens." or "If this boundary isn't one that you can agree to, I need to know about that.", for example, it's just words that convey feeling, requiring nothing from self or others.

It's fine to say what you feel. It's a great first step, without which communication on an emotional level isn't possible. Knowing oneself emotionally is of value, conveying that to others can be of use. Moving forward from that point has even greater value.

When sharing with my partners, I find it more useful to have a model that goes something along the lines of:

1)Have and identify a feeling.

2)Share the feeling.

3)Look at how that feeling impacts life in practical application.

4)Work together to find a mutually agreeable solution/understanding, or discover that you and your partner follow a different path when it comes to a particular topic.

Continuing to wallow in, "But I FEEL blah blah blah!" can, in my experience, put the onus of action onto one's partners unfairly. They are your feelings, deal with them, and figure out what you want to do about them.

If you decide to engage your partner(s) in sharing your feelings, engage them on the practical application and solution seeking process as well. Just dumping your feelings out there as a form of catharsis can be selfish, assuming your partners aren't emotional rocks lacking empathy. That's what journals are for. This is what inner monologue is about. Pay a counselor for that.

Once the point comes where you open up your mouth and start involving those who care for you, it's time to be prepared to move beyond having feelings and towards doing something about them. If you don't know what that is just yet, that's fine. It's one of the reasons I have partners. They help me with things like this. I am not an island. I am part of a greater continent, and we all try to support the local economy!


Anonymous said...

To be fair, the NVC model does culminate in making a request based on what one observes, feels, and needs. In practice, though, it's easy enough to get stuck before reaching that point.

polyfulcrum said...

Absolutely true, Lev! Thanks for clarifying that. NVC, NLP and many other techniques for communication have great value, particularly when the steps are followed to completion.

That communication sometimes seems to become stuck on that initial step is something that I want to remain aware of in my interactions with myself and others.