I hate it when people share their feelings with me, with no clear purpose in mind.
I can see how readers are preparing to throw rotten tomatos at me. Nowadays everyone knows about emotional awareness, and sharing feelings seems to be a big part of it. Well, it is not.
I agree it’s critical to stay aware of our own feelings and it’s good to be able to read others’ emotional clues. I disagree we should download our strong intimate feelings onto other people, without explaining what we expect the other person to do with this information.
To me, a conversation about how I feel about a person is a personal conversation. This conversation should be driven by me, with a clear goal of what I want to achieve from this conversation. I have respect for people’s feelings. Respect to me is privacy. I don’t invade another person’s mental and emotional territory with silly questions about how they feel about me.
I’m almost 50 y.o. and I’ve had enough of those conversations (and still having them) to know that it’s selfishness, not taking responsibility and/or manipulation. I’m not your mum and not your therapist. Yes, I care how you feel about me and my actions, but if you decide to tell me how you feel, you should also tell me why you’re telling me: what you expect from me? I won’t self-nominate to be responsible for your feelings. I have my own feelings to sort out, so I don’t have the desire, time and energy to sort out yours.
Is there a point in sharing how we feel?
We try to hide our feelings but we forget that our eyes can speak.
Some people are very good at reading others’ emotional clues. I’m this kind of person and I can confirm that there’s no point sharing feelings with me (unless there’s a purpose to the conversation), because I probably picked up the person’s emotional clues well before they realised how they felt. Joke. But seriously, if someone pretends they don’t see your feelings, then obviously they don’t want to talk about your feelings, either. Do you really think forcing someone into a conversation will help?
Some people are very bad at reading others’ clues. In this case, it’s even more important to have a clear purpose in mind, because people with a low EQ won’t appreciate a pointless conversation about feelings and might be even embarrassed by it.
What’s the purpose of the conversation?
Some will say that people have the right to show their feelings. Showing is one thing. Stating them out loud is another. Like with any conversation, a conversation about feelings, either positive or negative, should have a purpose, structure and outcome, with potential options.
My mentor who introduced me to relationship management used to say: walk into a conversation fully prepared and then play it by ear, because conversations never go to plan. Why? There’s that one little annoying thing called human component.
In conversations loaded with personal intense feelings the human component will be huge and unpredictable. So, it’ll be even more important to have a clear goal in mind.
What about the consequences?
It’s nice we want to get a positive (from our perspective) outcome, but have we thought about all potential consequences? Do we know how the other person will react? Do we actually know who we’re dealing with? Or are we too focused on our own feelings so we’re totally oblivious to the bigger picture?
What if things don’t go to plan? Will we make things worse? Will we regret it afterwards? Will the other person use this information against us? Will they hurt us? Or will they just walk out of our life?
In my 20s when I was bored or needed help, I used to ring one of my exes, who’d always be there to listen and help. I suspected he’d be happy to get back together with me. Once when I called him again, he asked me to stop calling him. He said that every time I called his heart would come alive with hope, and then break down again when he realised that getting back together was an illusion. He said that in a very calm and measured voice, and I sensed how much pain was behind his calm attitude. I never called him again after that.
That to me was an example of a mature and confident attitude to sharing feelings with a purpose.
Do we really know how we feel?
Always be true to your feelings because the more you deny what you feel the stronger it becomes.
If we’re to have a conversation about feelings, we should have an internal conversation first – with ourself. Why do we feel the way we feel and what triggers our feelings and what we’re going do to about all this?
What are we trying to resolve? We’re obviously overwhelmed – either positively or negatively – so I’d say there’s some type of a tension point (and yes, any strong emotion/feeling creates a tension point). We want to get to some kind of result. So, we need to be well aware what result we want. Simply sharing how we feel with the ‘object’ of our feelings won’t bring us to resolving our tension.
We’re responsible for our feelings
Feelings are personal. Feelings are all about how we perceive the other person and the situation, and our biases and chemistry inside our brain. Read again: it’s our perception filter and it’s our feelings. We are ultimately responsible for how we feel. Not someone else. Not the object of our love or hate. Regardless if the other person is oblivious to how we feel or they intentionally influence the way we feel. It’s still our choice how we feel about the person and the situation. And if we suddenly fall in love or out of love, or feel a strong urge to hate someone – it's our problem.
We have to consider what triggers our strong emotions and how we can get this resolved with the perpetrator. This means negotiation. Any relationship is negotiation, even a superficial friendship over infrequent coffees. It’s wrong to just stroll up to the person, say ‘I love you’ or ‘did you know that I have always disliked you’ and stop at that. The immediate logical question the other person would have will be ‘so what?’
Are we looking for a substitute mum?
Sharing your strong feelings with a person, with no clear goal in mind, is like shifting the responsibility for your feelings to the other person and expecting that the other person will figure out what do to about your feelings, how you want to be treated and what you want from the relationship.
It’s Ok if you’re 5 y.o. and expect mum to ease your strong pain or joy. It’s not Ok when you’re 30 y.o. and throw the ball of your feelings at another person and expect the person to figure out what to do with it. You probably know what happens next. The other person simply drops the ball.
I’d say it’s sometimes easier and more respectful to get to the desired result without actually sharing feelings. For example, if I’ve taken a strong personal dislike to someone, why make them feel bad if they haven’t done anything wrong? I’d give them a reason instead why I don’t want to continue seeing them.
Manipulating others by creating guilt
To me, sharing for the sake of sharing can also be a type of manipulation, where we intentionally shift the responsibility for our feelings to another person – thus, making the other person feel guilt. I hate you and feel bad, now – let’s see what you’re going to do about it, and how high you’re going to jump to get me back to feeling normal.
Pay attention when people react with anger and hostility to your boundaries. You have found the edge where their respect for you ends.
Something else to watch out for is when words about feelings, or any words for that matter, don't match actions. The person talks about love and/or friendship but their actions are quite hostile, they're invading your boundaries and there're absolutely no friendly gestures. You're dealing with a manipulator and an aggressive one.
Manipulations never work with people who have good self-confidence, common sense and some degree of emotional intelligence, because such people – after expressing sympathy - will inevitably decide to drop the ball of the manipulator’s emotions. We’re all civilized and have manners, but we don’t want to carry the heavy load of another person’s feelings, we have ours to worry about.
Feelings can be intense and random
I’m one of these people who have seemingly intense random feelings and emotions. Of course, they are never random and there’re complex reasons behind the seemingly random pattern. To other people though, my strong feelings and emotions often seem very random, irrational, inexplicable and too intense.
People who can jump from one extreme to another within minutes and who experience strong mixed changeable feelings should think well before they share feelings. Why burden other people? Also, saves the time not to have to explain yourself why you felt one way yesterday and feel completely different today.
So, what to do if someone is imposing their unwanted feelings on you without giving you a reason, a purpose or anything at all? And then stares at you expecting who knows and who cares what.
My husband calls this ‘surviving tsunami’ – get to a tall building and watch calmly as tsunami passes by. Don’t take the tsunami personally, it’s a natural disaster and there’s nothing you can change about it. You have options though: you can relocate to another area where there’re no tsunamis, or build thick skin so you aren’t affected by these conversations. Unless of course you want to play mum or victim.