In order to successfully communicate you need to master an art of expression. The way we talk about our own experiences and feelings can determine the course of the relationship in any area of our lives.
4 Types of Expression
We can differentiate four different types of expression:
This type implies simply sharing what you observed through your senses. You do it without speculation or adding judgement. Observation is ideal for communicating facts. For example:
I checked in the weather forecast and the temperature should be 15 degrees tonight.
Yesterday I bought a dress.
He wants to get a car loan.
As you can see from the above examples, observation is a direct description of something that a person has heard, read or experienced.
We get our conclusions from what we heard, read or observed. Then, we are trying to understand what and why something is happening. This type also includes judging or assessing if something is bad or good. Other types of thoughts are our beliefs, opinions and theories. Below are some examples:
She must really love him. She does everything to make him happy. (opinion)
I think the moon is a planet. (theory)
What he has done was unacceptable on so many levels. (value judgement)
Expressing our feelings is probably one of the hardest things to do. Some people do not want to talk about feeling at all. They appear to be bored and upset when this topic begins. Additionally, they are usually filtering the conversation to check is there is any potential threat to their ‘wellbeing’ (check previous blog post for more details). In this scenario, the scariest feeling in the conversation is the anger as it can ‘endanger’ self-esteem of the listener.
It is really up to you who you want to express your feelings to. Please note that the way you show up in this world is mostly though the feelings (which make you unique). Feelings are the basis to build a close and meaningful relationship. When you let someone experience your feelings, what upsets you or make you happy, you give other people the opportunity to understand you better. As a result, they know what you feeling they can provide you with some support.
Here are some examples:
I feel like I have disappointed you.
I am really scared to walk in the darkness.
I miss my daughter since she moved out to another country.
Expressing your feelings has nothing to do with observations, judgements or opinions. However, expression of feelings might have a ‘second layer’ of intention. For example, someone saying: “I felt like you didn’t care about what I was saying” is in a fact ‘codified’ judgement.
You and only you know what your needs are! You are the highest authority and an expert on that. However, for whatever reason, you might be blocked and unable to express them. You are hoping that other people ‘will get’ what is important to you and what you need. They should be mind readers. You might say “If you really loved me, you would have known, what you did wrong”. The issue with avoiding the expression of your needs is that they can turn into negative internal feelings from irritation through regret to anger.
If you want to create a deep connection in any relationship, you need to master the expression of your needs. That helps to build honesty and clarity within people.
Below are some examples of ways to express the needs:
Would you mind to be at home by 6 pm? I would like us to eat dinner together.
I would like to talk to you this weekend. Let me know if that’s possible.
Can you clean up the dishes tonight? I am very tired.
Remember that there is nothing wrong in expressing your needs (I am saying that especially to women!). When you talk about your needs you do not judge or request anything. It is just a way to show another person what could be helpful or make you smile.
This type of communication involves all four types of expression: what we observe, think, feel and need. When you are close in a relationship full communication can determine the quality of your connection. When you don’t share your all experiences, you don’t give an opportunity to your friends, your partner or family to really know you. So if a connection is important to you that requires sharing your observations, expressing your feelings and asking for what you need.
The opposite of full communication is incomplete communication. The situation where you withhold certain information (for example you don’t share how upset you are because others might think you are not a nice person).
Remember that you don’t have to use all four types of expression in every situation or relationship. For example, you don’t need to share your deep feelings with a lady at the cash register. Most often our conversations with close people are more informational purposes. However, when we need to communicate something that is important and complex, dropping certain types of expression is quite dangerous because it limits developing trust, intimacy and connection.
How to prepare for a conversation
Self-consciousness - connect with yourself internally. Check what you observed, what you are thinking and feeling, what do you need? What is the purpose of that conversation? Is there something that you are scared to say?
Be conscious of other people - if what you want to say is important, make sure that you do this in consideration of space and time. Check what is the mental state of the person you are talking to.
Make sure that you start your expression with “I” not we or any other person... It needs to be direct.
Remember the communication types:
Example of a situation:
"I see that you're upset" this was a statement made by a husband who came back home after long hours of work and who noticed that his wife did not say much in the last 30 minutes.
Going back to the communication framework, he could have said:
"You did not say much since I got home. I presume that you are upset and that impacts me too. Can we talk about it?'
Try this as a fun activity with your friend. Come up with a list of situations and how the communication went wrong (it could be real or fictional). Then, use the framework as a template to come up with a different way of communicating.