Feeling right is a poor substitute

I had a difficult conversation with a dear friend the other day, after a previous interaction had triggered some intense emotions in me which I hadn’t been able to access or express at the time. He listened to me express my feelings and responded in a way which explained his behaviour. Sadly, I didn’t feel seen or received. And I had the sense, we both came away feeling dissatisfied and not understood. Such a sad situation, particularly as there’s a deep care there, but one that happens often with our loved ones. 

Presenting your case

An upside to this conversation was, I saw how the pull to be right – or at least, not be wrong – wasn’t there!

woman-in-red-pointing-finger-at-man-in-whiteThis used to be my default position. In any difficult conversation, I was always – often unconsciously – looking for a way to come out on top, or at least not look like the bad guy. How can I make this person see that my behaviour is justified? Such conversations often felt more like a debate or at worst a court case, rather than a chance for real connection.

Dropping the attachment to feeling right

By practising relating authentically through such techniques as Circling, I’m learning how to stay present with how I am actually feeling. Not how the other person made me feel or what they did wrong, but simply what I feel in my body and emotional landscape. I’m in no way perfect at doing this but it does seem to get easier the more you practise it.

No one can argue with your experience

The great thing about simply expressing how you feel – ‘When you said [exact words they said], I feel angry and fierce, like I have a ball of fire in my heart’ – is that no one can say you are wrong. No one can argue with how you feel. That is your experience – it’s not up for debate. As long as you stay true to your experience and own it, nothing can be disputed.

Receiving another’s world

The next and perhaps more difficult part is receiving another’s feelings or empathising with them, and letting them impact you. This is not about admitting you’ve done something wrong and ‘taking on what they feel’ so you’re even more entangled. It’s actually the opposite.

Getting a sense of the other’s feelings as they are, disentangles the ‘right/wrong’, ‘defense/attack’ dynamic 2-Care2-connected-communication-443x267-webimmediately. Instead of reacting from your head, ‘How dare they feel that!? That’s ridiculous, a total overreaction!’, you allow them to feel what they feel and allow yourself to be impacted by their feelings.

In doing so, you’re acknowledging this person is different to you – they have their own world, their own experiences – and you’re seeing and receiving them just how they are.

I believe all we are ever wanting in communication with others is to be seen, honoured or received in our own experience.

Letting the other person impact you in this way may well bring up feelings in yourself – you may feel guilt, shame, disappointment, rage. So what do you do with these?

Staying present with your feelings

Exactly the same thing: stay present with them inside, and when the space is there – and it will feel much more connected and open between you when you’ve seen/received them – voice how you are feeling. If you are more practised with such techniques, you may need to hear them and receive them first especially if they are experiencing intense emotions in response.

A connected example

I had a conversation just like this with another friend. I hadn’t called till the last minute to say I wasn’t coming over as something had come up, and she understandably felt angry and disappointed. She asked to talk on the phone and I could feel my awkwardness, a feeling of wanting to squirm out of my skin rather than being blamed for being inconsiderate.

But she simply expressed how she was feeling, and I just listened and tried to receive or relate to it, rather than make it all about me! There was a moment when the tension tangibly dropped between us, and I could sense that she felt like I’d not only listened to her but received her.

I didn’t try to ‘fix’ how she was feeling, justify or explain my behaviour, or make any judgements about how she felt.
I just opened to sensing her experience.

I then went on to express how I was feeling – shame in my heart and a sense of disappointment. Instead of this being a painful experience as I’d expected it to be, it actually felt really liberating. As soon as I let myself feel and voice these emotions – and because she also received them and let herself be impacted by them – they simply released or dissolved.

Clearing the air, deepening the connection

imagesIt was like the air, previously fraught with hurt, twisted and difficult emotions, was now clear between us. There was clarity, respect and love, and a deepening of our connection for having moved gracefully through a potential obstacle in our relationship.

This small interaction gave me so much hope, and helped me to see that feeling right (or not wrong) is such a poor substitute for real connection, and being seen and received.

Closer by acknowledging differences

It’s a kind of paradox – we often think we’ll feel closer to someone by ‘working things out’ and coming to a conclusion – you were right, I was wrong – or meeting halfway.

But really connection is created by acknowledging how different we are and being willing to let the other’s experience touch you.

Two people may have totally different reactions or emotions come up in the same interaction. This can create a feeling of not getting each other, or being shocked at what they’ve said or how they’ve acted.

Bridging the gap

The only way to bridge this gap again is to be prepared to stay present with and voice how you feel, AND open to receiving the other’s world and feelings.

This is what creates trust and a shared space of connection – an honouring of each other’s worlds at the deepest level.

I’d love to hear your experiences of being seen and received in communication with another in the comments below.

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5 replies
  1. Marysia
    Marysia says:

    Beautiful post. I’m really touched by what you’re expressing here and the possibilities in relationships when being in each other’s world and deep connection are more of a priority than being right (or ‘not wrong’!)

    It feels deeply nourishing and healing, like a struggle can cease. Of course it’s not always clear cut or easy, but I see the way this kind of commitment impacts relationships in my life.

    I love how clearly you’ve expressed this.

  2. Emma Swan
    Emma Swan says:

    Thanks so much Marysia, I’m moved by your appreciation and the way you relate how communication like this can be ‘deeply healing and nourishing’. This has also been my experience.

  3. Corinne
    Corinne says:

    This is so good! And true to my experience. When I feel seen and acknowledged, I relax and open. And then feel like I can truly connect. I feel loved and cared for. And feel like I can bring anything forward even if it is super uncomfortable or vulnerable. I’ve been practicing this in my core relationships and it changes everything! This work is so important! Thank you Emma.

  4. Emma Swan
    Emma Swan says:

    So true Corinne – it’s like being seen and acknowledged creates a space between two people where anything can happen. The possibilities for opening and intimacy are endless! I also feel this work – consciously communicating and relating – is so, so important. Glad you enjoyed it.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Communication techniques, like Authentic Relating and Circling also help immensely. So much pain and difficulty can be caused in relationships when two people’s worlds get entangled. Despite how close you are to someone, you still have separate worlds, experiences, pasts and feelings. […]

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