When we hear the question, “How are you?” our instinctive response is, “I’m fine” — in spite of the fact that we may not be fine at all. Our society’s custom and practice is to mask how we’re really feeling and respond with the standard, glib answer.
But what if you went against expectations and expressed what you were really feeling? What if you were forthright about your emotions and didn’t hide them? Well, people would be surprised. But we all know that being honest and authentic about how we feel creates powerful personal connections.
As a matter of fact, showing your vulnerability is one of the surest ways to establish deeper, more intimate relationships. Never think that exhibiting vulnerability shows weakness. It takes strength and fortitude to do it and the payoff in terms of better, instant rapport and deeper relationships is definitely there.
So, the next time you’re asked, “How are you?” think twice before you mindlessly respond, “I’m fine.” Instead, think about revealing part of your interior by expressing how you really feel. After all, honesty is the best policy. The challenge isn’t in expressing your positive emotions and the positive feelings associated with them. It’s in your negative emotions and the resulting negative feelings, which require more in-depth thought and practice. Expressing these emotions will create a respectful emotional awareness on both sides. You will demonstrate that you are aware of your emotions and have the courage to be genuine in voicing them.
Strong emotions have a lasting tail. Especially when an emotion is negative, once an outside stimuli or event acts as a trigger, the event and its presence in your conscious and unconscious mind is sometimes with you forever. However, by being fully aware of the process by which this happens, you can finally address those old issues and minimize their lasting effect. You do this by creating a new reality for yourself, readjusting your limiting beliefs and taking action from a place of positive feelings, not negative ones.
So where can you start?
After identifying your feelings and understanding which emotion initiated those feelings, you can use “traffic lights” in order to be less reactive and more proactive. It works like this:
1. Red light: Identify any current negative feeling that you are experiencing in a specific situation.
2. Yellow light: Identify the specific event that provoked that feeling, and dissolve the negative feeling by:
• Naming the main judgmental thought that created this feeling and labeling it.
• Coming up with a few alternative neutral and positive meanings for your main judgmental thought. By doing this, you will assign new, reframed meanings to the event.
• Choosing the most attractive alternative meaning you came up with in the step above.
• Labeling the alternative positive feeling that has been consciously chosen in the step above.
3. Green light: Feel the alternative, positive feeling in your body.
Doing this exercise will allow you to express yourself positively by communicating responsibly and taking proactive actions that will make you proud of who you are becoming, increasing your optimism and enhancing your interpersonal relationships.
There are three main pillars of self-expression, each of which is important in allowing you to authentically express yourself.
• Emotional self-expression
Emotional self-expression involves expressing your feelings verbally and non-verbally.It is important to be authentic and express your feelings constructively. Doing this builds fulfilling communications. Openly sharing your thoughts and feelings goes a long way toward building relationships based on trust and respect. Our total means of communication are said to be comprised of three different components:
1. Body language: 55%
2. Tone of voice: 38%
3. Words: 7%
Based on these percentages, it’s easy to see that by not being aware of them, you can have unintended impacts on others and neglect to fulfill your communication goals. As pointed out by Pearl S. Buck, “Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.” If you express your feelings incongruently, (e.g., your body language, tone of voice and words don’t all match), you will come across as an inauthentic individual. This incongruent behavior will impact both trust and respect in your relationships.
Assertiveness is a direct consequence of confidence. In its highest form, assertiveness represents your ability to communicate with others in a respectful manner by genuinely expressing your specific feelings and thoughts, and naming your beliefs and rights, all without being aggressive or abusive.
Assertiveness starts with:
1. Clearly recognizing the kind of feeling you are experiencing.
2. Directly expressing those feelings constructively and respectfully by being aware of all three communication components.
3. Standing firm for your beliefs and rights.
4. Empathetically understanding opposite points of view.
Assertiveness helps you express feelings, beliefs and thoughts in a positive, non-destructive way. It’s the middle ground between passive and aggressive. As you practice finding the middle ground, you uncover compromises that create a win-win. Of course, it takes courage to express your real points of view instead of complaining to yourself and sounding like a looping tape of practiced responses and ill-thought-out answers.
Independence is the ability to live and act free from undue control, influence, support or the like.
Independence is grounded in self-confidence and your intuition. Being self-directed and self-controlled in your thinking and actions allows you to be free of emotional dependency. It allows you to be decisive and take risks by tapping into your intuition and self-confidence.
Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln: “It often requires more courage to dare to do right than to fear to do wrong.” When you practice independence, you let go of your fear of failure and focus on trusting and believing in yourself.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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