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When you express your feelings, do you offer people the option to consent to caring?
To consent means to give our permission. We like to be able to give our permission. Many people are offended or turned off when permission is not asked instead is framed as an obligation or responsibility.
When we express our feelings as an obligation to someone else, it can cause them to flex their permission muscles and remind us they aren’t required to care about certain things, no matter how much we want them to.
Working Through Uncomfortable Feelings
It can cause us to feel vulnerable when we express our feelings and wait for a response. It feels much less vulnerable, in the moment, to try and convince someone of why they should care about whatever it is we need them to care about. But when people feel forced into an emotional position, they’re more likely to resist, meaning we don’t get the desired response, the response that confirms we are valued and our feelings do matter.
When people feel welcomed into someone’s truth, they’re more likely to try to understand it.
Offering up our truth and waiting for the other person to agree to care allows them to make space for us. In addition to seeking consent from others to care about our feelings, expressing our feelings without blame is empowering. Flexing our own discipline, choices, and boundaries is a powerful feeling. When we stop to ask ourselves what we need, why we feel the way we do, and how we can communicate our desires to someone else, we get to know ourselves a little bit better and we’re empowered to choose composure. We’re empowered to give ourselves perspective to help get our needs met.
When we afford someone the option to consent to care, they may choose to not care.
That hurts, but it also shows us what their priorities are in relationships so we can make a decision about whether or not they add to our quality of life.
Letting someone know how we feel gives them the opportunity to care and work through together, or not care and leave us feeling isolated to work through the issue alone. If we do feel isolated in working our problems out, that’s another feeling to express. As we have feelings and express our feelings, and then have feelings about the response to our expression of feelings, there become layers upon layers of interpretation happening. Isolating each interpretation allows us to communicate properly and give someone the opportunity to either adjust their behavior or express their needs to us regarding ours.
What Allowing Consent Looks Like
Example: Your girlfriend eats your leftovers. You were excited to come home and eat them so now you’re upset. You say “I can’t believe you ate my leftovers, I was looking forward to having them after work.” Your girlfriend is upset because she feels attacked by “I can’t believe you…” She responds with, “You never eat your leftovers, I expected them to go to waste.” Now you’re angry because your initial feelings of disappointment over her assumption about your leftovers were ignored. She didn’t apologize, she defended herself. Now you’re arguing over how many times you’ve thrown away leftovers. Communication is lost.
Allowing someone to consent to care is saying, “I’m kind of pissed you ate my leftovers, I was really looking forward to eating them.” If your girlfriend responds with, “You never eat your leftovers.” You could then remind her that you don’t want to resolve your feelings of disappointment in isolation. “That’s not the point, they were mine and I just told you it upset me that you ate them, your response makes me feel like you don’t care that I’m upset.” Give her the opportunity to say, yes, I do care and I’m sorry I made that assumption. You don’t have to argue for your feelings or convince anyone to care for them.
Your feelings are important, whether someone else cares about them or not, because they’re yours.
Expressing ourselves clearly, without an attempt to convince someone to feel the same way we do, lets us give weight to our own feelings and assess whether we feel respected by the other person in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, an appropriate response to assumptions or mistakes would be to care, apologize, or help resolve feelings.
If you find yourself constantly arguing for your feelings or feeling invalidated in your relationships, it may be time to re-evaluate your boundaries.