Ask Dr. Joy: How to Speak Up In a Healthy Way

By WEEK Reporter

Ask Dr. Joy: How to Speak Up In a Healthy Way

June 2, 2011 Updated Jun 2, 2011 at 12:29 PM CDT

Are you one of those people who can’t say anything when they are angry?

Or perhaps when you do say something you tend to explode because you’ve been holding in your feelings for so long that you tend to emotionally “lose it.”

Dr. Joy Miller helps you look at some ways to speak up for yourself in a healthy way.

Many people struggle with finding a healthy way to express their emotions and desires with others. What creates this response?

• We tend to learn from our childhood environment.
• If your parents were yellers and raged, there is a good chance that that is what you do as an adult. If your parents tended to avoid confrontation and used the silent treatment, you might tend to use this strategy
• Many people learn to mimic other’s behaviors… so if you are with someone who rages many people mimic the behavior of their partner.
• Some times we don’t even know why we are mad or upset and being out of sync with our emotions causes us to react in inappropriate physical or emotional responses.

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell someone you love exactly what you are feeling. Do you have any tips for us?

• Breathe and get some distance. Avoid being emotional or just shutting down by giving yourself a few minutes to calm down. Try to get some perspective on what you really want to say to someone.
• Find a convenient time. If you really want someone to hear you, it is essential that you discover a mutually agreeable time to discuss your feelings and thoughts without interruptions.
• It might be hard. Tell the other person that this is hard for you to say, and it might be hard for them to hear, but it is important to discuss. Typically this strategy of openness cuts the ice and prepares each person for a deep conversation
• Use “I” statements. Stay away from “shoulds, coulds, woulds, demands and blame.” Focus on how you are feeling without making the other person be wrong.
• Clarify what you’d like. A common error in speaking up is talking about your feelings, but never clarifing what they would like from the other person, or how they would like it to be different. This doesn’t mean demanding, it is suggesting how things might be different.
• Benefit of the doubt. Assume and state that you are sure the other person was not trying to harm or hurt you, and that you would like them to know you felt hurt or angry
• Look for understanding. The purpose of speaking up in a healthy manner is to increase communication and understanding. This can only happen when both people are willing to listen and focus on a productive process of really “hearing each other” and looking for growth in the relationship.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.