Using “I Feel” Correctly: A Challenge For December

I want you to try an experiment this month.

We often say “I feel” to describe an action, a judgement, or what we imagine someone else is thinking. Stop doing that.

Instead, only use the word “feel” to directly describe emotions and nothing else.

Emotion: FearEmotion words are things like: mad, glad, sad, happy, scared, nervous, anxious, giddy, fearful, small, unimportant, powerful, strong, loving, unloved, and so on. There’s lists online to get you started.

So try using this model:

“This situation makes me feel [FEELING]. From what you said/did, I imagine that you’re thinking [fill in the blank]. Is that how you feel/what you’re thinking?”

This goes beyond grammar; it changes the way we look at a situation.

Try it. It will feel awkward for a while. A long while, really. But it makes you totally reconsider how you’re approaching a conflict.

This exercise is loosely based upon my understanding of Non-Violent Communication; more importantly, it directly addresses the thing I most often see people (including myself) get wrong with NVC. If this exercise intrigues you, try checking out Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and going from there.

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