Do you, or anyone else in your life, have the habit of “stuffing”? Do you ever stuff something away to spare someone else’s feelings at the expense of your own? Do you ever avoid a sensitive issue because of the discomfort it may cause you or a loved one? Do you ever worry that you cannot talk to someone about something important to you because of how they might respond, or that you may not be able to accurately express yourself? Do you minimize the importance of your concerns for the benefit of someone else? Is talking about yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings ever just plain old uncomfortable for you?
Although there are times that it is better to hold our tongues, stuffing can be problematic. It is hard on the stuffer, because it is taxing to keep issues bottled up without adequately acknowledging them. It does a disservice to the potential listener by not affording them a chance to improve upon or defend themselves, nor does it allow them a chance to offer support to the stuffer. It is also harmful to a relationship, as it denies the opportunity for better communication, it does not allow issues to be worked out, and it often creates whole new problems that disproportionate to the original concern. And then things get messy.
So what do we do about stuffing? Do we dump our verbal spewage everywhere? Do we blurt out our feelings with every little irritation we experience? Do we say everything we feel, all the time, without considering the impact we have on others? Should we always be completely transparent? Perhaps not.
Perhaps there a middle ground. Perhaps we should make a concerted effort to be selective about what we share and use self-reflection to help us better package and deliver our messages. Perhaps considering how our listeners will perceive our message will help them receive what we have to say and encourage us to speak up. Perhaps our loved ones may need some coaching to better support us as we expose our feelings to them. Perhaps these conversations that are so uncomfortable can also be really important, and really good.
Communication takes practice, it takes patience, and it takes courage. It takes a lot to be effective communicators and to openly listen to our loved ones. Sometimes we have to say things we would rather not. Sometimes we have to say or hear truths that hurt. And sometimes, the most important truths are uncomfortable. But when we accept those truths, talk about them, and work through them, we are able to move forward. We become closer to the people that we love, more in tune with ourselves, and better able to foster more fulfilling relationships. Ultimately, when we communicate more freely, we become more authentic and real, both to ourselves and to others.
Take the risk and consider opening up today. Venture out of your comfort zone and express yourself.-El