6 Commandments of Vulnerable Communication
1. You come first.
If you’ve ever taken an airplane, you’ve heard the flight attendant telling you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.
Despite most of us ignoring the procedure details, it is a matter of life or death. If you choose to help someone else before you help yourself at that altitude, you will most likely pass out and die since the air has such little oxygen. Not only will you pass out and die, but so will the person you are trying to help.
This lesson doesn’t just apply in the air; you must care about yourself before you care about others. If you end up hurting yourself by suppression, you hurt your partner by deeming them incapable of truly making you happy and helping you get your needs met. As a result, you get hurt even more, and you neglect their needs in the process.
You and your partner are one emotional unit. So when you are taking your needs into consideration, you are also taking care of your partner’s needs.
2. No blame game.
If you make your partner feel incompetent, inadequate or selfish, they will withdraw. Being vulnerable is not about accusations or highlighting your partner’s shortcomings. That leads to a dueling match birthed by insecurities.
Remember, when emotions become tense, intellect becomes non-sense.
Using vulnerable communication when you’re really pissed off will cause you to sound angry and use judgmental language.
When something bothers me, I tell my partner how I feel. To do this, I need to calm down and process how to frame my emotions in a way that won’t attack them. When I do address my needs in a calm manner and express the emotions I am feeling rather than the faults, my partner and I get closer.
3. Use verbs
…that express the emotions you are feeling such as need, feel, or want. This focuses on what you are trying to accomplish rather than your partner’s shortcomings. “I feel like you don’t care when you don’t text me for 3 days. I need to feel that you care about me.”
4. Be detailed.
If you talk to your partner in generalities, your partner is going to miss what you really need, thus lowering the chance that he or she will get it right.
Say precisely what is bothering you. “Last night you said you loved me and then you took it back. That made me feel inadequate.”
5. Be completely honest and genuine about how you feel.
Your feelings are very real and they should be addressed. At times they can be distorted, but feelings have a purpose. It’s your unconscious trying to communicate with you in an effort to protect you. Don’t ignore them. If you’re feeling an emotion, there’s a reason for it.
After being involved in multiple bad relationships, I developed a fear that committing to a relationship would cause more pain. So my emotions became defense mechanisms so I would be protected from being hurt again. I’d find myself really liking a girl, only to find myself suddenly indifferent. Unconsciously, I was pushing her away so I wouldn’t be hurt or risk myself.
Since I was aware of this, I would tell the woman I dated about this and ask that she be understanding. This tends to deepen a relationship.
6. Be unapologetically assertive.
Your needs matter. They are valid. You’ll date various partners with different attachment styles, and some of them may see your concerns as illegitimate such as avoidants, but as the authors of Attached point out, your needs are the foundation for your happiness.