Written by Shireen Jaffer on Behalf of PlushMoney Impact
“Mommy, Tom is being mean to me!”
“Well, how about you tell Tom that, sweetie?”
“Tom, you’re mean!” said the little girl.
“No, you’re mean!” retorted the boy.
“Hanna, tell Tom how you feel please.”
“Tom, I feel sad when you don’t play with me.”
The wonderful “I feel” language: the solution to all troubles, as we were taught in kindergarden. I may have read nearly eight books on communication this summer (I was designing a workshop on effective communication), and majority of them mentioned the infamous “I feel” rule. Since day one, we are taught to express our feelings, and to do it in a exclusive manner. Why speak for those around us? Who are we to say how they feel? We can only speak for ourselves; that’s the most effective way.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have complete faith in the “I feel” method. I was sure to include it in my workshop. In simple words, the “I feel” language is meant to discourage the “you-directive” (you should…, you need to…, etc.) that leads to ineffective communication. It discourages language that tells people how they feel or how they should behave, and rightfully so. Who likes to be ordered around or told how they feel anyways? But what I realized, as I personally adopted the “I feel” language, was that I began thinking more and more about my own feelings than about those of others. To really apply the “I feel” rule in my daily life, I had to make an active effort, which ultimately took attention away from what I believe to be crucial: understanding feelings of those around me. None of these communication books warned against this potential consequence.
My mind set began to change. The more I practiced the “I-language,” the less I spoke the “we-language” (I had been conditioned, since childhood, to think as a “we” by my mother). I began reflecting on what I did, and how I felt, and how I wanted to change the world. I dismissed thinking about the groups I belonged to, the impacts we could make, the world we could change. And soon enough, I felt a sense of loneliness and frustration. What was I doing wrong?
And then, hoping to find someone fun to talk to, I signed on to Facebook. I read an article once that said people actually feel more lonely when they browse through other people’s profiles since everyone appears more social online. In my case, the effect was the opposite. On top of my newsfeed was a wonderful video by Neha and Adrienne. These girls, strangers not too long ago, had come together to share a wonderful message with the group: we are a community, and we will make an impact, or series of impacts, together. I could not have asked for a better wake-up call.
Bottom line, regardless of what you are taught (I am a huge fan of the “I feel” language but it too, must be balanced), despite the competition you face in this society, appreciate those around you and seek them out. Recognize the communities, or tribes (thank you, Dave Logan), that you belong to. Strive to bring people together, and adopt the “we” language.
I feel grateful to be able to use the “we” language, to have the pleasant reminder that we are in this together. A big Thank You to PlushMoney for being such a fabulous influence, and to all the girls for building such a wonderful community. Much love to all of you.