Over the course of time and working with couples, I have seen statements being made that are often misunderstood by the spouse or significant other. Given that I am sitting back a bit from the argument, I can see it more easily. I have named this particular kind of statement a feeling statement. Feeling statements are ones that are made, often in an argument, and they are often strong, generalizing, and, most importantly, are true in some ways but not others. “You always put me down,” would be a good example. As a fact, it is probably never completely true. As a feeling expressing the pain of feeling the put down coming from a significant other, it is accurate. When one person of a couple makes a feeling statement, the other often denies it, argues it, gives examples of how it is not true, which usually makes the first person even more upset because he/she is not being heard. But the first person, the person making the feeling statement, also is communicating in a way that can be taken the wrong way and often is. How to deal with feeling statements?
The person is wanting to be heard about an important issue. Can you do that? Can you just listen to what the person is feeling strongly? Second, as alluded to above, it is best not to counter it in any way, at least not in the moment. Can you just hear her/him out? Even if you feel what is being said is wrong or incorrect?
I find that the second person, the one receiving the feeling statement often feels a burning desire to correct the (perceived) misstatement, but the first person is believing (and feeling) it when such a statement is made. It is not a misstatement and it certainly feels like the truth. I push for the couple to let the feeling statements to be made, and the receiver take it an hear it for what it is—a strong statement of feelings. This can be a crucial part of moving communication forward.