Recovering from Abuse

Recovering from Abuse

I was in an abusive relationship. And even though it ended almost two years ago, I still cannot get over it.
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I Can't Express My Feelings

Q I have a hard time expressing my feelings, and this causes problems in my relationships, especially with the opposite sex. Something holds me back. I guess it's the fear of getting hurt. It's probably also because I feel like I'm a very boring person. I don't talk a lot because it makes me so uncomfortable. What can I do to not seem so boring? What can I do to improve my communication skills?

A Congratulations for asking a good question. Rather than complaining, you've pinpointed your inability to express yourself well and to connect with other people. You've zeroed in on an issue that lies behind many problems in relating.

The solution is mostly hard work. It's a lot like a person who has always hated exercise and finally decides to get in shape. First, that person has to pick some form of exercise and start doing it daily. Let's say the person chooses running. Being a runner myself, I'd say a beginning runner needs to run five days a week for a month before he or she can even begin to imagine that running could be enjoyable. For that entire month, he or she will probably hate every single moment of running. A month of that seems like a very long time! But, if a beginning runner keeps it up, he or she will start to feel OK in the second month, and by the third month will likely feel the best ever.

Learning how to communicate is similar. You have to put yourself in situations that are painful. Change will only come as you open your mouth and use it. For example, you could take a class in public speaking. In it you'll learn some techniques for speaking in a way that's lively and interesting. More importantly, you'll be forced to stand up in front of people and talk. You'd probably prefer to have your fingernails jerked out with pliers! But it can definitely change you, showing you that you're perfectly capable of communicating in an interesting way, if you put in the effort.

Another possibility: take on a role in leadership. And don't tell me nobody wants you to be a leader. You might not be elected class president. But volunteer to help organize the school tutoring program, or to contact volunteers for the church blood drive, or to publicize a picnic for your youth group, and you'll find that plenty of people are willing to look to you for leadership.

Of course, you have to follow through. Leaders must communicate! You have to call people on the phone, talk to them about your plans, even motivate them to participate. That's painful for someone like you. However, it will become less painful as you do it, and you'll begin to learn how to express yourself in a way others can relate to.

Finally, take a look at each of your relationships and set goals. Suppose you're in a car pool with someone. Set a goal to ask one good question each day. Also set a goal to share one piece of information about yourself each day, doing it in a pleasant and interesting way. (It could be a comment about a TV show you watched and enjoyed, or something your dog did, or your favorite memory of your grandmother.) Then, with these goals in mind, rehearse in advance what you're going to say each day and how you're going to say it. Good conversationalists do this all the time, without having to think about it, but it might be hard work for you! Do it for a month, and you'll start to find it's OK. Do it for two months, and you'll be having interesting conversations.

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