I’m often tempted, when I’m upset or frustrated, to tell someone that they made me feel a certain way. Like, “you made me feel disappointed when you cancelled our plans”, or “I’m angry because you didn’t clean the dishes like you said you would”. But that’s not a great way to formulate that sort of thought.
Other people can’t reach inside your head and make you feel some way. There’s a causal stage between the action and the feeling, which is your own interpretation of the action. You join the action (cancelling our plans) with the context (this is the third time you’ve done that) and your own inner landscape (I was really looking forward to hanging out, this reminds me of this other flaky person who I ended up falling out with, I’m hungry right now, etc.), and through the subconscious confluence of all those things you arrive at the feeling of being disappointed. Sure, the other person’s action is causally linked to your feeling of disappointedness, but it’s by no means the sole cause. You play the biggest part by far in determining how you feel.
So instead of telling someone they made me feel some way, I want to tell them how I feel and what my needs are, and request something specific from them on which they can act. “I’m disappointed that I won’t get to see you, I was really looking forward to hanging out. Could we choose another time right now?”
(This post brought to you by Marshall Rosenberg. Pace.)