Emotions are so misinterpreted. Intentionally and repeatedly misinterpreted to manipulate people into believing that their feelings aren’t warranted or they are wrong. Emotions are the tools we use to navigate a situation and they tell us what is happening. They make us aware. They teach.
I’ve often been perceived as angry. I speak passionately, I speak loudly, I speak with determination. For a long time I noticed that people would shut down when I spoke so I automatically assumed it was my pattern of communication. So I tailored my approach. I curbed my tone and I spoke with less vigor and venom and with more frilly words trying to make the message palatable. The same reaction often took place where people would shut down. I could see their faces drop and their body language changed as they appeared defensive and the conversation no longer flowed. So I assumed it was the message. I struggled to find new ways to say what I wanted to say. And the same pattern repeated.
I noticed that every time I got this reaction, it was me who tried to change. It was me who did the work of making myself and what I had to say acceptable to others. My communication skills deteriorated because I wasn’t using my voice or my authenticity or speaking my truth—I was still trying to speak the words that other people wanted to hear.
As I continued to choke on the words I was trying to say, I lost my message. It wasn’t until very recently I understood what a privilege it is to use our voice no matter how it makes others feel. We aren’t responsible for their feelings in the message we share—we are responsible for sharing what we have to say without filtering and watering down the point. We can spend our lives losing ourselves in the words other people want us to say or we can lose the people determined to misunderstand us regardless of what we say.
In the timeliest of messages, I saw a quote today “Acknowledging and embracing my anger means that I’m engaged, I care and I’m committed to doing something productive with this powerful emotion,” Candace Howze. Being concerned about the perception of being angry is completely unfounded. If people want to misunderstand you because of how you feel about a topic, that is on them. Keep talking until you find the right audience.
We act like we need to control our emotions—which are really things we have no control over. All we need is to control how we communicate about the emotion. It’s fine to feel what we feel about a topic. As Howze mentioned above it means I’m engaged and I care. We should feel things about what we say. But we are trained to give the emotion precedence over the subject as if our feelings warrant the attention, not the topic. We need to do a better job of explaining emotions as a whole because, quite frankly, we need to see some life again and we need to stop dismissing what people say because we are scared of how they convey a message.
The truth is we are scared of how we feel about what they say. We aren’t experienced with handling the emotions of others. I’m not talking about carrying the weight of their emotions or feeling it for them but I am talking about receiving what they are saying and understanding why they feel the way they do. Imagine the increase in empathy of we learned what an emotion truly is, how to express it, how to cope, and how to understand other people’s coping.
The world needs more life in it—real life, real people who give a damn, real people who show their emotions in an effort to get things done. The world needs more engaged people to progress and move towards equality for all. So feel what you feel without shame. Don’t water yourself down for the sake of other people. Feel it all and let the world know how you feel. That is how we become the example of living in reality.