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How to Pour Your Heart Out

by Arlin Cuncic

Pouring out your heart is a bit like opening a dam -- you need to choose the right moment and the right direction, and know when to turn off the flow. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, being honest about your feelings will improve your relationships.

Choose Your Audience

Most often we pour out our hearts to significant others, friends and family members. If you have a beef with someone, clearly you will want to be talking to that person. However, if you just have troubles on your mind and need emotional support, choose someone to talk to who is usually comforting and nonjudgmental, advises psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., in the Psychology Today article "Talk About Your Problems, Please." Whom you speak to might also depend on the topic. If you're going through a separation, a divorced friend might understand best. If you are dealing with stress at work, a colleague may be able to offer advice. Whomever you choose, be sure that you also get the timing right. Get together when neither of you is rushed and you have a quiet place to talk.

Stay in the Experience

Before you start talking, get a sense of what you want to say, and stay with the experience, suggests neuropsychologist Rick Hanson in an article from his website, "Speak From the Heart." As you talk about your emotions, you may feel the need to problem solve or become defensive about what you are saying -- but don't. For example, when talking to your divorced friend, you might say something like "I've been feeling really lost and alone since we separated," which is a good way to start. However, if you follow it up with, "I know that I should just snap out of it; things could be much worse," you've moved out of the experience. Leave these types of judgments aside for the moment and focus simply on getting your feelings out in the open.

Disengage When Necessary

Not everyone will be ready to hear what you have to say. When that is the case, be prepared to disengage from sharing your feelings, advises Hanson. Your husband may get defensive when you talk about dividing your assets, or your colleague may not be prepared to help you deal with a work situation. In those instances, think about whether you've overstepped boundaries in terms of your audience or the timing of your conversation. Perhaps you just chose a bad time to speak, perhaps the other person needs some time to think about what you've said, or maybe you've been too honest about your feelings with someone you don't know that well.

Write a Letter

Pouring out your heart isn't always easy to do in person. If you just can't gather together the courage to do so, you might find that putting your feelings in writing first is easier, suggests psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist Jane Bolton in the article from her website, "How to Access and Release Difficult Feelings With Intimates." Put how you feel into a letter and then decide whether you want the other person to read it, either alone or in your presence. Bolton notes that the process of writing the letter is often therapeutic in itself. If you do share the letter, note that it should be a starting point rather than an end point in terms of sharing how you feel. Use it as a way to start an honest conversation about how you are feeling and what you would like to discuss.

About the Author

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.

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