Are emotions what distinguishes us from artificial intelligence? Sometimes it feels like we are bulldozing through life without the chance to stop and experience it. Are you moving at such a pace and finding it hard to be emotionally available?
As babies, we all experience different levels of emotional availability from our caregivers. What we experience as infants can impact how we manage our emotional availability. We build stronger connections when we are more emotionally available to ourselves and others. This emotional availability leads to more satisfying relationships.
This article will look at the benefits of emotional availability. We will discuss 5 ways you can learn to be more emotionally available.
- What is the difference between emotions and feelings?
- Why is emotional availability important in relationships?
- What blocks our emotional availability?
- 5 ways to improve your emotional availability
- Wrapping up
What is the difference between emotions and feelings?
Emotions are often mistaken for feelings, but they are different things.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle described emotions as:
All those feelings that so change men as to affect their judgments, and that are also attended by pain or pleasure. Such are anger, pity, fear, and the like, with their opposites.Aristotle
This article articulates the critical difference between feelings and emotions. It suggests that while feelings are felt and expressed consciously, emotions can be both conscious and subconscious. Many of us do not understand the depth of our emotions.
Do you understand your own emotions?
Why is emotional availability important in relationships?
Emotional availability is essential in healthy relationships.
Relationships can be puzzling. Both romantic and platonic relationships require emotional investment. Have you ever been left wondering how a friend or partner feels? Have you ever got to the point in a relationship where you aren’t moving forward? Perhaps you think your relationship has plateaued?
In these circumstances, the chances are that one or both of you is emotionally unavailable.
We need to sustain and nurture emotional bonds to help us:
- Better understand each other.
- Demonstrate empathy.
- Improve our listening skills.
- Build security in our relationships.
- Be more present with our mindset.
When we do our best to show up authentically and speak openly and honestly, we invite others to do the same. This mutual authenticity leads to more powerful and profound emotional bonds.
What blocks our emotional availability?
Being stuck in the past can block our emotional availability. Some people may have a fear of intimacy and being vulnerable. Others may not have the skills to recognize their own emotions. But where does this stem from?
According to this article, how infants attach to their primary caregiver plays a part in our emotional availability. It goes on to express that a more substantial emotional availability between a child and a parent predicts our capacity for emotional regulation.
It will come as no surprise that trauma can block our ability to be emotionally open.
Be mindful of how full your cup is and the cup of others you are trying to connect with. It can be challenging to communicate with others if one of you doesn’t have the mental bandwidth at that time.
5 ways to improve your emotional availability
We need to be in the right frame of mind to improve our emotional availability. With some help, you can develop your emotional availability and create more rewarding connections with others.
Here are our 5 tips to improve your emotional availability.
1. Take time for yourself
We can’t expect to be emotionally available to others if we aren’t emotionally available to ourselves.
One way to do this is to slow down and listen to your mind and body. Coming from a recovering “busy” person, I know this is more difficult than it sounds. Here are a few tricks to help you slow down.
- Regulate your breathing and engage in mindfulness.
- Learn to meditate.
- Take 10 minutes a day to sit and enjoy a coffee while doing nothing.
- Block time in your diary for yourself.
- Don’t overcommit.
- Learn to say “no” to what doesn’t inspire you.
We don’t need to be productive all the time. Our brains need regular breaks and time out to work efficiently.
When we slow down, we give ourselves room to feel our emotions. I appreciate this can be scary for some. It was terrifying for me. There was a reason I used to keep myself dangerously busy. My advice for you is to feel the fear and do it anyway!
2. Recognize your emotional threshold
One of my closest friends taught me all about emotional capacity. Before offloading our emotional struggles to each other, we need to check our capacity levels.
Checking our threshold is beneficial for everyone involved. If my friend doesn’t have the capacity for my baggage, but I fail to check this and offload anyway, we will likely get into trouble.
- I may perceive her as disinterested, which may cause resentment in me.
- She may resent me for burdening her when she is already full.
- She may avoid chatting to me in the future if this becomes a regular pattern.
This means you also need to recognize when you can’t take on someone else’s drama. Be open and honest. You need to erect boundaries to protect your emotional threshold.
You may want to say to your friend:
“I want to hear all about this, but now isn’t a good time. I’ve got a few things on my mind. Could we schedule a coffee date in a few days to discuss this?”
Your friend will appreciate the honesty. It also ensures you are fully present and available when you show up to listen.
3. Talk about emotions
One easy way to be more emotionally available is by talking about emotions. You may ask someone what they got up to at the weekend. Their reply will likely consist of activities, maybe some mishaps, or something exciting.
Follow up in these conversations with questions about their emotions. Such as “how did that make you feel?”.
Talk openly about your own emotions. Did something invoke stomach-churning anxiety in you? Do you have pervasive worries about the future? Maybe you have a childlike excitement about something upcoming?
When we share our own emotions, we open the door for others to share their emotions with us.
4. Dare to trust someone
I struggle to trust easily, how about you? When we open ourselves up and trust another, we make ourselves emotionally available.
According to this article, organizations that encourage a mutual trust between their employees and managers reap numerous benefits, including:
- More productive staff.
- Stronger communication between staff.
- Increased work motivation.
As a result, their stress levels are lower and they report feeling happier in their lives. This pattern is seen in our personal lives as well as our work.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust somebody.Ernest Hemmingway
I’m not suggesting you lend all your savings to a struggling friend and rely on unfounded trust that you will see it again. But perhaps you can start to take people at face value. Listen to what they say and trust them on their word. Start with trust until you are proven otherwise. Try not to be the person who is cynical and suspicious of everyone. This vibe will rob you of humility.
5. Embrace vulnerability
We are conditioned to hide our weaknesses and showcase our strengths. But this leads to an incomplete picture and holds people at a distance. It prevents others from seeing our foibles and recognizing that we are only human.
An interesting phenomenon happens when we share our vulnerabilities. Those around us follow our lead and also share their vulnerabilities. It becomes a vulnerability trade-off. A magical connection occurs when we exchange vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability builds connection. When we reveal our fears, doubts and worries can strengthen relationships and encourage others to confide in us.
Listening to our own emotions takes skill. And putting ourselves in a position to encourage an emotional connection with others can take courage—the courage of vulnerability. We can go through life being closed to others for fear of rejection. But we will only miss out on the joy that emotional connection brings. So please, give yourself the grace to be emotionally available to yourself and others.
Do you struggle with emotional availability? What’s your favorite tip that has helped you become more emotionally open? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!