In my previous post, I addressed the importance of emotional consent. In this post I’ll share how to ask for emotional consent when you want to have a heart-to-heart with someone.
It’s pretty straightforward in terms of the words. The intention behind it is what matters most.
You could start with a line like this:
- I want to share my thoughts and feelings about ___.
- Something’s really bothering me, and I’d like to discuss it with you.
- I’m feeling stressed/worried/anxious/____.
- I’m stuck on ____.
- I’d love some help with ___.
- I had a really difficult experience a while back.
- There’s something I think you should know about me.
Then add something like this:
- Is this a good time?
- Can we have that kind of discussion?
- Do you want to hear about it?
- Is it okay if I tell you about it?
- Are you in a good place to hear about this now?
- When would be a good time to talk about this? (if it’s already a normal part of your relationship to have these discussions, so there’s at least some pre-consent for that)
- I need to vent my feelings to someone… can you play that role for me?
And then if the other person consents willingly, you can have that kind of discussion.
It’s also important to let the person be free to withhold consent or to get clarification, so honor their choice if they follow up with something like this:
- This isn’t a good time. How about ____?
- I’m not up for that. Maybe you could discuss this with ____ instead?
- How deep do you want to go?
- Do you need a certain kind of response?
- Are you wanting empathy and understanding, a solution to a problem, both, or something else?
- Unfortunately I’m too tired/distracted to do that now, so I don’t think I can be a good listener at this time. I hope you understand. How about ____?
- Do you sense this would be a 20-minute discussion or a 2-hour one?
- If I’m not available, how would you handle this instead?
- What’s your intention for such a conversation?
The words are just to give you some examples. It’s best to use your own words and match them to the situation and to how you feel.
What’s important here is that you invite the other person to enter freely into an emotional discussion or connection with you. Don’t demand it. Don’t assume that you’re entitled to it. Don’t try to make the other person wrong for declining. Give the person space to say yes or no without trying to box them in. Think abundance here, not scarcity, even if you’re feeling emotionally needy.
If you make emotional invitations with a hidden agenda or some attachment to how the other person responds, you’ll probably pick up some resistance when making such invites, especially in the person’s tone of voice or body language. People can often sense when you’re trying to manipulate them instead of honorably asking for their help.
Some people are really good at this. They respect that sharing emotional intimacy can be risky or draining, and they know it’s best if the other person can say yes genuinely and not feel baited or trapped.
Other people could definitely stand to improve in this area, especially by letting go of entitlement and attachment to outcomes.
Hearts connect best when they choose each other freely, not when one tries to manipulate or control the other.