If you tend to go into a stress response when you try to communicate feelings, you may be showing signs you weren’t listened to as a child.
When you needed something, when you tried to stand up for yourself, when you tried to set a little kid’s boundary — getting ignored may set you up to react as if you won’t be heard now, in your adult life.
Your parents were supposed to model these important aspects of communication — how to speak, how to listen, how to interpret other people’s actions. And attentive parents help their children learn how to express themselves in a way that’s clear, polite, and assertive when necessary. They listen and lovingly coach their kids. If you didn’t get that at home, you may now find that social situations are stressful, and that you lack confidence to express yourself in important ways.
If you weren’t listened to as a kid, you might notice that:
- You feel as if you have to say whatever you think people want to hear (people-pleasing).
- You talk too much, filling in gaps and not tolerating silence, fearing you will lose people if there’s a pause.
- You feel you have to listen to people who are talking a lot and you don’t know how to get away gracefully. In extreme cases, this can be a freeze response.
- You feel as if you never get a turn to speak, like other people are always taking up all the space.
- When you talk, you hedge what you’re saying with qualifiers and phrases like “maybe it’s just me.”
- You’re overly intense about what you’re saying, as if you think no one will believe you.
- You get dysregulated when people are listening to you, even or especially if they are interested and attentive.
- You might feel pre-emptively angry when you need to speak.
- You get angry when people ask questions or for clarification. When someone asks “What do you mean?” it might feel like a challenge.
- You talk really fast.
- You tend to exaggerate or brag. This can be a form of excited dysregulation. You might feel as if you need to do this to be heard, noticed or appreciated.
- You act like the class clown, making jokes to try to make tense situations feel better.
- You have vocal tics — for example, clearing your throat a lot, or saying “uh,” “um” and “like” more than the average person.
- When you need help, it’s hard to ask for it. And when you finally do ask, it might come out like an accusation, as if everyone should’ve known already.
- You repeat yourself because you worry that the other person wasn’t listening.
- You assume you’ll be misunderstood or misjudged if you don’t over-explain yourself.
- You raise your volume (a little too much) when speaking.
- You find it hard to pay full attention to someone speaking to you, because you’re busy planning what you will say (a strategy to hold their attention or keep the conversation going).
- Group dynamics feel overwhelmingly difficult: You worry you’ll never get a turn, that you are overlooked, that you are always an outsider, or that you need to be in charge for things to work out. That might sometimes be true, but when it always feels like that, it might be a problem for you.
- You struggle to know the appropriate thing to say in emotionally charged situations (e.g., when a friend’s loved one dies). You may go so far as to avoid friends who are having difficulties.
- Then, at last, when someone is finally listening to you, you feel the urge to tell them everything.
But it’s all right; it’s not your fault. You were neglected as a kid.
Childhood trauma can damage a person’s ability to connect with people and to communicate authentically. Luckily there’s so much you can do now to heal and change — even if you’re in your fifties, sixties, seventies or later.
You deserve to have wonderful connections to people now. You deserve to become fully yourself and express yourself well so that your life can take shape around who you really are.
I can show you how to release the fearful and resentful thinking that can make it so hard to connect with people. These techniques can help calm stress and build confidence so that you can express yourself effectively. Enroll now in my free course, The Daily Practice.
NEXT 8-Week Coaching Intensive Starts October 21
LIVE Webinar October 10 Trauma-Driven Reactions That Ruin Relationships
Do You Have CPTSD? Take the Quiz
FREE COURSE: The Daily Practice