Is 'Sense-Checking' In Your Relationships Making You Even More Anxious?

The word "toxic" has taken on a whole new meaning today, at least on social media. What used to define abusive relationships and tyrannical office environments has now started to encompass even the slightest hurt someone might experience because of another. The hurt could've been unintentional or even inevitable but it's still considered destructive. There is almost an impossibly unreachable level of sensitivity that people are expected to have so that they don't hurt someone else's feelings. 

In a climate like this, it becomes harder and harder to express yourself without feeling a sense of nervousness. Are you saying the right thing? Are they going to take it the wrong way? Is this going to hurt so and so? Should you use kinder terminology? Enter "sense-checking," a practice some people might find themselves engaging in before they send out a text, email, or message to someone.  

Perhaps your mind is wandering to your professional life and you're thinking about the last email you typed to send to your boss, but you got your colleague (or colleagues) to read before you hit send. Sense-checking may have originated in the workplace but it's now become something we do in our personal lives too, and it could be sabotaging our relationships.   

What is 'sense-checking' and how is it creeping into your personal life?

While double-checking the facts of an email at work before you send it is probably a good idea, always wanting to run everything you want to say to someone by your significant other or close friends might not be. By definition, "Sense-checking is the process of reviewing or verifying something to ensure [it's] reasonable, accurate and logical, or simply 'makes sense,'" shared life and career coach Sophie Bryan with Refinery29. But when it comes to personal relationships, the habit takes on a whole new meaning. 

Think about the last time a friend of yours asked you to catsit for them because they were going away for an entire week. You had exams coming up and you wanted to study. The request would've cost you a lot of revision time if you'd said yes, yet you turned it over in your head 100 times anyway. You typed out a message expressing that you won't be able to do the favor and ran it by your partner several times. Maybe you even called your mother and asked her if she thought the text sounded rude. 

Clinical psychologist Sarah Bishop told Refinery29 that it might be a good idea to get to the bottom of your anxious feelings surrounding communicating how you feel. What about sending the message was it that made you uncomfortable? Were you looking for validation from others if what you were feeling and thinking was right?

'Sense-checking' could be making you more anxious and less confident as a person

"The problem with sense-checking due to unnecessary anxiety is that we never learn to manage the uncomfortable feelings on our own," Dr. Bishop explained to Refinery29. Like it or not, uncomfortable situations, emotions, and conversations are part and parcel of everyone's life. Trying to avoid them altogether is not only unhealthy, but it's also impossible in the long run. Think also of the "sense-checkers" in your life who might be exhausted from having to proofread every message you want to send someone. 

Motivational speaker and author Jay Shetty shared with The Social CTV that if you must "sense-check," make sure you're doing so on topics that you know the person you're asking for advice is well-versed. For example, are you asking an architect friend for advice on how to word an email to your building contractor? Is your significant other (who's not the best with words) the best person to go to before sending out a group message on the upcoming birthday party you're organizing? Shetty explained that you could try asking yourself these questions, "Am I going to them for mentorship, guidance, or coaching? Or am I going to them just because I'm nervous about doing something?"

Learning to be confident in your own voice is one way to help yourself feel less anxious. After all, the person you're communicating with is better off knowing you for you.