How to Communicate: Expressing Feelings

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The first and very important aspect of expressing feelings, explained in detail in THIS BLOG, is how to observe another without putting your own evaluations on it. One cannot communicate effectively without first listening to the others’ perspective. Once the other person feels understood, you will notice the intensity of emotion both in you and in them will be much less.

The second part to successful communication is expressing your own feelings. This one can be difficult. I used to only now the difference between anger and happiness, but I later learned there are hundreds of feeling words. Words such as disappointed, sad, anxious, depressed, or morose are just a few that help us describe our emotions. Once your vocabulary increases around feeling words, you can then learn the difference between them, and how they are each unique. Pay attention to how your body feels during particular emotions as this will help you know the right word for it. For example, when I’m disappointed, I feel it in my head, but when I’m morose, I feel it in my chest.

Another important factor in expressing your feelings is knowing the difference between, “I feel,” and “I think” and knowing when to use each. For instance, “I feel like you didn’t do it right,” or “I feel that this could have been avoided.” These are examples of non-feeling phrases where “I think” would be a much more accurate fit. Other non-feeling phrases would include words such as “like”, “that”, or “if”. “I feel like…” Or “I feel that…” Or “I feel if…” A good test is to not even use the phrase “I feel”. Just throw this one out of your vocabulary and instead use, “I’m sad” or “I am disappointed.” These are real feelings. They cannot be argued with. If I say to my husband, “I feel like you don’t understand me.” First, that’s not a feeling, and he may go on the defensive and tell me all the ways he disagrees. But if I were to say, “I’m frustrated because when I talk you look at your phone which makes me think you may be distracted and not understanding me.” This gives him a lot more information. Now he knows it’s not just about understanding me, but about my observations and feelings about those observations. He may then be able to let me know his side, or change his behavior to accommodate me.

It is extremely important to be able to communicate feelings. If you have a hard time expressing your feelings, or believe that you simply don’t have any or many, I would recommend a simple exercise to do with your spouse and kids. Pick three feeling words, look them up if you must, then describe a time throughout the day when you felt that way. The next day pick three different words and repeat the exercise. Do this for a month and you will begin to see positive changes. This will not only help you increase your vocabulary, but also build intimacy with your family.

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