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  • Writer's pictureCristina Lima Counselling

Shall we talk about feelings?

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Talking about feelings can be a daunting task.

This can happen for various reasons: the names we have for feelings may be limited, or maybe we didn’t grow up in an environment in which talking about our feelings was encouraged or even allowed. Perhaps the few times that we tried to communicate how we felt, our parents or caregivers had a negative reaction to our attempt and, with that, we learned that talking about feelings simply wasn’t a good idea.

As a result, many of us go about our day experiencing dozens of emotions which are the basis for most of our decision making, including purchasing decisions, as explained by Harvard Business School teacher, Dr. Gerald Zaltman, without realizing what is fueling our words, actions and decisions.

A recent scientific study* revealed that human beings experience at least one emotion 90% of the time. This is to say that for every hour that you and I are awake, we experience one or more emotions for 54 minutes. This means that our daily lives are profoundly emotional. Yet, most of us can’t name most of our feelings, other than citing the primary emotions.

So, it is worth asking ourselves: how more effective would our communications be, if we knew what we were feeling, and what our partner, kid, boss, parent or friend was feeling when we talked to them?

How different would the outcomes of our (emotionally intelligent) interactions be?

Well, our communications would be much more effective, and their outcomes would be a lot more positive and healthier. This is what I see everyday in my counselling practice with adults, teenagers and even kids.

Where do we start then?

The emotions wheel developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox (included at the bottom of this post) is a great tool to start with. It helps us put words to emotions and to improve our communications.

The first step is to read the tool to familiarize yourself, and expand your vocabulary with the various emotions that you may experience.

The second step is to regularly take a few minutes (before going to bed, for ex.) to reflect on your day, and name the feelings you experienced in some of the situations that you encountered that day.

You can start with the inner-most wheel and move outward, moving from the, so called, core feelings toward any related feeling that might be coming up for you. Alternatively, you can move from the outside in, if that helps you get more clarity about your feelings.

As you practice noticing and naming your feelings, your ability to notice other people’s feelings will also improve.

As you become more skilled at identifying the emotions involved in your daily interactions, you’ll be able to more intelligently communicate with other people, taking into consideration your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you.

May you experience a greater sense of connection with yourself and your loved ones, as your practice naming your feelings in the next weeks.

*Emotions in Everyday Life, by Debra Trampe, Jordi Quoidbach and Maxime Taquet, available in the Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard.

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