I work with couples weekly to help them find deeper connection and understanding with each other. They are well-intentioned, caring, kind, and sweet people who just don't understand each other the way they once did, or who just don’t feel heard when they finish conversations. They come to me to learn how to better connect and really see each other again. If this sounds familiar, don't lose heart. You can reconnect with your partner by making minor changes in your communication style.
One of the easiest ways to improve communication is to increase your emotional vocabulary. So many of us are raised without language for the way we feel. Use this list to help you expand the language available to you. Read through the list and try to notice these nuanced emotions throughout your day. Or you can spend time reflecting on situations where you have felt each of them alone or in combination.
If you feel overwhelmed by the list, just start with the big four: mad, sad, happy and afraid. Notice what each feels like and when and where they are present in your life. You can expand to others over time and with practice.
Many of us use vague descriptors to tell people what's going on with us. These vague descriptors are a decent start, but by increasing your emotional vocabulary you will be better understood by yourself and those around you. I've listed a few common vague responses below. Notice how often you give these answers when people ask how you are. Challenge yourself to use one or more of the feelings from the feelings inventory list instead.
- "Okay" — Using one of the words from the feelings inventory will give clarity to you and those around you.
- "Fine" — All too often we say fine to cover negative emotions. Check in with yourself — are you being honest about how you are feeling?
- "Good" — Awesome! I am glad you are feeling good but how could you be more descriptive with one of the words on the list to increase connection with those around you?
- "Bad" — Good start but try again — what are you feeling?
- "I don't know" — Instead of saying this, take a deep breath and check if this is true. Do you actually not know, or are you feeling confused, uncertain or is it something else entirely?
- "Weird" — Again, this is a great starting place but now ask yourself what weird actually means. Use the list to find words that better explain how you are feeling.
- "Stupid" — Sounds like your self-critic has some judgement about how you’re feeling. Try to go a little easier on yourself and say more clearly how you are feeling.
There are lots of ways to get there, and it will take practice to find the right phrasing for you and the people around you. Stick with it to find connection. If you need help along the way give me a call!
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