Communicating emotions can be a tricky thing. Rarely do we want to come off as being too emotional, but we also do not want to miss the opportunity to communicate what it is we are feeling effectively. Hiding our feelings is not an option in most instances. They are always there. Some are alive and well, right there on the surface and others are nicely hidden, barely detectable to the outside world.
Many of us know the rules of communication. We give credence to the importance of being mindful of our tones, maintaining eye contact, use of simple words, staying focused, summarization, and so many other techniques. What so many people struggle with is how to utilize these skills when emotions are involved at the forefront.
Emotions play a vital role in how well we communicate with others. When you have a healthy connection with your internal feelings, it improves your capacity to engage and interact with others in a manner that is more effective, authentic, and persuasive.
Unfortunately, our past experiences can have a detrimental effect on how well we can sync up with our emotions and deploy them in a manner that is constructive. Emotional awareness and the practice of being mindful can enhance the process of communication as can our past experiences.
How Aware Are You of Your Emotions?
You may be familiar with the meaning of self-awareness or the art of being mindful, but what about emotional awareness? What does emotional awareness mean to you? Emotional awareness challenges us to have a unique sense of our emotions in each moment. We can identify specific events that may trigger a variety of responses, and on occasion, we can use them to make decisions effectively. This process may seem simple, but many people find it a struggle.
This awareness is not limited to us. Emotional awareness is also the ability to recognize what feelings are present in others. Thus, the ability to effectively communicate our emotions also requires us to know how others are feeling and the impact our words may or may not have on them.
Emotional awareness falls under the umbrella of emotional intelligence (E.I.), which is another method for understanding how it is we choose to regulate our emotions and why it is we elect to respond to others the way we do when they are feeling up or down.
We each struggle at some point in time with our emotions. Emotional awareness can deliver many benefits, including:
- Open Communication. Emotional awareness allows you to communicate your state of emotions to others more openly.
- Improved Control of Your Emotions. You can take better care of your emotions once you gain insight into what they are and how they may impact your decision-making skills.
- Establishing Personal Boundaries. Emotional awareness allows you to establish and explain clear boundaries that are useful and most beneficial to you.
- Recognizing Others as Individuals. Emotional awareness can boost your capacity to understand others and their emotions better to facilitate better communication and understanding.
- Navigating Difficult Moments. Emotional awareness enables you to cross over hurdles and better endure difficult moments with a greater sense of perspective of the multiple factors involved.
- Mental Wellness. Emotional awareness also provides the opportunity to protect ourselves from inadvertently trying to escape unresolved feelings in potentially destructive ways.
Levels of Emotional Awareness
There are multiple levels of emotional awareness that we pass through in a given scenario. Traveling this path helps us to internally acknowledge what it is we are feeling, thus increasing our capacity to communicate our feelings to others in a healthy way.
Recognize the Feeling is Present
Identifying that a particular feeling or many emotions are present is the first level of emotional awareness. At this level, we are fully mindful or aware of emotion (i.e., anger, sadness, happiness, surprise) when it first appears, whether through a physical sensation or specific behavior.
For example, consider the variation of physical changes you experience within your body when anger takes hold. You might feel heat surge through your body to the point that your face grows warm. Your heart may begin to beat faster, or you might fold your arms, subconsciously trying to hold it all inside so as not to explode. Some people report that they even experience an instant headache in response to this emotion.
You might even give voice to the emotion in a roundabout way. Think about your immediate response each time you hear the word of a decision made by an employer or your boss. Your quick reaction to a co-worker might be “I can’t believe they are going to do this,” or “They don’t have a clue about what it is we do. This decision is ridiculous.” Your response is one that gives voice to anger and frustration.
Acknowledge the Feeling
Your statements alone are good signs that you are angry, but when coupled with a racing heart or heated skin, you cannot ignore the physical cues or sensations of anger. As a result, this level of emotional awareness insists that you acknowledge the feeling you are experiencing. It is possible that you might not know that this feeling you have is anger, despite past episodes of a similar nature, but what is critical is having the capacity to acknowledge that something is happening within you.
We have an innate ability to sense our positive and negative feelings, and with time we can learn to recognize which turn out to be good or bad for us. Some emotions can cause adverse physical harm and others can prove destructive to our mental wellness.
Acknowledgment can assist in creating balance, enabling us to weigh the meaning, pros, and cons of each emotion within the confines of a situation. Acknowledging your feelings can help you determine if you can navigate an event alone or if you might need the help of others.
The practice of acknowledging your feelings can also help you to see what exists in others and how it is you might best communicate with them and mutually support each other. Your feelings, however, should also be used as a tool to guide you in identifying what is most significant to you.
Acknowledgment of negative or positive feelings will help you to effectively communicate what is most essential. It will also permit you to solve for the thing that is triggering such a response. Not giving credence to your emotions or effectively verbalizing them, particularly negative feelings, may lead to you channeling those feelings into actions and behaviors that are not productive and possibly even dangerous such as alcohol and drug use.
Identify the Feeling
Once you acknowledge that you are experiencing a feeling, you have to recognize what that feeling is by name formally. Consider the example in which we name “anger” as the feeling. There are times in which you may not know the emotion you are feeling. Ultimately, you will have to slow down to call it by what it is as soon as you acknowledge its existence.
Identification of the emotion will enable you to then take control of creating an action plan to address the need. Identifying a feeling does require a bit of practice with this technique. However, this practice of determining the feeling is useful for your brain and allows it to manage your physical and emotional responses together more efficiently. Also, this practice improves the consistency of which we can label our emotions.
Giving credence to our emotions lays a foundation to move onto the next step, which generally entails troubleshooting and problem-solving. This ability also generates stronger feelings of control and empowerment.
Accept the Feeling
Once we are successful in identifying our emotions, we can begin to accept them for what they are, which can leave us with some trepidation because there is a bit of history that can affect how comfortable we are sharing that with others. Think of a time in the past when you felt a certain way about something. Your feelings may not have been very popular or shared by others. As a result, when you shared your emotions with one or more people, they may have minimized you on one or many levels.
This experience may have caused you to question if you had a right to communicate your thoughts and beliefs. Emotional intelligence teaches us that we have a right to our ideas, feelings, and thoughts as individuals even if they’re not necessarily shared by others. We have a right to value our inner voice and communicate it independently of what others might think.
The benefits of accepting our feelings are numerous. First, they are a vital component of self-validation. While our feelings about an ongoing moment or issue may be evolving, our ability to accept our feelings serves as an asset that lends itself to positivity and open communication about what is occurring.
Next, acceptance protects our energy. Think about how draining it is to hold your true emotions within and hide them from others.
Additionally, acceptance prevents us from the dreaded pangs of rumination. When we fail to accept our true feelings, we do not communicate, and when we fail to communicate in a healthy way, we ruminate, reliving our true feelings repeatedly.
Finally, acceptance of our feelings allows us to be more directed and productive in our resulting actions and our communications with others.
Reflect on the Feeling
Following acceptance, we can reflect. Reflection of our feelings may occur after an event. Reflection is different from rumination. Reflection allows us to fully weigh the meaning of our feelings after an event, our response to those feelings, how others responded, and what it might mean for the future given a similar episode. Also, reflection may help us to better identify our emotions in the future.
Emotional intelligence can prove extremely useful in helping us to examine our feelings in real-time. The sooner we identify our emotions, the faster we can act on and communicate them in a manner that is useful.
Forecast Your Feelings
Emotional awareness also enables us to predict or forecast how we might respond in the future to a similar situation. This aspect of emotional awareness is particularly helpful because it supports our desire to plan better for the future. For example, we may better anticipate what is necessary to sustain our long-term happiness or what might generate negative feelings if we’re not careful.
Forecasting your feelings can be motivational and drive us towards success, and they can help to steer us away from adverse outcomes. They can improve our decision-making power and equip us with the necessary tools to communicate our feelings in advance. This practice can also make us more aware of the sensitivities of others.
8 Key Healthy Communication Tips
What more can you do to improve your communication skills? How do you take everything you now know about emotions and communicate in a way that is healthy? In essence, your degree of emotional awareness will dictate how successful you are with communication.
According to Terry Schmitz, founder, and owner of the Conover Company, there are five skills we should have for emotional awareness to be effective. If your emotional awareness is not what it should be, you can expand it by focusing on your emotional skill set. Do not be so quick to dismiss your feelings.
Emotional awareness is vital to your ability to communicate your opinions with others. These skills will help you to better manage and self-regulate your emotions. This ability to regulate will contribute to more successful professional and personal relationships.
Have an Awareness for Other People’s Feelings.
Remember that emotional awareness is not limited to being mindful of just your own emotions. It also requires us to be conscious of other’s emotions and how they may feel. Try to avoid the use of accusatory statements like “You make me angry,” or “You make me feel stupid.” The use of the word “You” can distract both parties from diving in to solve the real issue at hand and trigger an argument that is potentially more unproductive.
Appreciate Your Own Feelings.
Next, you must consistently practice having an awareness and appreciation of your own feelings. Your feelings are worthy, and they do have meaning and purpose, and will require you to transition through each of the various levels of emotional awareness. Your opinions are just as significant as those of everyone else. You do not have to be apologetic about how you feel. Most of us cannot help the way we feel, so our sense of responsibility should instead be focused on what we do with those feelings.
Pay attention to the emotions that are moving through you. Angry feelings and even happiness can sometimes block communication. Along the lines of acceptance, do not forget to label your feelings and assign them a meaningful definition.
Left ignored, unresolved emotions may cause you to respond in ways that you might not choose to do if you were thinking more rationally or in better tune with your feelings.
Giving meaning to your feelings will help you to communicate what it is you feel more specifically and properly. If you do not know what it is you are experiencing inside, you will never be able to convey those thoughts to someone else.
Be Consistent with Your Empathy.
Have empathy for yourself and others. Acknowledge their feelings and allow them to give voice to those feelings. Communication 101 implores us to be a good listener. You must be attentive and convey through verbal and nonverbal cues that you are listening. Your goal must be to ensure everyone feels understood.
Practice reflective listening to ensure that the other person feels understood. Reflective listening can feel unnatural to even the most seasoned listener, but for the other party in your conversation, this technique can feel very validating.
Have trust for yourself and others. The key to open communication is trusting that the person you are communicating with will hear your verbal cues and see your nonverbal cues. Do not fear directness. It is more useful to both you and the other party if you state what it is you are feeling and trust that the other person will hear you.
Without trust at the base of your interaction, the likelihood that the other person will hear you reciprocate in sharing their feelings with you is minimal. There is no need to be confrontational as this type of approach can make for awkward interactions.
Be Prepared for Misunderstandings.
Communicating how you feel will undoubtedly be misunderstood because not everyone will reciprocate your feelings. Just as you will have concerns about what you are hearing from the other individual or group, they too will have concerns.
Be careful to respond rather than react to other people’s emotions. The key in these situations is to take the time to really process what is being said. Allowing others to finish their statements can be difficult, but it is possible and shows respect.
Other tips for effective communication include:
Use Your Point-of-View to Discuss Feelings.
Do not shrink away from using “I” statements to summarize your feelings to someone. “I” statements permit you the unique opportunity to give your perspective. “I” statements can help reduce the occurrence of accusatory tones and can improve what people hear during the conversation. Give the source of your feeling. For example, you might say “I have a concern about the changes you are planning to make for this process.”
If you must implicate the other person as being the source of your emotions, tread lightly and point to the particular behavior or action. “When you decided without first speaking to me, I felt a sense of worry that my opinion might not count.”
Calm Down before Speaking.
If you are feeling angry, take the time to calm down. You should take the time to quell any angry feelings you may be experiencing in the moment of speaking. Angry feelings may lead you to say things that are not useful for the conversation. Your angry tone or body language may also trigger a more hostile response in kind.
The ability to control your emotions is not without difficulty, but it is doable. Allowing your feelings to run rampant during a particular situation is likely to fuel a fire rather than douse it.
As you are communicating your feelings, offer potential solutions that might support problem-solving. It can be difficult to hear someone’s feelings, especially when they are laden with negative words. Be ready to offer viable solutions for what might help to improve the state of affairs and promote forward movement.
In summary, you must be willing to put in some effort to get in touch with your emotions. Mindfulness will help you to have a better appreciation for who you are and why it is you respond in the manner that you do. Each of these tips may enable us to find a path to better acceptance of both ourselves and others.
Sharing your inner experiences, feelings, and thoughts will help to improve your ability to connect with others in a healthy way. When you take the time to effectively and efficiently communicate your emotions with someone else, your chances of having your needs met increase significantly and can contribute to you experiencing happier and better relationships.
It is understandable that you may have some concerns that sharing your emotions may leave you vulnerable to others, particularly during a conversation in which you are trying to connect with someone who may not share your viewpoint. However, expressing your feelings is the key to ensuring your voice is heard.
If neither you or your partner in the conversation possess enough emotional awareness to support positive or negative interaction, you both are likely to miss out on critical emotional signals or cues exhibited by the other person. Thus, your ability to sustain a positive relationship with each other will be at risk.