Conflict, Communication, and Your Emotional Vocabulary

by Pamela Jett, CSP

The deepest need of the human soul is to be understood.

I believe this to be true and it is especially true during conflict and confrontation or emotionally charged situations.  We are looking for others to “get it” or to understand what we are feeling.  And, when we don’t feel understood it can lead to genuine frustration, damaged relationships, and increased conflict.

While we can’t make people better listeners and we can’t improve the empathy skills of others, we can do one simple thing that will increase the likelihood that we will be more fully understood during emotional conversation.  We can build our emotional vocabularies.

I believe that many of us are walking around with fairly limited emotional vocabularies.  We feel rich, complex, and diverse emotions, but we tend to rely on the same limited number of words to express those feelings.  For example, when we are feeling confused and frustrated by another’s behavior we often simply say we are “angry.”  Or, when we are feeling lonely and under-appreciated we might simply say we are feeling “sad.”  Or, when we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control we might resort to labeling that complex state as simply being “stressed.”

Is it any wonder that we don’t feel understood when we are oversimplifying our emotional states?  If you are looking for others to better understand what you are feeling, get better at accurately expressing those feelings.  Build your emotional vocabulary.

When you more accurately describe your internal state, you will likely receive a more on target or “understanding” response from others.  While this doesn’t solve all the challenges during emotional conversations, it can help us each feel more understood and that is a great place to start!

This blog originally posted by Pamela on her site.

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