Why is it so difficult to express in words what emotion we are experiencing?
During our lives, we are often led to suppress strong emotions. We are also led by various unspoken rules that exist in society. We have not learned how to describe our emotions with words.
Example: A young couple is dating. The boy always says things to his girlfriend that are “tearing her apart”. To make matters worse, every time he meets someone, he talks about the project his girlfriend worked on, which failed. The girl is very angry.
Example: After a long day, a man comes home, hangs up his coat. His wife asks him what’s wrong. He replies, “I’m just stressed out.” He pulls out his notebook to finish the work he didn’t have time for.
Anger and stress are two emotions we experience, or we think we experience in our lives, especially in the workplace. However, beneath these two emotions, there are often much deeper emotions hidden. If we develop better emotional agility, we will have a better “spin” in the world. Emotional agility or acuity is a critical skill that helps us better understand ourselves and the world.
Let’s say, the girl from our couple can be crazy, but what if she’s also sad? Sad because her project failed, maybe also anxious because this failure affects her career as well. With the guy she has by her side, her anxiety may only increase. Why did the project fail? What will she do now? All these emotions feed her internal anger, which, if identified and addressed to the right person, would help her feel better. And what is happening inside the husband who claims he’s just stressed? Perhaps he’s just unsure if he really enjoys his job. Days that used to be fun. Where did they go? Surely he’s stressed, but what emotion is the root cause of his stress?
Research shows that people who are not aware of their emotions and do not know how to address them suffer from a lack of satisfaction and exhibit more physiological symptoms, such as headaches. The right vocabulary helps us better understand our emotions, see them more clearly, and at the same time, find a more reliable way to solve the problem.
What are 3 ways to “label emotions”?
Words matter! Expand your emotional vocabulary.
Who would have thought that by expanding your vocabulary, you can also help your emotional health? If you experience strong emotions, stop and consider how you would name your emotion. However, don’t stop there. Try to describe it with at least two and later more words. You will be surprised how far your emotions go, and gradually you may discover deeper emotions that have been hidden from you until now.
Tip: a list of words that describe different emotions. However, they are by no means all of them.
It is important to describe both your positive and negative emotions. Being able to say that you feel excited about a new job (not just “nervous”), or that you feel trust towards a colleague (not just “they’re nice”) will help you understand your intentions in fulfilling your role or in your relationships.
Also, consider the intensity of your emotions
As humans, we tend to describe our emotions using basic vocabulary. We say we are “angry” or “stressed” even when our emotions are not that intense. Each emotion has its own “shade.” Often, we identify others as angry even when they may be bored or impatient, and then we may respond angrily, leading to conflict. The same is true when evaluating our own emotions. If we confuse these emotions, it’s like identifying ourselves or others as angry, sad, scared, happy, or content, without distinguishing between them. Of course, we cannot confuse these emotions. Similarly, the intensity of individual emotions also matters.
If you try to name your emotion, place it on a scale from 1-10. How strongly are you experiencing the emotion? How urgent is it, and how strong is it? Does it compel you to use a different set of words?
Write it down
According to James Pennebaker, who has devoted 40 years to research on the relationship between writing and emotional processing, people who write about their emotionally charged experiences experience a higher level of physical and psychological well-being. In fact, his study found that laid-off employees who dealt with their emotions, such as humiliation, anger, anxiety, and relationship problems, were three times more likely to be re-employed than laid-off employees in the control group. Additionally, those who wrote about their emotions began to delve deeper into the issue of emotions and what they really mean. This was evident in the use of phrases like “I learned,” “now I understand,” “the reason why,” and so on. The writing process helped them gain a new perspective on their experiences and improve their ability to understand them and see them more clearly.
You too can start writing about what you’re experiencing! You can write about what you’re going through every day. This is especially effective in moments of crisis, confusion, difficult times, and so on. If you have a difficult experience that you haven’t quite processed, follow these steps:
Set aside 20 minutes of your time Use a notebook or computer to capture your emotional experiences from the past week, month, or year. Don’t worry about whether it’s written perfectly or legibly. Go where your mind takes you. At the end, you shouldn’t save or keep this text. The important thing is that you’ve gotten your emotions out and they’re on paper. You can also use a similar process to expand your vocabulary, mark the intensity of your emotions, or try to better understand other people’s emotions. If you learn to better and more accurately identify your emotions, as well as those of others, you will also be able to respond constructively in everyday communication, that is, in a problem-solving way.
If you learn what you’re going through, you’ll be equipped with the emotional ability to address your emotions and learn from them. If you want to measure your emotional ability, we offer a quiz in English.
If we can identify our emotions, we understand them better and can prevent various communication problems. If I know that I am currently impatient and I lash out at my friend, who interprets this as anger and hostility towards them, we can handle the situation by explaining what we are currently experiencing without insulting them. If I think my life is upside down and I want to quit my job in a difficult moment, I need to stop and realize what triggered this emotion. If I realize that today I just had a bad moment with a colleague, got into a conflict that needs to be resolved, and evaluate my experience as a combination of these factors that are forcing me to behave irritably and stressed, I have already taken a step towards resolving my emotional state. Let’s not forget that sometimes it’s just a bad day, not a bad life. 🙂