Powerful techniques to optimize your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors

Tips on Expressing Feelings and Emotions

Emotions and feelings can be expressed well when we do the following:

Using one or two words doesn't work well in expressing how we feel. It's a plus to be specific about how we feel. Saying one or two words like "I'm feeling lousy" or "I'm feeling bad" doesn't exactly show how we're feeling. One or two word feeling descriptions tend to be too general and unlcear. It’s also better to use more specific emotional labels like the following: “angry”, “frustrated”, “irritated”, “anxious”, “fearful”. These words are far more specific than “lousy”, “crummy”, and “bad”.

It helps to express our feelings in degrees. Examples:

"I'm very irritated."
"I'm a little peeved."
"I'm extremely angry."

Sometimes we'll have mixed emotions. We best express our mixed feelings. Tell what you liked or didn't like. Example: "I've got mixed feelings about this last episode. It's great that you spoke up, but I'm extremely annoyed about being called an idiot."

If you're angered or annoyed, it helps to mention what you're angry about, such as the specific behavior. Mention the behavior first, then your feelings. This way the person can first hear the message about the behavior without first becoming defensive because they hear you’re angry or annoyed. Example: "Pulling all the pimentos out of the olives at Buster's party angered me so much."

See the Assertiveness page for tips on asserting yourself.

Be willing to confront someone with how you're feeling.

When providing feelings about a behavior, focus on the behavior and not the person. Better to say: "Your pimento picking annoys me no end." Rather than: "You're trash for acting like that at Buster's party."

Use "I" statements in talking about your feelings rather than "You" statements. This minimizes the other person's defensiveness and makes your messages more likely to be heard. Example: "I feel __________." Rather than: "You did _____________."

"I" statements bring the focus to ourselves and help give us a sense of being responsible for how we feel. "You" statements, besides spawning defensiveness, pulls the focus from us, and may promote the idea the other person is responsible for how we feel.

Keeping mum about your feelings doesn't let the other person know what's up. They have no way of responding because they don't know what's going on. You can't effect change in the situation and will likely feel frustrated.

Sharing feelings works best with those persons with whom you already experience closeness. Sharing feelings right off the bat with people you just met isn't such a hot idea. Most strangers may not know you well enough to have an instant emotional rapport. They may feel off balance or out of synch with an emotional sharing that comes out of nowhere.

Be wary of only expressing mostly feelings about negative areas. People tend to tune out a continual din of negatives. Avoidance may be the next step.

Using body language out of synch with your feelings can block the impact of your message. Smiling when you're annoyed thwarts good feelings communication. Nervous laughter, when you're expressing anger, disempowers what you're saying.

Take care, Steve


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