How to Communicate Feelings

Let’s face it; sometimes it's a little difficult to use our words clearly and concisely to effectively communicate how we feel about something or someone in the numerous interactions that we have with others every day. And, that's particularly difficult when we don’t agree with what's being said in the moment. Sometimes. Oftentimes. Most times?

It’s difficult to do in the moment when emotions and feelings such as anger, over-ride rational thought.  It clouds our judgement and we act or speak out of turn knowing that it might be harmful to ourselves and others. Or, we choose to dead-shelve those feelings by not acting, reacting or speaking at all for fear of rejection. Perhaps it’s simply because we can’t find the words. We have the emotions of anger and fear as well as our core beliefs to thank for that. 

These emotions are important and may be used to our benefit. We feel them for a reason. However, they are perceived as negative emotions. By choosing not to communicate we do ourselves an injustice by not honouring them - we stifle creativity, communication, productivity, mental wellbeing and create unnecessary hurdles. By bottling up these feelings we create a bad apple inside us that prevents us from being healthier, happier and more serene. The trick is, knowing how to express our feelings and when to communicate them.

The problem is underpinned by the inability to express exactly how we feel about something. We've become ineffective at constructively identifying the issue by launching deconstructive attacks at people. Missiles to the ready. We stop listening to learn and start listening to respond. Whether it’s face to face, on text message, social channels such as Facebook or email is inconsequential, the same rules apply.

Actively listening to what is being said is crucial, as is the context in which it is being said. Understanding why you feel the way you do about the message, even more so. When we are listening only to respond, we are not understanding and learning more about the intention of what is being said. We are so desperately wanting to be right instead of choosing to be happy. 

The Power of Words


My top tips for both my personal and professional clients to optimise performance through the effective expression of feelings are:

Start-off by broadening your vocabulary by identifying more emotions, go beyond happy versus sad and angry or happy. In that way, we start improving our eloquence in communicating feelings. We start to identify more emotions.

We replace the word But with the word And to avoid conflict and identify the issue more effectively. We actively listen to what is being said and provide the other person with the opportunity to speak. Consider only responding when being asked to respond first.

After the other person has finished, smile and say thank you. Then, re-phrase what was said to you as confirmation and respect that you understood the message. This validates the other person’s feelings and shows respect to what was being communicated. Then use the word And to add your own message. We're not disagreeing with what was said, we're adding value.

Avoid using the words couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't through gratitude and questions starting with what, when, who, why, when and how? For example, I wouldn't recommend doing that versus Thank you for your ideas. How do you recommend we go about implementing them? 

We avoid the word Sorry and replace it perhaps with something like Thank you i.e. Sorry I totally disagree with you versus Thank you for sharing that with me. This creates a fertile ground for more beneficial outcomes.  In this way, we deal with the issue and feeling around that issue constructively as opposed to destructively launching a verbal attack.

We use the win-win phrase around how we feel about a certain behaviour or course of action that allows us to deal with what needs to be dealt with. "When you did this, I felt like that. I would prefer it if you considered a different approach such as this. How do you feel about that?"

We’re all so busy trying to chase happiness, find that ecstasy, define our purpose, shine bright like a diamond and be the perfect beings and employees that we forget. We forget that we are perfect and that the emotions we feel are quite normal. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves without realising it. That pressure bottlenecks inside of us and trips us up in a nasty game of paintball self-sabotage while we rat-race it out on hamster wheels trying to be better than the next person.

As perfect humans, we’re just having a wonderfully messy human experience. We forget that stumbling and sometimes falling is part of the process and that’s alright. And everyone's path and journey is different. Okay, it sounds like new-age gobble-dee-gook. Try it on for size though.

 On the one hand, we need to remember that it's less likely to happen when we speak our truths and concerns politely, eloquently and with respect without fear of rejection.

 So how do we start to control our feelings and communicate them effectively when they are often triggered by intentions then thoughts, creating feelings to form words which trigger actions or reactions which become behavioural patterns and impact our futures? Controlling thoughts and feelings seems impossible and for many it is. How do we interrupt the cycle?

Words and vocabulary

So what's the quickest and easiest way to increase our vocabulary on the topic of emotion? Consider the Emotion Colour Wheel which marries emotion with colour. It's the basis of colour therapy and might just work for you too. It may even help us in identifying other emotions that we didn’t know we felt. One way of doing this is connecting emotion to colour on an Emotional Colour Wheel. Several psychologists and meta-physicists have already done the hard work for us. 

And remember, what pulls you down, truly can set you free, both in life and in business.