emotional vocabulary

February 9, 2023

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today i’m talking about emotions…again. why? because they’re important.

i recall overhearing a mentor once say “emotions run everything”, and while it didn’t mean much to me at the time, it did stick with me. turns out, the longer i do this “work”, the more this statement is proving to be true.

the takeaway: your feelings are not good or bad. they just are. they are human experiences. And (wait for it…) they run everything.  

contrary to what most of us have been taught, emotions are not a problem or something we need to fix, they are something to be experienced and then responded to.

emotional intelligence

i often start here when i begin working with men because my experience has demonstrated that the vast majority of men, myself included, are raised to have really small emotional vocabularies. typically along the lines of mad, sad and glad – or something close to that.  

it is also my experience that this causes massive problems in the lives of men, myself included, especially when it comes to relationships. makes sense right? we’re trying to navigate complicated, dynamic, emotionally charged relationships with just a small handful of feelings. it’s like trying to build a house with a hammer, drill and a saw. can we get it done? damn straight we can. but what would it be like to build a house with an additional 10 tools? Or 20? answer: we’d have a better product.

in order to improve you relationships you need to develop our emotional vocabulary. period. to do that we have to practice emotions. sorry, no short cuts.

the good news is you can begin by simply naming your emotions throughout the day. that’s it. download a “feelings wheel” or a mood tracker app (i use the “how we feel” app: https://howwefeel.org/) to start expanding your vocabulary.

research demonstrates that people with bigger emotional vocabularies have healthier relationships, are better communicators, work better in teams, care for their own needs, and self-regulate better than those with smaller vocabularies. emotional intelligence is a thing. and it translates into be a better partner, father, friend, neighbor, boss….human being.  

a few options for developing your emotional vocabulary:

  • establish a frequency for naming your emotions: like every hour on the hour, or 3 times a day (phone reminders are helpful), or whatever frequency is doable for you
  • use your daily routine as a reminder strategy: name your emotions during common activities like eating a meal or brushing your teeth
  • use a common place as a reminder: like leaving a mood tracker on your fridge or a notebook on your nightstand to complete before you go to bed

it doesn’t really matter when you do it – just that you do it. and like most things, the more you do it the easier it becomes.

repetition = familiarity

remember your feelings are not good or bad. they are important human experiences that drive everything you do. so get to know you feelings. your life is going to be a lot more enjoyable if you do.

until next time, be well.


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