Feel and Describe with Feelings Words

I have a shortage of ready vocabulary to describe feelings. I think our culture has hidden many useful feelings words under a cover of propriety or unselfishness. I collect feelings words in order to understand and communicate better.

Holding myself to a high standard of communicating my feelings in "I" statements requires me to get to know myself better. Knowing and sharing my own feelings connects me with other people and with God.

Taking care to avoid feelings words that carry any baggage of opinion, assessment, or interpretation keeps me dealing only with that for which I'm responsible and reduces the likelihood of raising defensiveness or argument in the other person.

Don't say "that" after "I feel . . ." Inserting "that" lets me say anything but feelings and thus circumvent altogether the hard work I've done to decide what I actually do feel. I want to delve deep for discovery that will give me confidence in the honesty and power of my communication.

Don't say "like" after "I feel . . ." Inserting "like" lets me continue with rant or analogy that sidetracks my listener from concentrating on me and my feelings. The purpose is to keep my listener riveted on what I really and deeply feel so as to call out his or her understanding and response.

Don't say "you" after "I feel . . ." Don't say any other pronoun or person's name after "I feel . . ." I don't know another person's feelings. I cannot discover them as I can my own. Inserting "you" or another pronoun or noun invites analysis and argument, hindering quiet strength communication.

The only thing not arguable in a moment of communication pressure is my feelings. I can know them. It might take practice to learn to access them quickly, but I can discover my own feelings and cite them as irrefutable, irrepressible facts.

Now you're ready to work some more on Column 2 of the Observation Worksheet. To increase your vocabulary you can go to Feelings Words or you can search the Internet for more word lists. Review a recent difficult moment in communication and write several "I feel . . ." statements about it.

Some of the ideas for this article come from these works:

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Copyright 2014 Wilma Zalabak