communicate better

Enhance Your Emotional Vocabulary

There are more words out there to describe how you feel besides sad, mad, and glad—in fact, there’s a whole world of words that can describe your emotions in incredibly specific ways. For most people, there's a significant deficit in our emotional vocabulary training growing up.

Having a rich emotional vocabulary means being able to recognize, label and understand feelings in ourselves and others.  Of course happy, sad, scared, and angry are four foundational emotions, but there are far more nuanced and complex emotions experienced regularly.

Having a solid emotional vocabulary helps us navigate complexity in relationships and deepen emotional intimacy.

Together the skills of identifying her emotions and reading and responding to other people’s emotions combine to create a skill known as emotional intelligence or emotional literacy.

Emotional literacy is necessary for us to regulate emotions, effectively connect with the people close to us, and manage social interactions successfully. The larger your emotional vocabulary the better equipped you are to discern different feelings, communicate your needs, and connect with the feelings of others. 

So how do you expand your emotional vocabulary?  Start by downloading this list. Use it for any of the activities below on your own or with someone you trust to expand your use and understanding of each word.  

How to use your feelings list

1) Choose one emotion each day and try to notice where you run into it throughout the day.  Maybe in a news story, or a book you're reading. Maybe someone talks about it on a podcast or you hear a story from a colleague at work. You might see it in a TV episode. Focus on noticing the places that emotion shows up for a day.

2) Choose one emotion at random and do a five-minute free write about where and when it has been present in your life. Think about the circumstances, players and resolution. Notice what physical sensations arise when focusing attention on this particular emotion. Notice if other emotions travel alongside the emotion you picked.

3) With someone you trust, randomly select an emotion from the list and tell a story about that emotion without naming the emotion itself. Have the other person guess what you're describing.  This practice helps you develop more effective empathetic communication.

4) Imagine the emotion as a living being and draw it. Give it a body and face and use color if helpful.  Notice if it's hairy or feathered, winged or legged. Most importantly, ask it what it wants most and how it might try to help you. Jot notes as needed to deepen your learning.  

5) Keep this list handy while you watch TV at night and during the commercial breaks try to guess what the main character is feeling using words from this list.  If you're watching with loved ones you can each choose a character to guess emotions for.

There are many other ways to deepen your emotional literacy but starting with these practices will help you expand your vocabulary and ultimately deepen your connection with yourself and those you love.  

If you'd like support deepening emotional intimacy and expanding your emotional vocabulary give me a call, I'd be happy to help.  


Gina Senarighi Relationship Coach | Couples Retreats Communication Skills

Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.  

Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow. 

Call for a consultation to see how she can help you deepen connection, communicate effectively, and passionately reignite your relationship.

How to Interrupt Stuck Conflict Communication Patterns (Part 1)

Look, I'll be the first to admit conflict is needed in healthy relationships.  It serves us to have boundaries and differ from our sweetheart.  It's critical we can say when something's not working, sit with that discomfort and come through it together.

But most of us have only experienced negative, unresolved and hurtful conflict.  It's hard to imagine what healthy conflict looks like in loving relationships. 

I've been focusing a large part of my work on shifting conflict and communication patterns in intimate relationships for ten years, and in that time I've rarely encountered anyone who feels confident in their conflict resolution skills.  

So I decided to spend a little more time focusing this blog on conflict in couples, with the hope I can help more of you face conflict directly and lovingly so you reach a resolution and connection more easily.  

I want to start by going over three critical global shifts you need to make to adjust the nature of conflicts in your relationships.  Once you and your love have a hold on these you will start seeing conflict resolve more quickly and compassionately in a very short time.  

Start Paying More Attention to Yourself Than Your Partner

The first issue most of us get caught in during conflict is a hyperfocus on what our partner is or isn't doing and the interpretations we're making about them.  The first issue this brings up is it leaves us out of connection with ourselves.  Often we can end up reacting to conflict from a pure state of emotion- without much grounded or rational thought.  

It also centers our interpretations, instead of what we want.  Interpretations are important, but they are often assumption-based and can be very unforgiving.  Notice what happens when you're interpreting or assuming vs when you're focused on your own experience, reactions, and behavior. 

Finally, focusing on them stops us from reflecting on our contributions to the problem.  The only way to unlock a cycle of blame in a conflict is to move toward personal accountability.  What can you do differently to move forward?  Ask this of yourself next time, instead of focusing on what you'd like your partner to do.

Stop Making Things Worse

Lots of conflicts become piles of hurt quickly due to quick thoughtless reactions and mounting hopelessness.  Let's look at how you can resolve things without adding more hurt to the mix. 

Start by committing to intentionality and mindfulness during the conflict. Notice when you've stopped being mindful and find ways to re-focus or take a break in the conflict to soothe and then return to the conversation later for resolution.  Don't just drop it or avoid it, but stay mindful of the outcome you'd like to see at the end of the conversation. 

You can also begin rethinking your bigger story about conflict between you.  Imagine what a healthy conflict might feel like.  Picture, in detail a gentler, more loving resolution.  And start practicing the emotional responses you're willing to contribute to moving in that direction.  

The more you can visualize the negative consequences of giving in to your reactive (sometimes destructive) urges, and the positive consequences of interacting differently, the more easily you'll start changing the way you show up in the conflict pattern.

Even if your partner isn't willing to change their patterns, just by shifting your contribution to the conflict your conflicts will begin to take new shape.  Stick with it.

Validation and Conflict Resolution

Couples who move more easily through conflict toward resolution more easily validate each other's perspective - even if they deeply disagree.  Learning to validate is essential to changing conflict patterns.  

So what if you disagree?  Validating a viewpoint is not the same as agreeing. 

If my partner wants to go out to brunch with friends, and I want to cancel to stay in bed and snuggle we can disagree while validating each other by saying "I know you really want to sleep in and we rarely get to do that anymore." and "We haven't been out to your favorite restaurant or seen those friends in a long time. I know it's your favorite Sunday activity." 

Notice the lack of "but" in those sentences.  We simply start by validating each other's viewpoint.  Adding "...but I still want to go out/stay in." takes the power out of the original validation. 

Of course this leaves us with more to discuss to resolve the issue, but it gets the conversation started in the right direction.  

Sometimes it's easy to get hooked into evaluating your partner's perspective.  One of you thinks the other's perspective is trivial or out of proportion with the situation.  Or you'd never react in that same way. 

No matter your judgment about it's validity or if you have the same perspective, accepting your partner's viewpoint is essential to move on.  Evaluating, judging, or comparing it to another's experience/viewpoint will only stall or stop the conflict on route to resolution (and likely leave more hurt).

CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS

Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts?  Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:

  1. Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships.  Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook.  Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").

  2. Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples.  Totally free.  Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here

  3. Call me for a free consult.  Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last.  I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach.  Let's talk.


Gina Senarighi Relationship Coach | Communication Consultant

Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.  

Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow. 

Call for a consultation to see how she can help you deepen connection, communicate effectively, and passionately reignite your relationship.