5 Tips for Expressing your Emotions

5 Tips for Expressing your Emotions
Sara Clemente

Written and verified by psychologist and journalist Sara Clemente.

Last update: 26 September, 2022

When you feel happy, it is easy to smile and show others you are in a positive mood. However, when you are serious, the interpretation becomes much more subjective. Do others think you are tired? Sad? Annoyed? This is why it is so important to know the best way of expressing emotions.

Putting voice to feelings allows others to empathize with you. This allows them to get to know you better. It also helps them know what to do and avoid misunderstandings or anger. Expressing emotions helps you face difficult situations and improves self-knowledge. Here are some keys to help you.

How do you express your feelings?

Search for the origin

Putting words to a cluster of sensations and feelings is complex. Many times, we are not aware of what first caused our bad mood. Therefore, to begin with, we must ask ourselves what happened that changed our mood so much. What made us feel the way we do?

Try to relax for a few minutes and clear your mind so you can identify what has generated a change within you. Find what has caused you to experience all those emotions. Close your eyes if you think it will help, and reflect. What is it that causes you surprise, joy, disgust, contempt, or fear?

girl thinking

Increase your emotional vocabulary

Saying a simple “I feel bad” or “I’m fine” is better than nothing, but it helps little with expressing emotions. Try to be more specific and precise with the words you use to name what you feel. The more concrete you are, the better you will understand what you are feeling.

For example, imagine that you are angry with your boss because he has made you look bad in front of your colleagues. When explaining it to another person, you can use adjectives such as “embarrassed”, “impotent”, “annoying”, “angry”, or “humiliated”. This will make it easier for the other person to understand you and how to help you.

Use emotional verbs such as “I notice”, “I perceive”, or “I feel”, instead of “I think”, “in my opinion”, or “I believe”.  The latter do not refer to your internal condition, but to your mental processing.

“Try not to think about it” doesn’t work

Imagine that your partner does not like to have their hair touched. Every time you do it, it puts them in a bad mood. If they don´t tell you they don’t like it it is normal that you will continue to do this as a gesture of affection and they may feel annoyed. Finally, something will push the balance and your partner will explode, and you will not understand why.

You will think that they are exaggerating and you will attribute the cause of their discomfort to another situation. Thus, the consequences will not be as expected and their fear, anger, or annoyance will turn against you. With this we see that silence is not the best option. Trying not to think about it and avoidance only prolongs our discomfort, the restlessness of those around us, and can even generate conflicts. 

Communicate feelings, not thoughts

When we want to express feelings, we use the verb “feel”. If we transmit thoughts, we use “feel that”. The difference is subtle and lies in the inclusion or not of the word “that”. For example, “I feel afraid” (feeling) or “I feel that fear is paralyzing me” (thought).

In this last case, we are rationalizing an emotion or how we have reacted to a situation. It means that we have already cognitively processed the origin event of our feelings. We are no longer explaining the effects a situation has on us, but its possible consequences.

couple talking

Practice emotional responsibility

If you begin to explain yourself with a “you make me feel”, you are not only blaming the other, but also giving them power over your feelings. The responsibility over feelings is personal and non-transferable. Wanting to transfer it to others is neither ethical nor truly possible.  In addition, this can create problems with the people around you.

Speak freely

How do you feel after saying something you have been mulling over for a long time? As if something has been released, right? Speaking is therapeutic and redemptive. According to numerous studies, those people who try to avoid communicating how they feel may have a higher risk of cancer (Chapman, Fiscella &Kawachi 2013).

As human beings, we cannot help but feel emotions. It is in our nature. The best way to respect ourselves is to learn to live with emotions. Accept them and try to understand them.

If you try to expressing emotions once, the next time will be easier. Eventually, you will naturalize this and make it a daily habit. If you succeed, you will have a great emotional advantage over others.

Expressing your feelings will increase the quality of your relationships. Not only with others, with yourself as well. 

man expressing emotions

Expressing emotions in a healthy way

When we express what we feel out loud, the intensity of the discomfort that the emotion may be causing us decreases. This is because, by putting voice to feelings our amygdala decreases its activity. This, in turn, decreases the emotional reaction (Lieberman et. al., 2007).

In addition, knowing how to express your feelings increases your psychological strength and your ability to face difficult moments and situations (Kross et al., 2009). It mentally prepares you to know how to react to strange events.

Although it is not a simple task, investing time in expressing emotions improves the quality of your interpersonal relationships. It is an effort that requires constant introspective work and complete acceptance of yourself.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Barrett, L. F., Mesquita, B., Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2007). The experience of emotion. Annual review of psychology58, 373.
  • Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological Science18(5), 421-428.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.