Strengthening Your Emotional Vocabulary is Important

If you learn to strengthen your emotional vocabulary, you'll improve your relationships and interactions with others. Not only will you be able to defend yourself assertively, but you'll be more empathetic as you'll express your needs effectively.
Strengthening Your Emotional Vocabulary is Important
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Strengthening your emotional vocabulary will help you improve the quality of your relationships. It’s all about knowing how to express yourself assertively. Furthermore, it’s also about being in tune with your needs while remaining sympathetic to other people’s needs. In addition, it’s about translating your feelings into words and creating bridges based on respect and assertiveness.

When we talk about this dimension of our personality, it’s common to focus our interest on children. Currently, both families and teachers understand the importance of teaching children this skill. The study of emotional literacy and its relationship to language is yielding rather interesting results.

In this regard, studies such as the one that was carried out by psychologists Luna Beck and Irina Kumschick from the University of Minnesota show us how to improve linguistic competence in children.

This skill is very important for children. But w hat about adults? What happens to those who are unable to express their fears, needs, and frustrations to their significant others?

Not all adults had the opportunity to develop socio-emotionally at an early age. Thus, not all of us have regulatory mechanisms and verbal fluency with which to translate our emotions into words.

A couple talking.

How to strengthen our emotional vocabulary

By strengthening our emotional vocabulary, our overall vulnerability decreases. This is because putting our emotions into words makes us visible. It validates ourselves and everyone else around us. It’s a way to shape our sensations and show them to the world. Moreover, it’s the unraveling of internal knots, a way to harmonize the chaos and channel it into simple words that can be understood.

We all experience realities that we don’t quite know how to transmit to others due to language differences. “Kilig” is a word in Tagalog, the language spoken in the Philippines. It expresses the feeling of joy we experience when we talk to someone we like.

Furthermore, in Dutch, the term “uitwaaien” describes the experience of enjoying the wind and the sensations it produces in us. Having adequate words that allow us to integrate such realities is exceptional, even cathartic.

Unfortunately, many of us can’t find the right words to describe what we’re feeling. In many instances, we don’t even know exactly what we’re feeling. The lack of emotional literacy leads us to repress our feelings because we don’t know how to express them.

Keys to strengthening our emotional vocabulary

Same boy, different expressions.

Emotional awareness and facial recognition

Charles Darwin talked about emotional expression back in his day. He defined it as an internal state that feels and, therefore, expresses itself. Thus, the first step to it is awareness, to connect with that bodily state where emotion leaves its first imprint. This happens with emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, disappointment, etc.

Every emotion has a physiological match that we must accept, understand its message, and label. For example, you have to identify if what you’re feeling is anger, envy, or another emotion. This is because it’s useless to repress your emotions.

On the other hand, in order to strengthen our emotional language, it’s also important to know how to recognize other people’s needs. You have to be sensitive, receptive, and empathetic towards other people’s emotions so you can communicate better with them.

Emotional vocabulary and verbal fluency

Experts recommend we learn how to use emotional verbs, a highly effective mechanism to transmit feelings. For example, I feel, I want, I’m excited, I’m scared, I feel like, I’m uncomfortable, I envy...

Furthermore, in addition to using the above strategy, it’s necessary to train yourself in verbal fluency. Some  people are perceived as great communicators and conversationalists who, contrary to what everyone believes, lack verbal fluency in emotional matters. How can this be possible?

Basically, they don’t know how to talk about their feelings or needs and they’re not competent enough to maintain conversations about personal and sentimental topics. This type of fluency is what one must tend to in order to strengthen one’s emotional vocabulary.

A sad looking woman.

The emotional narrative

Each one of us generates different types of narratives. We tell stories to ourselves as we integrate our life experiences. Telling them properly will allow us to respect ourselves more, to tend to our needs, and to value ourselves as we deserve.

One way to achieve this is through emotional intelligence. Knowing ourselves, giving ourselves what we need, practicing self-pity (occasionally), and being assertive and empathetic will allow us to create a clearer narrative. All this will translate into a positive self-concept we’ll be able to communicate better with others with.

We’re all emotional beings who can learn to reason at any given moment. Managing this internal universe better will make things easier for us. This is why it’s so important to strengthen our emotional vocabulary.

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.

  • Beck, L., Kumschick, IR, Eid, M., y Klann-Delius, G. (2012). Relación entre competencia lingüística y competencia emocional en la infancia media. Emoción , 12 (3), 503–514.

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