“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville
Emotions play a crucial role in effective communication with others. When you are mindfully in touch with your internal affective experience, you are better equipped to communicate with others in a persuasive, heartfelt, and authentic way. When you are out of touch with your emotions, unsure of what you are feeling inside, there is often a sense of your words being somehow disconnected from a deeper purpose or meaning.
We all have an internal emotional experience, but we don’t all know how to get in touch with those emotions and use them constructively. Mindfulness is a tool that enables us to get in touch with our inner experience in an authentic way.
Your emotional experience has the capacity to motivate and guide your behaviors. Without strong or genuine emotions to direct your course in life, there may be a sense of just going through the motions or following the dreams of other people, rather than your own. There may be a sense of disconnection from the self, unsure of what emotions are your “own” and what emotions belong to other people. Fortunately, you have the capacity to get back in touch with your emotional experience and use those emotions authentically to guide your communication with others.
Consider the way that your own emotions motivate, inspire, and guide your communication with others. Do you have a tendency to react impulsively to your internal emotional state? Or, do you tend to sit and reflect on your emotions before responding? We all have emotions, we just differ in the degree to which we are accurately aware of what they are and in our ability to use those emotions in a productive and constructive way.
When you are more aware of your emotions, you are in a better position not only to understand the messages that you are communicating to other people, but also to understand the messages that you are receiving from others. It might seem simple enough to “know” what you are feeling, but it is quite common for people to reject or disavow painful emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, or shame, and only embrace emotions like joy and love. When you selectively attend to your emotional experience in this way, you aren’t getting the full picture… you are only seeing those emotions which you would “like” to see. This is likely to result in less effective communication than if you had access to the full gamut of your emotional experience.
Emotional awareness is “consciousness of your moment-to-moment emotional experience – and the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately.” Helpguide.org, in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications, states in a recent article on effective communication the following benefits of emotional awareness:
- Understand and empathize with the concerns of other people
- Understand yourself, including what’s really troubling you and what you really want
- Stay motivated to understand the other person and their concerns, regardless of whether you “like” them or their message
- Communicate clearly and effectively, even when delivering difficult or negative messages
- Build strong, trusting, and rewarding relationships
- Think creatively, solve problems, and resolve conflicts
You can develop greater emotional awareness just as you can develop any new skill – with knowledge and practice. One of the best ways to begin the process of developing emotional awareness is to make the choice to start noticing, welcoming, and accepting emotions as they occur. When you develop a mindful attitude toward your internal experience, you are actively choosing to be aware, inviting, and curious about your experience.
When you find yourself experiencing a negative emotion, rather than rejecting it, make the choice to investigate it with openness, curiosity, and acceptance. Choosing to look upon your emotional experience with this attitude can change your relationship to your emotions in important ways. All of your emotions have valuable information hidden within them, if only you will investigate them a bit.
The next time you find yourself experiencing an unpleasant emotion, rather than run away from it, choose to move toward it. What is that emotion trying to tell you? How can your awareness of that emotional information positively impact your ability to effectively communicate with others?
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For more information on developing emotional awareness, watch this 3-minute video on developing emotional awareness.
Robinson, L., Segal, J., & Segal, R. (2011, July). Effective communication: Improving communication skills in business and relationships. Retrieved from http://helpguide.org/mental/effective_communication_skills.htm
Featured image: Sunset & the Thinker by Esparta / CC BY 2.0