Words cannot explain how I feel. This sentence found much overuse in the last two days in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting spree. Further, last night as I watched The Biggest Loser (yes, confessions of a social worker here), I heard a contestant say; “Words cannot explain how I feel.”
We have words to assist us explain how we feel. What we are deficit in is the uses of those words to adequately capture our feelings. Emotional descriptions are neither prized nor welcomed in many situations so as a group we have trained ourselves not to use emotional words in fear we are neurotic, girlie or silly: outcasts in a world that values non-emotional language.
The English language has over two thousand words to describe feelings. Typically, any of us will use only six words in our entire repertoire of descriptive feeling words. Of those six words, they fall into three sets of opposites, for example happy/sad, upset/calm, scared/peaceful.
Emotional intelligence includes being able to clearly articulate how we are feeling. Emotional intelligence, in part, is the ability to express our deep grief, fear, sickness, disillusionment and bewilderment over the Virginia Tech shootings. Emotional intelligence involves pinpointing how we feel when voted off the Biggest Looser and giving those feelings a voice.
Without a voice, the feelings grow and take us over. The feelings prevent us from doing certain things because we may be scared, confused and emotionally impoverished. Without a voice to say how they are feeling prior to bad things happening, our children may be at grave risk of harm.
Do not allow your children to develop a monotone, “words cannot explain how I feel,” dialogue. Give children the tools to identify and articulate the feelings inside of them. Teach them the subtle differences between feeling layers. Teach them a multitude of words so that they can adequately explain to you how they feel about the unusual behaviours of that fringe dwelling, female stalking, and odd person at college. The more emotional language children have, the more their messages of concern have positive action impact prior to bad things happening.
To manage personal risk, we require knowledge of how others are feeling. We can only definitely know how others are feeling if they can clearly communicate what is going on in the space that nobody else can see: their emotional self.
The formula for clear communication is:
- I feel (insert a feeling word, not a thought)
- when you/I (state the behaviour of the other person)
- because (your thoughts on the way you see the situation).
I feel desolate when I hear that others have inadequate words to describe their feelings because emotional intelligence can help to keep people (particularly our children) safe.
Emotional intelligence is a tool we can gift our children to offer them control from emotional perpetrators in an out of control world. To learn more about how to do this, practice the suggestions in Teaching Emotional Intelligence for Personal Safety and Clear Communication.
When bad things happen to good people, clearly state how you are feeling about it. Using the formula for clear communication (I feel/felt…when you/I…because…), leave a message here for all those affected by the killing of innocent young people at Virginia Tech.