The Need to Strengthen our Emotional Vocabulary

If we learn to strengthen our emotional vocabulary we will improve the quality of our relationships, we will defend ourselves with assertiveness, we will be more empathetic and we will express our needs effectively.


The need to strengthen our emotional vocabulary – and satisfy it – is key to improving the quality of our relationships. It involves knowing how to express ourselves, defend ourselves; It is tuning in with your own and others’ needs, translating feelings into words, generating empathy and creating bridges based on respect and assertiveness. Few competitions are so essential in the day to day.

Often, when we talk about this dimension it is common to focus interest on children. At present, both families and teachers understand the importance of early education in this skill. Emotional literacy and its relation to language, in fact, is an area of ​​great interest that is yielding very interesting results.

Thus, studies -such as that carried out by the psychologists Luna Beck and Irina Kumschick, from the University of Minessotta, United States- show us how to improve the linguistic competence in children if they are taught to recognize and express their emotions in the first years of his school years.

Therefore, there are many benefits that can have favoring this type of competition in children. However, what about adults? What happens, for example, to those people who are unable to express their fears, needs or frustrations to the couple?

Not all individuals who are now in adulthood have had the opportunity to go through a successful socio-emotional development. In turn, not all of us have these regulatory mechanisms or that communicative fluency that allows us to translate our knots into words, and those labyrinths where emotions are often captive.

“We are not responsible for the emotions, but we are responsible for what we do with them.”

-Jorge Bucay-

How can we strengthen our emotional vocabulary?

By strengthening our emotional vocabulary, our overall vulnerability also decreases. Because to put in words an emotion is to make us visible. It is validating ourselves and also others. It is to shape the sensations and share them. It is unraveling internal tangles, harmonizing chaos in simple words to be understood and understood.

There is in fact some magic in this process. For example, we all experience realities on a daily basis that we do not know very well how to transmit to others. And we can not because our language often does not allow it. In the tagálog language, a dialect spoken in the Philippines, there is a beautiful word called kilig. It comes to express that feeling of joy that we experience when we talk to someone we like.

In turn, in Dutch, there is the term uitwaaien, which describes the experience of enjoying the wind and the sensations that this produces us. Having adequate words that allow us to integrate these realities is exceptional, even cathartic. Now, often what happens is the opposite.

A lot of us not only do not find the right words to catalog what we are feeling. But also, we do not know exactly what is happening to us. The lack of emotional literacy leads us to states where we end up repressing feelings because we do not know what to do with them.

Let’s look at the keys to strengthen our emotional language.

Emotion awareness and facial recognition

Charles Darwin already spoke in his day of the “emotional expression”, defining it as an internal state that feels and, in turn, expresses itself. Therefore, the first step is the awareness: connect with that body state where emotion leaves its first imprint, one that in many cases is neither comfortable nor rewarding. It is the case of emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, disappointment …

All emotion has a physiological correlate that we must accept first, then understand its message and finally, give it a name (what I feel is anger, what I feel is envy). It will be useless to repress or hide it.

On the other hand, to strengthen our emotional language, it is also important to know how to recognize your needs in the other. Be receptive and empathetic. Be sensitive to the emotions of others to be able to adjust to your reality and achieve this, communicate better.

Emotional vocabulary and verbal fluency

Something that many experts in this field recommend, is to alphabetize in emotional vocabulary. We must make use of the so-called “emotional verbs”. It is a very effective mechanism to transmit feelings, to demonstrate honesty and openness. An example of this resource are verbs as I feel, I want, I am excited, I am scared, I feel like, I am uncomfortable, I envy…

On the other hand, in addition to the use of this strategy, it is necessary to train our verbal fluency. There are people with a great ability in oratory, great communicators and conversationalists who, however, lack verbal fluency in emotional matters. What does this mean?

Basically they do not know how to argue how they feel, what they need, nor are they competent to maintain a dialogue with other people about sentimental and personal aspects. This type of fluency is what we must attend to strengthen our emotional vocabulary.

The emotional narrative

Each one of us generates different types of narrations. We narrate ourselves as we integrate our experiences and experiences. We are all a story, our history. Doing it in the best possible way will allow us to respect ourselves more, to attend to us, to value ourselves as we deserve.

One way to achieve this is through emotional intelligence. Knowing ourselves, offering what we need, practicing self-pity, assertiveness and empathy will allow us to create a narrative of our history that is more respectful and integral at the same time. All this will revert in our self-concept to communicate better to others.

We are all emotional beings that at a given moment we learned to reason. Managing this internal universe better will make things easier for us, hence the importance of strengthening our emotional vocabulary.