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Being able to express and talk about how we are feeling takes practice. Reviewing Speaking and Listening Skills can be helpful. Some couples find it easier to communicate about certain emotions compared to others. Consider the following:
Being aware of our feelings is an important first step in communicating how we feel. Labelling emotions may seem straightforward but can be challenging at times. Finding the right words can help us better understand our emotional experience and help communicate with others.
Sometimes feelings can be complex, and the feeling we immediately identify with and express may be made up of other underlying feelings (e.g., expressing anger when we are scared, hurt, or jealous). Also, we can experience more than one feeling at the same time.
The Feeling Wheel is a tool that can be used to describe feelings in a more detailed and accurate way. It includes six core emotions in the center of the wheel. More detailed emotions related to the core emotions are listed in the middle and outer circles. It does not include all possible feelings, so feel free to make note of any additional feeling words you may want to use.
Give it a try:
Was labelling your emotions easier or more difficult than you first expected? What did you both learn by practicing the skills of recognizing and labelling emotions?
G. Willcox. The Feeling Wheel. Used with permission from The Gottman Institute.
When it comes to communicating feelings, couples have both strengths and areas that they would like to improve. Communication about emotions takes continuous practice. Taking time to practice effective communication is an investment in maintaining a healthy relationship.
Both sharing feelings and “just listening” can be surprisingly difficult. To practice both sets of skills, try the following:
Exercise adapted from: “Dealing with Feelings” chapter in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook [7th ed.], by Edmund Bourne, Ph.D.
Bourne, E. J. (2020). The anxiety and phobia workbook (7th ed). New Harbinger Publications.
Wilcox, G. (2020). The Feeling Wheel. Positive Psychology Practitioner’s Toolkit. https://www.gnyha.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/The-Feeling-Wheel-Positive-Psycology-Program.pdf
Willcox, G. (1982). The feeling wheel: A tool for expanding awareness of emotions and increasing spontaneity and intimacy. Transactional Analysis Journal, 12(4), 274-276. https://doi.org/10.1177/036215378201200411