Describing feelings is naming the emotion you are feeling without judging it. Describing feelings increases’The chances of positive interaction and decreases the chances of sheet circuiting lines of communication. Moreover, describing feelings teaches others how to treat us by explaining the effect of their behavior. The knowledge gives them the info nation they need to determine the appropriateness of that behavioral. Thus, if you tell Paul that you feel flattered when he visits you, your description of how you feel should encourage him to visit. you will very angry he borrows your jacket without asking, more likely to ask the next fume. Describing actions have on you. Many times people think they are describing when in fact they are displaying feelings or ‘evaluating the other person’s behavior. The Test Your Competent exercise at the end of this section focuses on your awareness of the difference between describing feelings and either displaying feelings or expressing evaluations. If describing feelings is so important to effective communication, why don’t more people do it regularly? There seem to be at least five reasons many people don’t describe feelings.
1. Marry people don’t have a very goo-i vocabulary for describing the various feelings they experience. People can sense that they are angry; however, they may not be able to distinguish between feeling annoyed, betrayed, cheated, crushed, disturbed, envious, ‘furious, infuriated, outraged, or shocked. Each of these words describes a slightly different aspect of what
many people lump together as anger, A surprising number of shades of meaning can be used to describe feelings, as shown in Figure 7,1, To
become more effective <in describing your feelings, you may first need to . work to develop a better “vocabulary of emotions,”
2. Many people believe describing the is true feelings will make them too vulnerable. If you tell people what hurts you, it is true that you risk their using the information against you when they want to hurt you on purpose. So it is safer to act angry ~an to be honest and describe the hurt you feel; it is safer to appear indifferent than to share your happiness and risk being made fun of. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” If you don’t take reasonable risks in your relationships, you are unlikely to form lasting and satisfying relationships. For instance, if Pete calls you by a derogatory nickname that you don’t like, you can tell Pete that calling you by that nickname embarrasses you. Pete does have the option of calling you by that name when he wants to embarrass you, but if Pete is ethical and cares about you, he is more likely to stop calling you by that fame. If you don’t describe your feelings to Pete, however, he will probably continue calling you, by that name simply because he doesn’t realize that you don’t like it. By saying nothing, you reinforce his behavior. The
level of risk varies with each situation, but if you have healthy relations you will more often improve a relationship by describing feelings than hurt it by doing so.
3. If they describe their feelings, many people believe others will make them feel guilty about having such feelings. At a tender age, we all learned about
tactful behavior. Under the premise that “the truth sometimes hurts, we learn to avoid the truth by not saying anything or by telling little” lies, Whee you were young, perhaps your mother said, Don’t forget to give grandma a great big kiss. At that time, you may have blurted out, Ugh It makes me feel yucky to kiss grandma. She’s got a mustache. If your mother then responded, “That’s terrible-your grandma loves you. Now
you give her a kiss and never let me hear you talk like that again!” you probably felt guilty for having this “wrong” feeling. Yet the thought of kissing your grandmother did make you feel yucky’ whether it should have or not. In this case, the issue was not your having the feelings but the way you talked about them .
4. Many people believe describing feelings causes harm to others or to a relationship. If it really bothers Odor when his girlfriend, Lana, bites her fingernails, Odor may believe describing his feelings may hurt her feelings so much that it will drive a wedge into their relationship. So it is better if Odor says nothing, right? Wrong! If Odor says nothing, he is still going to be- irritated by Lana’s behavior. In fact, as time goes on, Odor’s irritation probably will cause him to lash out at Lana for other things because he can’t bring himself to talk about the behavior that really bothers him. Lana will be hurt by Odor’s behavior, but she won’t understand why. By not describing his true feelings, Odor may well drive a wedge into their relationship anyway, But if Odor describes his feelings to Lana in a nonjudgmental way, she might try to quit biting her nails. They might get into a discussion in which he finds out she doesn’t want to bite her nails but that she just can’t seem to stop. Perhaps he can help her in her efforts to stop. Or Odor might come to see that it really is a small thing, and it may not continue to bother him as much. In short, describing feelings yields a better -Chance of a successful outcome than does not describing them.
5. Some people belong to cultural groups in which masking or withholding feelings is culturally appropriate behavior. In some cultures, for example, harmony among the group Of in the relationship is felt to be more important Lilian individuals’ personal feelings. People from such cultures may not ‘describe their feeling, at of concert the health of the group.
To describe feelings, (1) indicate what has triggered the feeling. The feeling result from some behavior,den rife the behavior, (2) Mentally ridden . what you are feeling-be specific. people experience a feeling, they will sometimes display it without thinking about it. To describe a feeling, you must be aware of exactly what you are feeling. The vocabulary of emotions provided in can help you develop your ability to select specific words to describe your feelings. (3) Verbally own the feeling. Begin statement with I feel (4) Verbally star the specific feeling (happy, sad, irritated, vibrant)
Here are two examples of describing feelings: (1) Thank you for your compliment I [the person having the feeling] feel gratified [the specific feeling] that you noticed the effort I made. (2) “When yen criticize my cooking on days I’ve worked as many hours as you have [trigger], I [the person having the feeling] feel very resentful” [the specific feeling].
To begin with you may find it easier to describe positive feelings “You .know, your taking me to that movie really cheered me up or “When you offered
to help me with the housework, I really felt delighted. As you gain success with positive descriptions, You can try describing negative feelings attributable to environmental factors: “It’s so cloudy feel gloomy or When the wind howls through the crack, I really get jumpy, Finally, you can move to negative descriptions resulting from what people have said or done: “When you step in front of me like that, I real get annoyed or When you use that negative tone while you are saying that what I did pleased you, I really feel confused.
Owning Feelings and Opinions
Owning feelings or opinions, or crediting yourself, means making I statements to identify yourself as the source of a particular idea or feeling. An I statement can be any statement that has a first person pronoun such as my, me or mine. I statements help the listener understand fully and accurately the nature of the message. For example instead of saying Advertising is the weakest department in the corporation (an unsupported assertion), say believe advertising is the weakest department in the corporation. Likewise, instead of saying Everybody thinks Collins is unfair in his criticism, say It seems to that Collins is unfair in his criticism. Both of these examples contr t a generalized or impersonal account with an I statement. Why do people use vague referents to others rather than owning their ideas and feelings? There are two basic reasons
1. To strengthen the power of their statements. If listeners doubt the statement that Everybody thinks Gall ins is unfair in his criticism they are buck in the collective evaluation of countless people. Of course, not everybody knows and agrees that Collins is unfair. In this instance, the statement really means that one person holds the belief. But people often think that their feelings or beliefs will not carry much power, so they feel the need to cite unknown or universal sources for those feelings or beliefs
2. To escape responsibility. Similarly, people use collective statements such as everybody agrees’v-and anyone with any sense to escape responsibility for their own feelings and thoughts. It seems far more difficult for a person to say I don’t like Herb” than it is to say “No one likes Herb.
The problem with such generalized statements is that at best they are exaggerations and at worst they are deceitful and unethical. Being both accurate and honest with others requires-taking responsibility for our own feelings and opinions. We all have a right to our reactions. If what you are saying is truly your opinion or are expression of how you really feel, let others know and be willing to take responsibility for it. Otherwise, you may alienate people who would have respected your opinions or feelings even if they didn’t agree with them.
Giving Personal Feedback
There are times in our interactions and relationships with others when it is appropriate to comment on’ how die other person’s message or behavior is affecting us. Responses that do this are generally referred to as giving personal feedback. When we highlight positive behavior and accomplishments, we give positive feedback through praise. When we identify negative harmful behavior and actions, we provide negative feedback through constructive criticism.
. Praising is describing ‘the specific positive behaviors or accomplishments of . another. Too often we fail to acknowledge the positive things people say and do. Yet, as you will recall from our earlier discussion of self-concept, our view of who we are-our identity, as well as our behavior-is shape by how other respond to us. Praise can be used to reinforce positive behavior and to help another develop a positive self-concept. Praise is not the same as flattery. When we flatter someone, we Use excessive compliments that are insincere in order to ingratiate ourselves to that person. When we praise, our compliments are in line with the behavior or accomplishment. We express only admiration that we genuinely feel. For praise to achieve its goal and not be perceived merely as flattery, we need to focus the praise on the specific action and make sure that the message is worded so that it is in keeping with the significance or value of the accomplish mint or behavior. If a friend who tends to be forgetful remembers to return a pair of pliers he borrowed that same day, that is a behavior that should be praised so that it is reinforced. But saying “You’re so wonderful, you’re on top of everything” reinforces nothing because it is an overly general “statement that does not identify a particular behavior or accomplishment. Overly general statements can be perceived as flattery. Gushing “Oh, you remembered to returnee the pliers! I’m so grateful. That was just unbelievably thoughtful of you”
is overkill that will be perceived as insincere. Simply saying something like “Thanks for returning the pliers today; I really appreciate it” would be appropriate. A response like this acknowledges the accomplishment by describing the specific behavior and the positive feeling of gratitude that the behavior has caused. Here are two more examples of appropriate praising. Behavior: Sonya takes responsibility for selecting and buying a group wedding present for a friend. The gift is a big hit. Praise: “Sonya, the present you chose for Stevie was really thoughtful. Not only did it fit our price range, but Stevie really. liked it.” ” Accomplishment: Cole has just received a-letter inviting him to a reception at which he is to receive a scholarship award given for academic accomplishments and community service work. , Praise: “Congratulations, Cole. I’m proud of you. It’s really great to see that the effort you put into studying as well as the time and energy you have devoted to the Second Harvest Food Program and Big Brothers is being recognized and valued.” Praising responses don’t “cost” much, but they are valuable and generally appreciated. Not only does praising provide information and acknowledge the worth of another person, but it can also deepen our relationship with that person because with it increases the openness of the relationship. To increase your effectiveness at praising, try to follow these steps: (1) Make note of t’he specific -behavior or accomplishment that you want to reinforce. (2) Describe the specific behavior or accomplishment. (3) Describe the positive feelings or outcomes that, you or-others experienced as a result of the behavior or accomplishment. (4) Phrase the-response so thatcher level ‘)f praise-appropriately reflects the significance of the behavior or accomplishment
Giving Constructive Criticism
Research on reinforcement theory has found that people learn faster and better through stewardship as praise. Nevertheless, there are still times when personal feedback needs to address negative behaviors or actions. Constructive criticism is describing the specific negative behaviors or actions of another and the effects that these behaviors have on others. You will be more effective in giving constructive criticism if you proceed in the following ways
1. Ask the person’s permission before giving criticism. 0 obviously, it is best to give this type of feedback when a person specifically asks for it. Even when people don’t ask, however, we sometimes need to provide another with constructive criticism. A person who has agreed to hear constructive criticism is likely to be more receptive to it than is someone who is not accorded respect by being asked
2. Describe the behavior by accurately recounting precisely what was said or done without labeling the behavior good or bad, right or wrong. By describing behavior, you lay an informative base for the feedback and increase the chances that the person will listen receptively. Feedback that is preceded with detailed description is less likely to be met defensively. Your description shows that you are criticizing the behavior rather than attacking the person, and it points the way to a solution. For example, if Shawn asks, “What did you think of the visuals I used when I delivered my report?” instead of saying “They weren’t very effective,” it would be better to say something like “Well, the type on the first two was rather small, which made the words hard to read.” This criticism does not attack Shawn’s self concept, and it tells him what he needs to do to be more effective.
3. Preface a negative statement with a positive one whenever possible. When you are planning to criticize it is a good idea to start with some praise. Of course, common sense suggests that superficial praise followed by crushing feedback will be seen for what it is. In our example, one could say, “First, the charts and graphs were useful, and the color really helped us to see the problems. Second, the type size on the first two overheads made them hard to read.” Here the praise is relevant and significant. If you cannot preface feedback with significant praise, don’t try. Prefacing feedback with empty praise will not help the person accept your feedback. When you link constructive criticism with praise, try to avoid using the word “but.” For some -reason, it is easy for a person to miss the praise interpreted only the criticism when “but” is used. In the previous example, nonce-that by labeling “first” and the criticism “second” the: statements gain facial emphasis.
4. Be as specific ‘” possible The more specifically you describe the behavior or the actin s, the easier it will be for the person to understand what needs to be changed. In tl~ situation just discussed, it would not have been helpful to Some of the slides were kind of hard to read.” This comment is 50 general that Shawn would have little idea of what to change. Moreover, he may infer that every overhead needs to be redone.
5. When appropriate, suggest how the person “can change the behavior. Because the focus of constructive criticism is helping, it is appropriate to provide the person with your suggestions that might lead to positive “change. In responding Shawn’s request for feedback, one might also add~”When I make overheads, I generally try to use I8-point type or larger. You might want to give that a try.” By including a positive suggestion; you not only help the person by providing honest information, you also show that your intentions are positive.