We all have our own vocabulary. These are words and common phrases that help in the crafting of our identities. How we use these words and phrases often reflects our emotional state.
If we want people to understand how we feel about something there may be the temptation to exaggerate in order to convey the gravity or intensity of an event or situation. As a listener it’s important to focus actively on what is being said as these words may cluster and tell us about the person’s true emotions. Here are some examples:
A person uses words like conflicted, trapped, undecided, pulled apart or bewildered in their conversation. These are all examples of confusion.
Words such as uneasy, worried, nervous, panicky or tense are examples of fearfulness.
When talk includes words like distressed, hurt, lonely, miserable or drained then sadness may be the key issue.
Anxiety talk reflects any number of emotions but if we hear words like furious, resentful, uptight, bitter or disappointed then anger is certainly a feature.
We can contrast these with words like eager, excited, content, calm or glad all of which we tend to associate with happiness.
Saying to someone ‘you sound a bit upset’ may be sympathetic but it’s also quite vague and states the obvious. Actually being able to condense words into categories can be helpful and anxiety levels can sometimes reduce as a result of feelings being identified for what they are. Remember, an anxious person isn’t necessarily using language in a measured or tactful way. They are expressing emotions and sometimes these can come at you like a broadside. But, when the person calms down and talks about things in a bit more detail, you can often get to the nub of the problem.
Whether you are a listener or an anxiety sufferer using something like a diary to record your feelings, it can be helpful to arrange and give focus to the issues that are most troubling. Our use of language tends to provide signals as to the way we truly feel about something, yet feel incapable of pinning down. By identifying the root issues it then becomes possible to consider alternatives and leave behind a vicious cycle of thinking and inertia.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.