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What is a Feeling Vocabulary? (and Why it's Important)

self-awareness self-management social skills Feb 01, 2021

What is a feeling?

At the very basic level, feelings are the physical sensation of being touched. This could include being touched physically (skin) or experientially (through an experience). Feelings are also known as a state that results from emotions, desires, or responses to something or someone. Most of us use the words "emotion" and "feeling" interchangeably despite being different at the conscious/unconscious level. For our purposes, we're gonna use the word "feeling" to describe the whole kit and caboodle (physical + emotions + mental interpretations). Why? Because everybody does it 😜. 

They're abstract

Feelings are private and intangible, meaning they can't be seen and they can't be touched. Pair this with the fact that feelings happen all the time and can impact our behaviors and choices, and we're left in a conundrum. We need a symbol of some kind to represent how we feel, to communicate, resolve conflict, express desires, understand others, and get our needs met. Just think of a very young child who cries or throws a tantrum. Do they have the exact word to express how they are feeling? Oftentimes, they don't and feelings are going to happen, whether they can verbally communicate them or not. No matter what our age, we're going to feel all the feels and need words to help us do something productive with our feelings.

More is better

We need words to help us describe how we feel. When we don't have words as tools to do this, we feel frustrated, irritated, and agitated. Repeat this feeling of not being able to communicate and get our needs met and viola(!), we have a whole new problem of feeling unseen, unheard, and disconnected.

When it comes to feeling words, more is better if we want to communicate the exact way we feel. For example, there is a difference between "good" and "proud," "sad" and "disappointed," "irritated" and "frustrated," and "bad" and "angry." Can you feel the difference? Being able to express exactly how we feel helps improve how effective we are as communicators, which improves our self-esteem, self-competence, and our relationships with others.

Developing a rich feeling vocabulary helps us avoid the moral trap of evaluating our state or someone else's state as "good" or "bad." When we recognize how we feel and can identify our feelings accurately, we have a better chance at managing our emotions in a positive and productive way. Additionally, knowing, using, and understanding a wide variety of feeling words also helps us empathize and understand others better, which improves our relationships with everyone in our lives (including ourselves). 

What's your number?

So, how many feeling words are in your emotional vocabulary? Take a moment and write them all down, specifically the ones that you use on the regular. What emotional words do your kids use? Are they the same or different?

Want to build your (or your family's) feeling vocabulary? Check out our CleverParent subscription, where you can get access to a step-by-step parenting program that has bite-sized experiences that directly increases your feeling vocabulary in a fun way.








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