I feel… therefore I am…
Many a time, we wear a smile even when our heart frowns in disapproval. Perhaps, communicating what we really feel could help handle the situation better.


et me start with a small episode that is supposed to be a joke: A passenger on the hind seat of the cab touched the driver from behind to ask him to stop. The driver screamed, lost control, nearly hit a bus, went upon the footpath and stopped close to a shop window. For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said, “Look, don’t ever do that again. You scared me so much!” The passenger apologised and said, “I didn’t realise that a little tap on your back would scare you so much!” The driver replied, “Sorry, it’s not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. I’ve been driving a van carrying dead bodies for the last 20 years.” How funny is that? Frankly, I did not find it funny enough, maybe I have a poor sense of humour. But I was rather caught up in a chain of thoughts. What struck me was the driver’s awareness of the cause of his behaviour. If he was not aware of what caused the panic in him, he would have gone on to find something external to him to rationalise his erratic behaviour so that he does not have to feel bad about it. Let me explain. For instance, if he were to think something like, “why are these passengers so insensible and don’t they know that distracting the driver while driving can turn out to be disastrous?” then he would not have felt anything abnormal about his behaviour and would have happily(?)

continued with the same behaviour. Don’t we often do it? We can recall at least one situation in which we did something and then said to ourselves, “Why did I do that?” These situations may arise because we are not aware of ourselves – our patterns of behaviour and the underlying emotions. Becoming aware of and recognising patterns of responses to various situations is one of the prerequisites to having some control over reactions and increasing self-directedness. One of the first and most basic steps for raising our emotional quotient (EQ) is to identify our feelings by name. The first step towards emotional literacy, according to Mayer and Salovey is “the capacity to perceive and to express feelings. Emotional intelligence cannot begin without this first step.” The purpose of developing our emotional literacy is to precisely identify and communicate our feelings. When we do this, we are helping Nature fulfil its design for our feelings. Thankfully, we have a plentiful vocabulary with which to describe and identify our emotions. But unfortunately, most of us are never taught to make full use of this rich vocabulary. A good place to start is with simple, threeword sentences such as these: ‘I feel sad. I feel

28 The Business Enterprise | June 2011

say I am fine. truthful communication is not only helpful in personal relationships. There is nothing wrong’. When what we say is consistent with the non-verbal cues we unconsciously send out. our tone of voice or our body language contradicts the words we are saying. I know it is a plain lie. at times. We will simply be much better off. direct and precise. surprise.. I felt run over by a truck etc’. I feel like it was wrong. they have resorted to dramatisation to be noticed and cared about. particularly when they are upset. an idiot ... Feeling words not only express a feeling. none of which are typically true in a literal sense: ‘I feel devastated. I feel like (behaviour) . it is socially unacceptable to directly express certain emotions. They use expressions such as: ‘I’m fine. And when people tap their fingers or feet they are usually feeling impatient. and behaviours. This step of identifying the feeling by name is essential to a high development of one’s innate emotional processing abilities. I feel like he is going to win. I feel decimated. I feel disrespected’. the next step is explaining why we feel what we feel. Our eyes have the power to judge. jumping off of a cliff.. approval and disapproval.. So instead of truthfully expressing our feelings clearly and directly.. shooting him ... Sadly. Through our eyes we can show interest.I feel like: . when I. 29 29 June 2011 | The Business Enterprise . lie about them. He holds Masters Degrees in Psychology and Human Resource Management.. we begin to actually feel the feeling. It is.. I feel hurt. I’m okay. because he sent out too many false alarms. People who are especially superficial even adopt the cosmetic voices like TV actors in order to further conform to societal expectations and further mask their true feelings. Our lips may tremble when we are afraid. For example. For example. Our forehead wrinkles when we are concerned or confused. and to frighten. don’t worry about me. teaching him a lesson . None of us can totally hide our true feelings. when they send out false signals. dishonest. Let’s look at a few of these forms of indirect communication. When we communicate non-verbally our bodies are literally expressing themselves. but also essential to a society. and our mothers. Indirect Communication: Because we are not skilled at directly expressing our feelings. we intentionally or unintentionally substitute one feeling for another. a failure I feel like (a thought) . afraid or insecure. After we learn to find the right word for our feeling and its intensity. Consider the word “love.” We love corn soup. worried or depressed. Doesn’t it seem that we should use a different word for the way we feel about our parents as opposed to food? Exaggeration: When we exaggerate our feelings we are lying in order to get attention. When we start to hide our feelings. Sometimes. they alienate people and risk becoming like the boy who cried wolf. either through our actions or our body language. We typically use lot of such expressions. disbelief. cricket. I feel appreciated. Sometimes we actually outright lie about our feelings. We actually make things much easier for ourselves and others when our language is clear. we think of those who will not look us in the eyes as untrustworthy... For further reading: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman Bharath Gopalan The writer is a Learning & Development professional and presently steers the L&D practice at Madras Cements. figures of speech. when we all follow the good old rule: Say what you mean and mean what you say. though I am obviously irritated. but they also express the intensity of the feeling.. he was ignored when he truly needed help. We are too afraid of offending others or appearing unhappy. and non-verbal communication.motivated. but many of us do try to disguise our voices to go along with the act. our analytical brain is called into action.. giving up . Let me share with you some of the ways in which we miscommunicate our feelings: Masking Our Real Feelings: There are many ways we mask our real feelings. Overuse: One of the ways we corrupt language is to overuse a word. or tell people only what we think they want to hear. People who need to exaggerate have had their feelings neglected for so long.. At this point. as we can see below: I feel like (a label) . The literal result is that we often feel like labels. I might actually be feeling afraid that I will! Inconsistency: Often.” may be the most common form of communicating our feelings. to attract. quitting . a baby . worried or stressed.. Minimisation: Many people minimise their feelings.. By expressing intensity. terror. Clear. we gain respect because we come across to others as a person of integrity. thoughts. Sometimes just by naming a feeling. we impede communication and distort reality.. As the story goes. as if by naming it we give the brain permission to access the emotional part of the brain. we often use indirect communication of our emotions such as by using examples. Our faces often express what we are not saying verbally.I feel like: you are crazy. Using sentences that begin with “I feel like. I’ll be alright. boredom. we live in a world where appearances matter more than reality. if I say “I hope I don’t fail”. they communicate the degree to which our needs are being met and our values and beliefs are being upheld. wringing his neck . I feel offended... Often.. Non-verbal Communication: Studies show that up to 90% of our communication is nonverbal. we express the same emotions indirectly. strangling him . which actually camouflage our feelings and when we use them we don’t get in touch with our feelings..I feel like: . Consider these exclamations. disgust. Unfortunately.

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