Emotive language communicates emotions. In fact, it goes beyond the verbal and, even, in some cases, contradicts it. We all pick up on this kind of subtle communication to some degree, but we don’t always pay enough attention to it or correctly decode the messages.
As a matter of fact, emotive language permeates all our communication. Whether we notice it or not, we’re always expressing some emotion, even when we’re silent. For the same reason, this language of feelings is much richer than that of words. It allows us to get to know other people better and understand what they’re feeling, beyond what they’re saying.
One of the most interesting aspects of emotive language is that so much of it isn’t under our conscious control. As a result, it’s a more genuine type of communication. Through it, we can establish deeper connections with others, opening channels that awaken or optimize feelings of empathy.
“The main objective of emotive communication is to convey emotions, desires, and feelings. Through a kiss, a gesture of affection or a hug we can feel the other person more. Barriers are broken and empathy is reinforced.”
Peter J. Lang is a psychologist and professor at the Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention at the University of Florida (USA). He’s one of the figures who’s conducted the most research in the field of emotions and their language. He points out that emotions are manifested in three areas: cognitive, physiological, and behavioral. The cognitive corresponds to thought and reason. The physiological involves reactions in the physical organism. While the behavioral area is related to the behaviors that derive from experiencing a certain emotion.
Let’s take an example of an individual who’s feeling sad. Some of their most common thoughts are likely to be: “Nothing interests me” or “I don’t like anything.” This is likely to manifest itself physiologically as a lack of energy, drowsiness, loss of appetite, etc. In short, in a greater passivity. They might stay in bed for several hours, not make any plans, and refuse to participate in what others are doing.
If someone asks them what’s wrong, they might reply “It’s nothing, I’m just a little tired.” If their interlocutor remains in the verbal realm, they may well believe that they’re just tired. However, if they move to the realm of emotive language, they’ll capture their gestures, attitude, tone of voice, and passive behavior. Consequently, they’ll understand that the person is sad or maybe even suffering from depression.
Interpreting emotive language
Emotive language usually appears between the lines, mixed with other types of messages. In fact, words say much more than meets the eye. A good way to start interpreting emotive language is by paying attention to the terms the individual uses to say something, especially when using figurative language.
For instance, if someone says that they’re working like a mule they’re not only referring to the fact that they’re working a great deal but also that they’re suffering the consequences of it at all levels. Or, when someone says “I’m dying to go to that party”, as well as their desire to attend, they’re indicating that the event is significant and that there are certain hopes and expectations attached to it.
When it comes to body language and gestures, in reality, they deserve a chapter to themselves. Sometimes, it’s not necessary to decipher them with words, but simply to perceive the tone of voice, the general impression left by the individual’s body, the intensity of their gaze, etc. From this, we can interpret what they really feel. It isn’t necessary to ‘dissect’ the message to understand it. Its global understanding is enough.
Listening to our own emotive language
We all communicate with ourselves, to a great extent, with emotive language. The problem is that we’re not always in a ‘listening’ position when these types of messages are produced. A good way to avoid this ‘deafness’ is to start by paying attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us.
For example, muscle tension in specific places, niggling aches and pains, or sensations of cold or heat can be signs of emotions that we haven’t fully understood or interpreted.
As important as understanding our own and others’ emotive language is learning to communicate it. Expressing what we feel is essential for effective understanding. They say that knots in the stomach or throat are the same as knots in the hair. The best way to undo them is to put them in order. How? With words. They give shape to that which was formless before.
The Importance of Emotional Education
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