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Emotions and Communication

Image of the main three factors of communication in a pie chart as presented by Albert Mehrabian The pie graph to the side shows the components of communication from Albert Mehrabian's studies. When communicating with another person, we do not just communicate using words. We also use tone and body language. The studies showed that the actual words we use are less significant than the tone and body language (including facial expression) in order to get the full message from the speaker. Our emotions (emotional brain states) show in our body language and tone and we may end up communicating more through these than the actual words. We give the clearest communication when our words, tone, body language and facial expressions are all communicate the same message.

We encourage couples to shift out of protective brain states during conflict because research has shown that those who can shift out of protective brain states have greater success in relationships. See Brent Atkinson's description of how emotional states control our brains rather than our thinking at times and how protective emotions hijack our communication.

Our goals in providing this tutorial have been to demonstrate to anyone how to perceive emotions, how to use your emotions, how to understand emotions and how to manage emotions in a way that is true to yourself and promotes bonding. Your ability to know and regulate your emotions will have a direct impact on the level of connection you share with your friends or romantic partner.

Exercise:

Ask yourself these questions about each of the Emotional Brain States.

  • Are you aware of experiencing each of the Emotional Brain States from time to time?
  • Do you recognize when this Emotional Brain state is up and running?
  • How easily is each Emotional Brain State activated (triggered)?
  • How do you feel when others try to understand and empathize with your feelings?
  • How do you feel when others ignore, shame, tease, or try to "fix" your emotions?
  • What levels of each brain state do you think are "appropriate" and should be expressed as normal?
  • Think about this quote, "When I say manage emotions, I only mean the really distressing, incapacitating emotions. Feeling emotions is what makes life rich. You need your passions." - Daniel Goleman
  • Do you try to suppress any Emotional Brain States (e.g. anger or sadness) to avoid disconnection or vulnerability? If so, why?
  • At what point does the Emotional Brain State no longer achieve what it was designed to be doing? (See the definitions of each brain state)
  • Does this Emotional Brain State control you sometimes? How do you eventually shift out of the control of that Emotional Brain State?
  • How do you feel when you notice this Emotional Brain State in your friend / family member / spouse?
  • How do you react when others have these feelings?
  • The aim is to remain in control of the Emotional Brain State and express the desires of that Emotional Brain State appropriately.