The Importance of Naming Your Emotions

Actor Black Woman in LibraryNow that you’ve identified your own feelings I’ll reveal – or maybe a better word is “confess” – the emotion I felt when I made that inappropriate comment so long ago. Yes, I was mortified, regretful, and even a little afraid of what was going to happen next.  But, I felt something else as well: I was vaguely resentful of the fact I had to worry about what I said in the first place.

Interesting: “Vaguely resentful”

Now, for a person who makes her living doing diversity/inclusion work, that’s a problem. And, because it is a problem it needs a solution.

The solution has a couple of parts. First, I need to accept the fact that I had that emotion – in other words, not beat myself up for feeling what I did. To do that only feeds the negativity and will get me nowhere.

The second part of the solution is to keep the fact that I felt what I did top-of-mind. In other words, never forget it. I may or may not feel the same resentment the next time the situation arises, but, if I do, my awareness of it will allow me to prevent that resentment from influencing what I do or say next.

Here’s how that works. Let’s say that one day I again say something insensitive or disrespectful.  I realize it immediately (just like I did with the incident years ago).  Let’s then say that the person who is justifiably offended, calls me on it (“How can you say something so hurtful?”)

At this point, the chances of my responding in a productive and respectful way increase if – and only if – I am aware that I am capable of feeling resentment at having to worry about what I say.  Because I am aware of that feeling, I can consciously shove its influence aside and respond with, “I’m sorry that upset you. Thanks for telling me” rather than, “You know I didn’t mean anything by it” – a statement that carries the sub-text of, “You are too sensitive, why don’t you lighten up?”

Naming emotion as a dialogue strategy is one of the four skills depicted in the “Gateways to Inclusion” training video.  As you’ll learn, the ability to identify and observe an emotion is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence and greatly increases our ability to function and communicate effectively.

Click Here to learn more and preview the entire video “Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments into Productive Conversations.”


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