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Increase your emotional vocabulary

|  —  28/06/23

If I asked you to describe how you feel about work right now, using two words, what would they be? And “good” is not an answer.

Could you do it? Could you pinpoint the main emotions or feelings you’re experiencing?

I often use this question at the start of my workshops to get a read on the room and where people are at.

I’m also often surprised by how challenging many people find the activity.

If you want to be able to lead your people through change more effectively, it is important to increase your emotional vocabulary.

Most of us aren’t very good at getting granular and specific when describing how we feel.

In fact, many people can’t name more than a handful of emotions when pressed.

Happy, sad and angry are the top three, and some struggle to go past that.

It’s hard to deal with the feelings and emotions of your people if you can’t articulate, or help them articulate, what those feelings and emotions are.

Being able to label the specific emotion you’re experiencing allows you to process it more effectively.

When you can name it, you can work through it.

You are better placed to make sense of what is happening and will be more likely to get to the heart of the issue if you can articulate the feeling that underpins it.

To help you improve your emotional vocabulary, I encourage you to use a tool like Geoffrey Roberts’s Emotional Word Wheel, inspired Dr Gloria Willcox’s model The Feelings Wheel.

It includes 130 emotion and feeling words and you can download a printable version on the Resources page of my website (link in comments).

I use this wheel to help leaders put words to how they are feeling and support their staff to do the same. A number of my leadership clients also use the wheel in their 1:1 meetings with staff to help them articulate where they’re at.

It’s particularly helpful if you lead a team of people with limited emotional vocabulary as it gives them words to choose from.

Rather than have to wrack their brains for words to sum up the feeling, they can simply point to the wheel.

And once they can name it, they and you can address it.

You can download a copy of the Emotional Word Wheel on my website at

This post is an excerpt from my new book Steer Through the Storm: How to Communicate and Lead Courageously Through Change which is available for pre-sale now at

#steerthroughthestorm #communication #leadership #leadingthroughchange #emotionalintelligence #leaderascoach #coaching #book #emotionalintelligence

Leah Mether is a communication and soft skills trainer obsessed with making the people part of leadership and work life easier.

With more than 15 years’ experience working with thousands of clients, and an acclaimed book to her name, Leah knows what it takes to communicate under pressure. Like you, she knows the challenge of conflict, personality clashes, and difficult conversations.

Leah is renowned for her practical, engaging, straight-shooting style. Utilising her Five Cs® model of communication, she helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.

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