Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Word traps

When we say sad do we mean: blue, dejected, depressed, desolate, dispirited, down, downcast, downhearted, dull, dysphoric, gloomy, heavy-hearted, low, melancholic, melancholy, spiritless, tristful, unhappy, wistful. Or perhaps we mean : doleful, dolorous, lugubrious, mournful, plaintive, rueful, sorrowful, woebegone, woeful.

When someone says that they are sad. What feeling or picture do we get? How likely are they to match? We understand and respond from our experiences. Is that realistic? As an experiment how would we tell someone the feeling without using the general word sad.

Feelings are a range.

If we only use one descriptive word for a feeling then we only have one response. How does that communicate to someone else? How easy would it be for us to miscommunicate? How easy would it be for us to over or under react? Does the word itself trap us into our responses?

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the use of words. If we can better express the degree of a feeling by using better descriptive words, would we better handle our feelings? Could it possibly lead to less intensity when we label it correctly and therefore not over or under react?

We know for certain that the words we use are our choice. Perhaps we should become more fluent in the language of feelings.

Food for thought.

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13 conversations:

Jennifer said...

Excellent article Peter!

I do think our words are more important than we think in bringing emotion forth!

Great thoughts!

Jen

Peter Haslam said...

Thank you Jennifer for your agreement

Comedy + said...

Peter - Nice nudges you do by the way. I know when to appear here! There is no one wrong description in your list, but you are correct that we must communicate the proper word/words for our feelings. The listener on the other hand will translate what they believe the word/words to be. Back to perceptions again, which makes it important to choose the right word/words.

Years ago there were numerous groups of folks that did TQM (Total Quality Management) workshops and I was on the communication team. Wow, it was the toughest one to do too. We do not communicate anything very well was our determination, and proved it over and over again in our presentation to the Board of Supervisors.

I guess we should ask why we are sad and then build our description of those feelings from there. Each reason for sadness could/would garner a different description. Example: The death of a loved one would probably be mournful and sorrowful. Someone not taking their depression medication might start with depressed.

See you tomorrow Peter!

Peter Haslam said...

Thank you Sandee for your addition to the conversation

Random Magus said...

Fascinating idea!
Never thought of it - you are so right we do rely on a single word to convey a plethora of emotions!

Jimi said...

You mean you don't know what I mean when I say: "I'm fine."?

Do we really care though how people are in reality, Peter? When I ask how you are, do I really want the whole story?

More descriptive words are better, but it has to have a good ear to care about it. I find that people are just to pre-occupied today to care about how someone feels. We have trained ourselves to answer questions about our feelings based on it being a greeting really don't you think? I guess being more conscious of it would help the individual with their own feelings. Maybe if people genuinely cared what that person's feelings were they would be more willing to care about someone else.

Peter Haslam said...

Just an idea to better help with our responses Random Magus.

Maile said...

Great post, Peter. To all the great responses I'd like to add:

I've found that taking the time to find the most specific descriptor of a negative mood, even something harsh like 'dejected', can actually help alleviate it.

And if you skip the labels altogether and try to describe how the sadness feels in your body, it can lift you even more.

The tough part is getting yourself to do it!

Peter Haslam said...

Great addition Maile

Tisha! said...

Hey Peter so true, words are simply inadequate.

It's interesting how with certain people communicating with feelings and even thoughts comes natural.

Peter Haslam said...

The more open and comfortable you are with yourself the easier you communicate at all levels. Good point tisha

Peter Haslam said...

Jimi saying I am fine is a closed statement. In purely social situations where you feel it is not necessary to involve the other person it is a quite acceptable response. The post is a perspective on how we lump categorize a range of feelings for ourselves when a more precise and accurate description might be more beneficial. The choice is always ours on application.

Deutschland said...

Fascinating idea!
Never thought of it - you are so right we do rely on a single word to convey a plethora of emotions!
Really great!