We all know that the most memorable and impactful people and events in our lives, the ones that move us and inspire us to take action, are those that evoke high emotion. Yet we still live in a time where people (especially in business) judge emotional expression to be weak and inappropriate. Today, I'm talking about how to express yourself without coming off as too "touchy-feely" so that you can honor, validate, and authentically express your emotions.
Many people face resistance, especially in the workplace, when attempting to express themselves. People still believe emotions don’t belong in the workplace despite research on the importance of emotional intelligence. As a result, we struggle to express ourselves and not come off as touchy-feely.
To address this, first, it helps to identify what you mean by touchy-feely. What is that you don’t like about people who seem too touchy feely? Is it word choice, tone, or something else? Take a cue from previous blog and be behaviorally specific.
What's uncomfortable for me about being touchy-feely comes down to a few things:
1) Range of emotions
2) Responsibility for emotions
3) Emotion management
4) Emotions + everything else
Range of emotions - I get squeamish when someone doesn't have a range of emotions. For example, if they only ever feel/express happiness. Or sadness. Or helplessness. It's difficult for me to trust and relate to someone who doesn't feel the broad range of human emotions.
Responsibility for emotions - It's frustrating to me when people don't take responsibility for their feelings. "Made me feel" is commonly used language where one person might blame the way they feel on another person. While what others do undoubtedly influences my feelings, I believe that I am the one who has true authority over them. I think having agency over my emotions is an important part of my personal power.
Emotion management - Feelings come in all shapes and sizes. I feel uncomfortable when there is not a balance of emotional expression, and when a person has a difficult time self-regulating. Sometimes I experience feelings with the intensity of a size 10. Other times they might be a size 2. If my coffee gets cold, we're probably looking at a size 1 emotion. If my hot coffee spills all over my lap, we're likely looking at a size 8 emotion. The degree of intensity of my emotions shifts depending on the stimulus and environment. If I do have a size 9, I want to be able to self-regulate...or calm down. Sometimes you need to rally your emotions, while other times you need to temper them. Being able to change and regulate how you express yourself emotion management.
Emotions + everything else - Finally, it bothers me when others only express emotions and don't integrate a more holistic perspective of self-awareness. People who rely solely on feelings are missing information from their thoughts, physical body cues, data, intuition, desires and relationships.
That is what being too touchy-feely means to me. What specifically does it mean to you?
Next ask yourself: what are the concerns you have about appearing touchy-feely? Write down your list of fears – what are you worried will happen if you are judged as too touchy-feely? What would it mean to you if that fear came true? What would the result be on your job, relationships, etc.?
Now, write down your list of what you wish would happen instead? What is your ideal scenario for being able to express yourself? How do you want others to respond to you?
Here are three tips you can use to express yourself confidently.
There are two words you need to eliminate from your vocabulary to help you think more clearly, express yourself in a more grounded way, and gain influence. Those two words are: “feel like.”
It's important to be able to differentiate between your thoughts from your feelings, and to be able to clearly express them to others. Typically, when you hear someone say feel like they are expressing a thought, not an emotion.
In casual conversation, you probably hear this language all the time. When you are in a leadership role, however, you want to take a clear stand for what you think and what you feel. Feel like can be used as a metaphor to help describe a complex situation, however you should still do your best to clearly define how you feel.
When you eliminate feel like and replace it with ‘I think..’ and ‘I feel..’ you are taking verbal responsibility for your thoughts, emotions and desires. Here are a couple examples:
The benefits of using clearer language are extensive. It can help in negotiations, conflicts, and increasing trust in your personal and professional relationships. Try out these tips the next time you want to express yourself.