A Vocabulary for Your Emotions

by Susan David

Dealing effectively with emotions is a key leadership skill. And naming our emotions—what psychologists call labeling—is an important first step in dealing with them effectively. But it’s harder than it sounds: Many of us struggle to identify what exactly we are feeling, and oftentimes the most obvious label isn’t actually the most accurate.

There are a variety of reasons why this is so difficult: We’ve been trained to believe that strong emotions should be suppressed. We have certain (sometimes unspoken) societal and organizational rules against expressing them. Or we’ve never learned a language to accurately describe our emotions. Consider these two examples:

Neena is in a ...

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