“In the absence of a strong emotional vocabulary, we will resort to our behavioral vocabulary.” This is a statement Dr. Christina Watlington, a clinical psychologist and Akoben Lead Trainer, often shares. As practioners, we appreciate the quote, not only for brilliantly illuminating the cause and effect relationship between access and behavior, but also for noting a distinction in how we communicate.
But what does it mean? Newborns, without the luxury of language, rely solely on behavioral expression for, at least, the first year of their life. This is manifested through crying, laughing and facial expressions. As they mature and become acquainted with language, children begin to supplement these behavioral expressions with short sentences. Through the evolutionary process, they should eventually arrive at a point where the majority of their needs and wants are communicated through language, or their “emotional vocabulary”. However, for many of us, the older we get, the more complex our needs and wants become, thus expression proves to be challenging. If we pair this challenge with a lack of access to tools and resources that can help us tap into our emotional vocabulary, it becomes clear why so many of us neglect it all together. After all, expressing ourselves via facial expressions, physicality or simple and surface level statements feels instinctive and, therefore, easier.
We assert that the primary way to combat this cycle and natural urge is to expand our emotional vocabulary through the use of Affective Statements. These “I” statements, such as, “I’m disappointed that you arrived late today because I was really looking forward to eating dinner with you” empower you and the recipient to share your respective truths and avoid drifting into the toxic realm of passive aggressiveness, avoidance or resentment.
Check out the video below to learn more about Affective Statements!