Key Concepts


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Chapter 7: Emotions and Communication

Key Concepts

cognitive labeling view of emotions

counterfeit emotional language

deep acting

emotional intelligence


emotion work

feeling rules

framing rules

interactive view of emotions

irrational beliefs

organismic view of emotions

perceptual view of emotions

rational-emotive approach to feelings


surface acting

Chapter Outline

I. Emotions, or feelings, are part of our lives. We feel happiness, sadness, shame, pride, embarrassment, envy, disappointment, and a host of other emotions. And we communicate to express our emotions.

  1. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize feelings, to judge which feelings are appropriate in which situations and to communicate those feelings effectively.

    1. Emotional Intelligence on the Job is a critical factor in career advancement.

B. By understanding emotions, we can define emotions as processes that are shaped by physiology, perceptions, language, and social experiences.

1. A physiological approach to emotion, also known as the organismic view of emotions, suggests that when an event occurs, we respond physiologically, and only after that do we experience emotions.

  1. A perceptual approach to emotion suggests that subjective perceptions shape what external phenomena mean to us. External objects and events, as well as physiological reactions, have no intrinsic meaning. Instead, they gain meaning only as we attribute significance to them.

  2. A cognitive approach to emotion suggests that what we feel may be shaped by how we label physiological responses.

  3. A social influences or interactive approach to emotion suggests that what we feel and how we express those feelings is influenced by social influences.

    1. Framing rules define the emotional meaning of situations.

    2. Feeling rules tell us what we should feel or expect to feel in particular situations based upon the values of cultures and social groups.

    3. Emotion work is the effort to generate what we think are appropriate feelings in particular situations

5. The approach towards emotions we adopt affects our belief that we can (or can’t) control our emotions and the feelings we can experience and express in our everyday lives.

II. There are two related sets of obstacles to effective emotional communication.

A. Just because we feel an emotion does not mean we express it to others.

1. Social expectations for Westerners indicate that it is more acceptable for women to express emotions and for men to refrain from expressing most emotions.

  1. Vulnerability or being afraid/fearful of what we express could affect others perceive us.

  2. In an effort to protect others, we may not choose to express emotions because it may hurt or upset others.

4. Certain social and professional roles dictate that we not express certain types of emotions.

B. Just because we express an emotion does not mean that we communicate it effectively.

  1. Sometimes we speak in generalities, which do not effectively express our true emotional states.

  2. Our nonverbal repertoire for expressing emotions is limited.
  3. Counterfeit emotional language seems to express emotions but does not actually describe what a person is feeling.

III. There are six general guidelines for expressing our emotions more effectively.

A. We need to identify what we feel before we try to express it to others.

B. Choosing how to communicate our emotions involves assessing our current state as well as selecting an appropriate time and place to discuss our emotions.

C. Use I-language to express our feelings so that it reminds us we own our own emotions and avoids making others feel defensive.

D. Monitoring how we talk to ourselves about our emotions allows us to gain a better understanding of what we are feeling and whether we want to express it to others.

E. Adopting a rational-emotive approach to feelings focuses attention on

destructive thoughts about emotions that harm the self and relationships

with others.

F. We need to respond sensitively to others when they express their feelings, just as we would like them to respond sensitively to us when we express our emotions.

  1. It is also important to respond sensitively when others express their feelings to you.

      1. Helping another solve a problem may be appreciated, but usually it’s not the first support a person needs when she or he is expressing strong emotions. What many people need first is just the freedom to say what they are feeling and have those feelings accepted by others.

      1. When others express emotions to you, it’s supportive to begin by showing you are willing to discuss emotional topics and accept where they are as a starting place.

      1. Paraphrasing is another way to show that you understand what another feels. When you mirror back not just the content but the feeling of what another says, it confirms the other and what he or she feels.

Discussion Ideas

  • Emotional intelligence: Have students generate a list of emotions they have felt or expect to feel in each of the following situations. After they generate their lists, lead a discussion about what labels they attached to the different emotions for the different situations. Why did they use those labels instead of others?

  • Birth of a child

  • First day of school

  • Family vacations/trips

  • First day of college

  • College social

  • Failing a course

  • Finding out a close friend is dating the person you desire

  • Commitment ceremony/wedding

  • Divorce

  • Family reunion

  • High school reunion

  • Break up of a committed romantic relationship

  • Death/funeral

This discussion idea can be used as a transition into the cognitive labeling view of emotions discussed in the text.

  • Framing and feeling rules: If you do not do discuss item one, ask students to generate framing and feeling rules for each of those situations. Framing rules are guidelines for defining the emotional meaning of situations (such as funerals may be defined as sad events while weddings are joyful), and feeling rules tell us that what we have a right to feel or what we are expected to feel in a particular situation (for example, it may be appropriate to feel pride when getting a high grade on an exam).

  • Communicating emotions: If you have access to audio-visual equipment, choose a film or television clip where the emotions are conveyed both verbally and nonverbally. Allow students to listen to the verbal message and write down their perceptions of the emotions the person is conveying and the situation. Now allow students to hear the verbal message and see the nonverbal messages for the clip. Ask them what about their perceptions has changed and why. Note: This works even better if you can allow half of the class to see and hear the message while the other half of the class can only hear the message. This discussion can be related back to Chapter 5’s point about how nonverbal behaviors may repeat, highlight, complement, contradict, and/or be a substitute for verbal messages.

  • The rational-emotive approach to feelings: Lead a discussion about the extent to which students believe this is an accurate or inaccurate view of feelings. The rational-emotive approach to feelings emphasizes the use of rational thinking to challenge debilitating emotions and beliefs that undermine healthy relationships and self-concepts.

  • Flame wars, revisited: If you did not discuss flame wars in Chapter 5 for nonverbal communication, discuss them here in terms of emotions. If so, you can revisit the topic here by leading a discussion about what is considered appropriate and inappropriate expression of emotions over e-mail versus face-to-face interaction (for example, do the guidelines discussed in the text also apply to computer mediated communication). Further, ask students if they might e-mail someone, rather than communicate with them in person, to express certain emotions (for example, anger) or discuss a particularly emotional issue (for example, breaking up with a relational partner).

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