The Atlantic

How to Get Better at Expressing Emotions

Extroverts tend to be better at talking about their feelings, but practice and attention can help those without a natural gift for it.
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The term “emotional intelligence” has now reigned for 20 years. Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book of the same name popularized the idea that the capacity to understand and wield emotional information is a crucial skill.

Part of that is expressing emotions, be it through writing, body language, or talking with other people, and researchers are finding that unlatching the cage and letting those emotional birds fly free could have some real health benefits. Some studies have linked the repression of negative emotions to increased stress, and research suggests that writing about feelings is associated with better health outcomes for breast-cancer patients, people with asthma, and people who’ve experienced a traumatic event. And in a study of people who lived to be 100 years old, emotional expression was found to be a common trait, along with a positive attitude towards life, among the long-lived.

So expressing emotions, on the whole, seems to be good for you. But if you’re someone who is used to holding them in, that could be easier said than done. And the solution is not necessarily to just pop the top off that champagne bottle of emotions and watch them spray all over the place. You might not even know what’s in there!

Emotional intelligence is a skill, and some people are better at recognizing and communicating emotions than others. Among the Big Five personality traits—openness, extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism—several studies have found that people high in extroversion tend to have higher emotional expressiveness, while people high in neuroticism tend to be less expressive.

Like other skills, the ability to communicate feelings can be strengthened through practice, and a big part of it is first recognizing the emotions you’re having, as well as what’s causing them.

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