Build Your Emotion Vocabulary

If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a big believe in the power of emotion labeling. A person who says “I’m feeling really nervous about this audition” is in a much better position to cope with performance anxiety than a person who stands on stage behind the curtain wringing her hands and pacing while she mentally practices her piece. I call this taking the high road, because studies show activity in the higher, rational parts of the brain increase when we describe our emotions with words.

When I talk to parents about emotion labeling, I remind them that emotion vocabulary isn’t automatic. We have to teach kids nuanced words to describe their feelings if we want to build their self-awareness.

The easiest labels are global ones, like good and bad. Or happy and sad. Parents often use these words with young children who have limited verbal skills. But sometimes we fail to use stronger, more specific emotion words as kids’ abilities increase. We get stuck in the habit of saying “It seems like you feel bad about what happened” when a more accurate statement might be “It seems like you are disappointed in your grade.”

To put yourself in a solid position to act on your emotions, you need specific emotion labels. So do your kids. So today I’m sharing my list of emotion-related vocabulary words you can use when good/bad, happy and sad just aren’t enough. Here it is!

 

Joyful

Tenderness

Helpless

Defeated

Rageful

Cheerful

Sympathy

Powerless

Bored

Outraged

Content

Adoration

Dreading

Rejected

Hostile

Proud

Fondness

Distrusting

Disillusioned

Bitter

Satisfied

Receptive

Suspicious

Inferior

Hateful

Excited

Interested

Cautious

Confused

Scornful

Amused

Delighted

Disturbed

Grief-stricken

Spiteful

Elated

Shocked

Overwhelmed

Helpless

Vengeful

Enthusiastic

Exhilarated

Uncomfortable

Isolated

Disliked

Optimistic

Dismayed

Guilty

Numb

Resentful

Elated

Amazed

Hurt

Regretful

Trusting

Delighted

Confused

Lonely

Ambivalent

Alienated

Calm

Stunned

Melancholy

Exhausted

Bitter

Relaxed

Interested

Depressed

Insecure

Insulted

Relieved

Intrigued

Hopeless

Disgusted

Indifferent

Hopeful

Absorbed

Sad

Pity

Afraid

Pleased

Curious

Guilty

Revulsion

 Nervous

Confident

Anticipating

Hurt

Contempt

 Uncomfortable

Brave

Eager

Lonely

Weary

 Edgy

Comfortable

Hesitant

Regretful

Bored

 Exasperated

Safe

Fearful

Depressed

Preoccupied

 Disoriented

Happy

Anxious

Hopeless

Angry

 Nervous

Love

Worried

Sorrow

Jealous

 Disgraced

Lust

Scared

Uncertain

Envious

 Uneasy

Aroused

Insecure

Anguished

Annoyed

 Awkward

Tender

Rejected

Disappointed

Frustrated

 Neglected

Compassionate

Horrified

Self-conscious

Irritated

 Disoriented

Caring

Alarmed

Ashamed

Aggravated

Infatuated

Shocked

Embarrassed

Restless

Concerned

Panicked

Humiliated

Grumpy

 

Still eager for more emotion words? Check out this list.

2 Responses to Build Your Emotion Vocabulary

  1. Sue says:

    Timely. My 12 year old was “mad” that a friend could not come over as planned. We discussed that maybe frustrated and disappointed were better descriptors.

    • Heidi Smith Luedtke says:

      Reframing “mad” to mean “frustrated” and “disappointed” is perfect. It turns the focus away from being mad AT someone else, and helps your child focus on his/her own feelings and (more importantly) how to respond to them. The challenge always lies in moving past the feelings to do something about those feelings. (Maybe putting a new date with the friend on the calendar, for example) Good job!

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