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Dec 16, 2022


How many ways are there to communicate our happiness, comfort, contentment, distaste, disappointment? Pick the emotion that is most prominent in your head right now. Now try to verbalize this emotion in as little words as possible. How many did you use to express yourself?

The trick: 0 words. All too often, we forget our natural ability to emotionally communicate through para-language. This could be anything from a single raised eyebrow, the slight downward turn at the edge of your lip or the crossing of your arms in a guarded manner. Of these inconspicuous facial features or obvious body movements, a thousands words can be "said" within a millisecond of pure silence.

The key to using this language to convey to others how you feel in a situation and the trick to using this self-projective language to gain insight into ourselves better is to practice our awareness. Practicing and using your own awareness of these experiences can allow you to understand your own emotions at a deeper level, being able to connect them to specific triggers. Awareness also helps to prevent miscommunications from occurring between others. For example, say I was walking in a department store aisle with a friend. When my friend was in the middle of an important conversation about her significant other, a stranger bumps into me and doesn't say excuse me. When my friend turns to check-in with me at the end of her story, she assumes my now annoyed facial expression is in response to her, causing a conversational drift between she and I. If I were aware of my change in affect when the stranger bumped into me, I would adjust my furrowed brows and tensed shoulders before engaging in the conversation with my friend.

Awareness of the language we project onto others, even when we don't say a single word, is vital for healthy communication.
Stephanie P. Bathurst, LCMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist

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