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Description of Feelings – A Crucial Communication Skill

John Wallen delves into the intricacies of communicating and understanding emotions in this video. Highlighting the challenges of accurately expressing feelings, Wallen introduces the concept of the “interpersonal gap.” This gap arises as individuals encode and decode emotions, leading to potential misinterpretations. The video emphasizes the ambiguity of emotional expressions and the importance of naming feelings for effective communication. Wallen suggests using perception checks to bridge the interpersonal gap, facilitating a deeper understanding of others’ emotions. Overall, the video underscores the significance of describing emotions, not just expressing them, for building genuine relationships and navigating interpersonal dynamics.


John Wallen introduces the significant communication skill of describing feelings as part of his series. The complexity of emotions and their expression is explored to understand why effective communication can be challenging, both in accurately communicating one’s own feelings and comprehending the emotions of others.

The core challenge lies in the interpersonal gap, as described by Wallen. The sender encodes a message, representing an infinite number of possible feelings and emotions, which may differ from the infinite nuances of interpretation by the receiver. This mismatch can lead to misunderstandings and potential conflict.

Using the example of blushing, Wallen illustrates that expressions of emotions can take various forms, including bodily changes, actions, or verbal communication. However, the same expression may stem from different feelings, making it inherently ambiguous. Actions and words are used as mediums for expressing emotions, which can be challenging to interpret accurately.

The interpersonal gap emphasizes the process where the sender encodes an inner emotional state into a public action, and the receiver decodes it, interprets, and responds with their private emotions. Wallen emphasizes that this gap is especially pronounced when using words to describe emotions compared to describing ideas.

Naming emotions becomes crucial in building genuine relationships, as emotions like loyalty, trust, and respect are integral. Distinguishing between expressions and descriptions of feelings is vital, especially when negative emotions arise, indicating potential issues in the relationship. Our own emotional reactions can serve as clues to verify the accuracy of interpretations.

To bridge the interpersonal gap and address potential misinterpretations, Wallen suggests using perception checks, which essentially function as emotion checks. These checks involve seeking to understand another person’s feelings and confirming whether your interpretation aligns with their emotional state. In summary, Wallen stresses the importance of developing the skill of describing emotions rather than merely expressing them to facilitate effective communication.


This insightful video delves into essential survival skills for navigating today’s workplace challenges. Covering skills seven to ten, it emphasizes the importance of developing courage to face challenges (symbolized by “tigers”), mastering cross-functional teamwork, adapting to rapid change, and finding purpose beyond routine tasks. The author encourages readers to view their work as contributing to a larger purpose, urging them to quit a mundane job and discover work that aligns with personal passions and makes a meaningful impact. With a focus on personal development, organizational growth, and effective teamwork, the video provides practical advice for thriving in the dynamic modern workplace.

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