Charge the Line

Part 4: Why Do We Communicate? - Expression

By Josh Fowler

Expression is an essential component of effective communication and this is accomplished primarily through our emotions. Defined, emotions are physiological, behavioral, and/or communicative reactions to stimuli that are cognitively processed and experienced as emotional (Planlap, Fitness, & Fehr, 2006).

We experience a wide range of emotions, often internally, making them intrapersonal in nature. These internal changes can manifest themselves as butterflies, increased heart rate and muscle tension. Unless we exhibit a change in behavior that becomes recognized by others, these physiological details will go unnoticed. On the other hand, interpersonal (external) behavior can be voluntary—we ignore someone, which may indicate we are angry with them—or involuntary—we fidget or avoid eye contact while talking because we are nervous.

When we communicate our emotions, we call attention to ourselves and provide information to others that may inform how they should react. For example, when someone we care about displays behaviors associated with sadness, we are likely to know that we need to provide support (Planlap, Fitness, & Fehr, 2006). We learn, through socialization, how to read and display emotions, although some people are undoubtedly better at reading emotions than others. However, as with most aspects of communication, we can all learn to become more competent with increased knowledge and effort. - Communication in the Real World

Expression and emotion are pivotal to the communication process. As with all aspects of communication regardless of medium, we are culpable of expression both positively and negatively.

When we express our emotions in a positive way, we accept responsibility for our own feelings which then allows the receiver to acknowledge and consider them in the future.

Clearly expressing your feelings, and explaining why you feel that way, enables the other person to understand and acknowledge your feelings, thus leading to a more amicable situation. -

Consequently, when we express our emotions in a negative way, we may find ourselves blaming our feelings on others rather than accepting personal responsibility. When we express our emotions in a way that lays or casts blame on another, it will most likely meet a wall that is defensive in nature which only adds fuel to an already raging fire.

To conclude, expression and emotions are crucial to the communication process. Without it, conversations become dull and boring. Remember that as communicators, we are responsible for using our emotions wisely and keeping them in check when need be.

Planlap, S., Julie Fitness, and Beverly Fehr, “Emotion in Theories of Close Relationships,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships, eds. Anita L. Vangelisti and Daniel Perlman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 369–84.