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2.2.2 Strategies for Responding to Expressions of Emotions

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2.2.2 Strategies for Responding to Expressions of Emotions

As discussed before, you can recognise when others are experiencing certain emotions by paying close attention to them. You can pick up on both their verbal and nonverbal cues through active listening and making eye contact with them. 

Some strategies to keep in mind are:

  • Acknowledge others’ emotional expressions

If you think you may have noticed an emotional expression, acknowledging it is the best response. Emotional cues, whether they are positive or negative, should not be ignored or brushed aside. Negative emotions, in particular, should be tended to immediately to prevent them from growing and intensifying.

  • Use ‘I – statements’

If the person you are talking to does not share any more information about what they are feeling, you can try to ask by using ‘I – statements.’ Use these statements to show that you notice that they are feeling something, instead of making assumptions about their emotions. 

For example, you can say, ‘I noticed you seem down lately, is something wrong?’ instead of ‘You are sad today, aren’t you?’ This avoids putting them on the spot and they may be more willing to share their feelings with you.

  • Listen carefully

If the other person’s emotion is negative, do not try to solve their problems for them if they do not ask for it. If they choose to share their problems with you, simply listen and provide them with the support that they need. 

You can apply the following techniques to gain more insight into their situation and make them feel that they are being taken seriously:

  • Use body language

Aside from observing others’ body language, do not forget that you must show body language that is appropriate for the situation, too. When you are silent, you are still communicating nonverbally. If you insist that you are fine, while your eyebrows are furrowed and you are looking away, your body is clearly signalling the opposite of what you said.

If you are unsure of what nonverbal cues to display, you can try mirroring. This means subtly copying the other person’s gestures and posture. Matching your body language with theirs can build rapport but be careful not to overuse it. Do not mimic anything that is unique to that person, such as accents or unusual gestures. You should also avoid mirroring negative body language, such as crossing your arms. 

Mirroring is only effective if you do it subtly because overtly copying another person may make them feel like you are mocking them. It is best to utilise it during casual conversations or when the other person is happy or calm.