Do You Speak “Data” but Struggle to Speak “Feelings”?

published4 months ago
3 min read

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This article is perhaps one of the most requested topics I've received from readers over the years. The ideas in this article have probably also had the biggest impact in my personal life. As a scientist working in engineering, I had always prioritized my ability to articulate information and data, never realizing that there was an even more important language that determined my success and quality of life - the language of emotional intimacy.

If you are someone who often finds that you are able to have intellectually engaging conversations but struggle to feel the emotional "click" with potential romantic partners or even friends - this article is for you.

What Do You Mean? Don’t We All Speak English?

To help you understand the distinction, I want you to think of the people in your life. You’ll quickly come to realize that some people can discuss books and complex mathematical ideas at length while others are blessed with the ability to get someone to bare their soul in under 10 minutes. There are people you go to for financial advice and others you go to when you get dumped.

If you start paying attention, you’ll start to realize that the two groups of people have different vocabularies and ways of speaking. For example, let’s imagine that you have two friends called Rational Rob and Emotional Eli.

You tell them both that you broke up with your girlfriend. Rob is likely to ask if you need help moving out and how you’re going to split assets while Eli will likely ask how you feel and offer to hold space to help you grieve. See what I mean? One gravitates toward doing and the other towards feeling.

To be fair, both ways build connections and strengthen relationships. You will likely be incredibly grateful to both of them for showing up for you but unsurprisingly — only the person with the emotional language will build emotional intimacy.

What's the difference?

A connection with emotional intimacy is like having dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant while companionship is like having pasta at your local diner. They will both make fill your belly, but the experience of emotional intimacy is unique and rare. It's delightful, surprising, and enriching. Something you don't come across every day.

How to Develop Language to Receive Intimacy

Psychologist Paul Ekman’s research shows that there is a minimum of six core emotions that are shared by all humans — anger, surprise, disgust, enjoyment, fear, and sadness. That is also the extent of most people’s emotional vocabulary as well since we can mostly get by with having a limited emotional vocabulary.

My article follows the story of my friend, Mark, after he suffered a devastating breakup.

Mark soon came to realize that part of the problem wasn’t just that he wasn’t very good at expressing feelings but that his friends were not particularly good at receiving them as well. Even with his closest friends, attempts to receive emotional comfort were often responded to with emojis or trite pleasantries like, “It’ll be OK soon.”

These were people he trusted with his life, who would show up to help him at a drop of a hat. Some were people he’s known his whole life. They would do anything for him but when it came to feelings, they just didn’t know what to do with it.

Mark - a millionaire who has traveled the world, had amazing adventures, and had a solid group of friends without having an extensive emotional vocabulary - finally realized for the first time in his life that there was a whole other world of experience he was unable to access no matter how well educated he was.

So, he reached out to me for help to develop his language for emotional intimacy.

If Mark's story resonates strongly with you, you can read about the tools I gave him to develop the language to both receive and give emotional intimacy by clicking on the button below.

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May Pang 💖

Your future friend. I write to help you create deeper connections with yourself and others. Storytelling + Hard Science + Actionable Steps + Humor. Often with a dose of rebellious personal growth. Join 22k+ people on this fun ride. I don't always know where I'll take you, but I promise you it'll always be fun!

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