Emotional Intelligence | Stevehein.com

Why it can be hard to talk about feelings

Once a friend of mine was telling me about a time she tried to talk to her romantic partner about feelings. She tried to use the ideas suggested on this site, such as talking about respect using the 0-10 scale. For example, she asked her partner how much he felt respected by her from 0-10. The discussion did not go as easily as she hoped. On the train ride home she made a list of why she thought it was hard for some people to have such a discussion. We later expanded her ideas and came up with this list.


  • Talking about feelings directly is an unfamiliar and unknown field
  • It is strange to have someone ask such personal questions
  • People are not used to thinking about how much they feel something, in other words to what intensity
  • They are especially not used to putting a number on their feelings
  • Putting a specific number on their feelings may be even more frightening than giving a relatively honest, but vague answer when asked how they feel about something
  • Something like this has never been taught to them
  • They are embarrassed or ashamed, afraid, to talk about feelings
  • It makes one feel too vulnerable
  • Just the question frightens them because it is so personal
  • They are afraid of exposing themselves, of being "naked"
  • They don't know if they should be honest or what the consequences might be if they are honest
  • They are afraid to hurt someone with their answers
  • We are taught that feelings are bad or weak or are too personal to talk about to others
  • They are afraid to ask how someone else feels because they might hear something they don't want to hear
  • They are especially afraid to ask how much someone feels something from 0-10 because they are afraid to hear a number which they won't want to hear
  • It takes a lot of energy to think about such things when one is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, afraid
  • The definitions of the words can vary from one person to another
  • The definitions of the feeling words and the ways feelings are expressed can vary from one culture to another

See Related Stories: Respect and Culture, Everyone Was Unhappy

Note: Thank you to Stephanie Kohler for coming up with the original list.