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Psychology/Emotions affect communication?


Hi Katherine,
I'm not sure if this is a question for you or for a neurobiologist, but here goes.  I know some people who become more articulate as their emotions get stronger - for example, if they get fired up about something they can use words with a laser-sharp focus to get their thoughts and feelings across.  I, and some other people I know, are the exact opposite.  Strong emotions seem to block my ability to communicate effectively with words; I try to avoid arguments for this reason because I can't defend my position with any intelligent credibility while I'm angry!  Is this a function of personality, or upbringing, or just hardwiring?  I notice it also affects me as a singer and a musician, which is really inconvenient - it's imperative to be able to convey emotions while singing or writing words, and I don't like having to put a stopper in those feelings just so I can get the words out.  Is there anything that can be done to allow better verbal communication when the emotions rise up?  Hope this makes sense.
Thanks so much for your time!

Tina, this is not my area of expertise.  However, I will speculate that there is a practice and learning component to being articulate while upset.  Watch the tv show Scandal, and see how Olivia talks in the middle of a crisis.  She is always managing a crisis, so she has a lot of practice.   If you are a singer, you can practice communicating strong emotions, and you will see an improvement and more confidence develop.

Another aspect of this involves what is called executive function - the frontal cortex of the brain manages our planning, organization and attention.  An important function is inhibition - that is, in order to focus attention on something, you need to inhibit your attention from wandering or being distracted.  People who are very articulate when emotional are good at focusing their attention on the message that they want to convey and ignoring the physiological signals of strong feelings.

Hope this helps.



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Katherine ONeill


I can answer academic questions about psychology. I am not a clinician (therapist), I am a research psychologist with expertise in biopsychology, general psychology, cognitive psychology, research methods and psychopharmacology.


I have 25 years experience as a researcher in health behavior, biopsychology and psychopharmacology.

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Ph.D. Experimental Psychology, University of Rhode Island, 1983. Post doctoral fellow dept of psychiatry, New York University Medical Center, 1983-1984. Post doctoral fellow, dept of pharmacology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 1984-1985.

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