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Say it with feeling!

Or, “More than words”

In this blog post, I will attempt to share some of my current thoughts and related ideas on “Non-verbal communication”.

“We have enough food to last for a week”

A straightforward phrase stating a simple fact. But…how does it make you feel?

If you’re trapped in a cave, then that fact might make you feel fearful. But, if you’re grocery shopping, then that fact might make you feel confident.

Depending on the situation, “having enough food to last for a week” could be good or bad and it might make you feel different emotions.

But, how can you effectively communicate both facts and feelings to others?


In some of my talks and training, I play a game that I call “Say it with feeling!” The game uses a custom deck of cards where each card presents a singular emotion – Anger, Arrogance, Boredom, Confidence, Disgust, Doubt, Fear, Happiness, Reservation, Sadness, Shame, and Surprise – and each emotion is represented by 3 synonyms and 3 images. The object of the game is to try and get others to correctly guess an emotion, and the rules of the game are simple:

  1. A volunteer selects a random card from the deck.

  2. The volunteer then says the phrase “We have enough food to last for a week”, verbatim. But, they may use body language, hand gestures, facial expressions, changes to voice tone, pitch, volume, and more to express the emotion represented on the selected card.

  3. The rest of the group must try to guess the emotion being expressed.

An Emotional Deck

The game is fun, but also has interesting outcomes that can be analyzed to learn many lessons.


Sometimes, the group guesses the correct emotion. Great!

But sometimes, the group guesses a similar emotion. For example, the volunteer might be trying to express “Arrogance, Conceit, and Smugness” and the group guesses “Pride”. Ok.

But often, the group guesses an incorrect emotion. For example, the volunteer might be trying to express “Surprise, Shock, and Amazement” but the group guesses “Anger”. Uh oh!


Whether the emotion was correctly, approximately, or incorrectly guessed, it is always interesting to discuss why. What exactly did the volunteer do to express that particular emotion? And, what exactly did the group see and hear, and how did they interpret it?

It is enlightening to discuss how the volunteer sufficiently/insufficiently expressed the emotion, and how the group correctly/approximately/incorrectly recognized and interpreted the emotion.


For effective communication, it is important to consider both “what is said” and “how it is said”. If not, there might be miscommunication that leads to trivial or dire consequences.

Consider what might happen if someone is trying to express “confidence” but it is interpreted as “arrogance”? Or if someone is “shy” but is seen as “bored”?

When communicating, ask yourself: “Do the nonverbal cues and clues reinforce or contradict the message?” If the latter, there might be a problem.

In My Experience, more awareness and understanding of non-verbal communication and its importance has helped me more effectively communicate with others.

I examine and explore "Non-verbal communication" in my talks, "CommuTication" and "The Hidden Requirements".

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