Making Ourselves Understood 4

I have written before about how journal writing helps us make meaning of life’s events. Did you know that it can also help improve your communication with others?

Whether we’re writing or speaking, our goal is to communicate our thoughts and feelings. At the most basic level, every time you write, even when you are the only audience for your writing, you bring to the surface what is rumbling around in your heart and mind. When journal writing, you have the freedom to bring up vague ideas and give them definition and form, to surface buried feelings and examine and nurture them into a shape that makes sense.

It takes work to do this. Just getting the thoughts onto the page with words and sentences in the right order is a challenge. At times, it can be frustrating or even frightening. However, when you practice clarifying your feelings and making meaning of your perceptions in your journal, you have done the hardest part.

You can then bring that clarity into writing for and speaking with others. And because you’ve taken the time to understand how to say it to yourself, you will be able to say it to others in ways they understand. Whether your communication is in conversation with family or via email and business correspondence at work, your meaning has a much better chance of being received as you intended.

Here’s a prompt to help you get started:

Think about something in your life that confuses you in some way. Perhaps you’re trying to understand why someone said something hurtful to you. Perhaps you’re trying to understand conflicting feelings you have about an upcoming decision. Perhaps it was something that happened long ago with which you’ve never managed to come to terms. Write about what happened.

  • What about the event or conversation is most confusing to you?
  • What feelings do you have about it? Do some of the feelings conflict with each other? Write about all the feelings and which ones, if any, seem stronger than others. Explore the sources and associations with those feelings.
  • Do you judge yourself in some way, either about your actions or feelings? If so, explore what your judgments are and how you came about to have them.
  • What do you think you have gained (or can gain) from this event? Can you learn something that you can apply to the future? Is there some good you can take away from this event? Can you give it a positive spin?
  • If you were to experience this event again, what might you do differently? Or how would you have avoided the situation altogether?
  • Finally, write about what this event means to you, in the context of your life. If any insights have come to you while writing, include those insights here.

Journal writing matters.


Image by Joan M. Mas

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4 thoughts on “Making Ourselves Understood

  • Eden

    I could not agree with you more about just the fact of journal writing, working through my own thoughts, feelings and perceptions which has helped me to communicate so much more about events and who I am than any other thing. It’s like the journaling has propelled some; wisdom, insight, life experience, maturity, acceptance, and perspective for my life. I am always amazed that people who are going thru something don’t or won’t journal it out….it’s such a huge gift and only a pen away!! But see, I have absolutely no problem with honesty…..I am brutally honest with myself….to the point of exaggerating issues….This seems to work with me.

    Thanks for your post 😀

  • Sharon Lippincott

    I stumbled on this technique intuitively in grad school. I filled huge stacks of that old double-size computer paper with holes on the end with my crazed ramblings as I worked through the crazy-making rigors of a counseling degree. I always burned them immediately after writing, and I still believe that was a wise decision. Those pages served their intended purpose of bringing order to my whirling thoughts in something very similar to the process you describe, and enabling me to be coherent and articulate with others.

    By some amazing synchronicity, I taught the first class tonight of a series on Writing for the Health of it at our local Gilda’s club. Shortly after telling the class about my experience with those pads of paper, and emphasizing that writing helps still our thoughts, making them visible and real, I clicked over to the web to show them the Writing Through Life page and encourage them all to sign up for the newsletter. That stunning graphic generated gasps of delight. Then I quickly scanned the content, and said, “Look at this! She says so too!” If any of that nail had been sticking out, that totally sank it. I love surprises like that.