top of page
  • Writer's picturePatty Laushman

Emotional Granularity and Well-Being in Autism – Part 1

Updated: Jun 27

By Patty Laushman

Emotions play a crucial role in our lives, impacting everything from our relationships to our decisions and overall well-being. However, understanding and identifying our own emotions, as well as those of others, can be challenging, especially for autistic adults who struggle with alexithymia. Alexithymia in Greek means “no words for emotions” and is a common issue for many autistic adults who are unable to identify their own emotions or those of others with any granularity.

A close-up of five smiling friends displaying a variety of emotional granularity.

Emotional granularity (also called emotional differentiation) refers to the ability to identify emotions in granular detail rather than simply “happy” or “angry” or even just the six basic emotions that according to the research of psychologist Paul Ekman are universal across all human cultures – sadness, happiness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.

The impact of this challenge can have profound impacts on an autistic adult’s quality of life. The ability to identify emotions in oneself and others influences various aspects of our lives, including our mental and physical health, the quality of our relationships, and our career success. 

In this blog post, I will discuss how developing one’s emotional granularity can result in richer, more meaningful connections with others and a more satisfying life overall. Then in part 2, I will offer practical advice for improving this critical skill. For now, let’s jump into how identifying emotions impacts our quality of life.

The Role of Emotional Granularity in Personal Relationships

At the heart of our personal relationships is the ability to understand and connect with others, a process deeply rooted in emotional identification. Recognizing and understanding our own emotions, as well as those of the people we care about, is crucial for building strong, healthy relationships.

Understanding and Communication

The first step in any healthy relationship is effective communication, which requires a clear understanding of our own emotional states. When we can identify what we're feeling, we're better equipped to express those feelings in a constructive way. Similarly, understanding the emotions of others can help us respond more thoughtfully and appropriately to their needs and behaviors. This two-way street of emotional identification and expression is the foundation for meaningful connections.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship, but their resolution largely depends on how well we can identify and manage emotions. By recognizing our emotional triggers and responses, we can approach disagreements with a clearer perspective, reducing the likelihood of escalation. Furthermore, understanding the emotions behind another person's words or actions can foster empathy, allowing for solutions that acknowledge and respect everyone's feelings.

Empathy and Connection

A woman with strong emotional granularity comforting a friend.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is enhanced by our ability to identify emotions accurately. When we empathize with someone, we not only recognize their emotions but also connect with them on a deeper level. This emotional bond strengthens relationships, making them more resilient in the face of challenges. It also enhances our ability to support and be supported by others, creating a mutual sense of security and trust.

Building Stronger Bonds

The benefits of emotional identification extend beyond navigating challenges; they also enrich the positive aspects of our relationships. Celebrating successes, sharing joys, and simply enjoying companionship are all deepened when we can genuinely understand and share in each other's emotions. This shared emotional landscape fosters a sense of belonging and togetherness, reinforcing the bonds that keep relationships thriving.

Influence on Career and Professional Growth

Emotional identification isn't just a personal asset; it's a professional powerhouse. In the modern workplace, where teamwork, leadership, and customer relations are key, the ability to understand and manage emotions can set the stage for significant career advancement and satisfaction. Here’s how honing this skill can impact your professional life.

Leadership and Team Dynamics

Great leaders aren’t just skilled in the technical aspects of their jobs; they excel in emotional intelligence. The ability to identify and understand their own emotions and those of their team members enables leaders to inspire, motivate, and communicate more effectively. This emotional savvy fosters a positive work environment, boosts team morale, and enhances productivity. For anyone aspiring to a leadership role or looking to improve their leadership skills, developing emotional identification abilities can catapult you ahead of your peers.

Enhancing Collaboration

Three female colleagues with good emotional granularity collaborating on a business project.

The modern workplace is highly collaborative, requiring constant interaction with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. Emotional identification plays a critical role in navigating these interactions smoothly. By understanding and empathizing with the emotions of others, professionals can avoid conflicts, build stronger relationships, and create a more cohesive team.

Customer Relations and Service

In roles that involve interacting with customers or clients, emotional identification can be a game-changer. Recognizing and responding to the emotional states of customers can turn challenging interactions into positive experiences, build customer loyalty, and enhance the reputation of the business.

Career Satisfaction and Resilience

Understanding our own emotions can also lead to higher job satisfaction. By identifying what we feel in response to various aspects of our work, we can make informed decisions about our career paths, ensuring they align with our values and goals. Additionally, emotional identification can help us manage stress, prevent burnout, and maintain resilience in the face of workplace challenges. This not only improves our well-being but also our overall performance and productivity.

Impacts on Mental and Physical Health

The ability to identify and understand our emotions goes beyond improving our relationships and career prospects; it has a profound impact on our overall health. Emotional identification is a critical component of mental well-being and can even influence physical health in surprising ways. Here’s a closer look at how this essential skill benefits our health.

Mental Health Benefits

At the core of emotional well-being is the ability to recognize, name, and understand our feelings. Emotional identification allows us to process emotions constructively, rather than letting them simmer unacknowledged, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. For instance, being able to pinpoint feelings of frustration or sadness enables us to address these emotions directly, perhaps through talking to a friend, engaging in physical activity, or practicing mindfulness. This proactive approach can mitigate the impact of negative emotions on our mental health.

Additionally, emotional identification fosters resilience by giving us the tools to navigate life's ups and downs with a clearer understanding of our emotional responses. It equips us with the insight to recognize when we need to seek help or employ coping strategies, contributing to a more adaptable and resilient mental state.

Physical Health Implications

The link between emotional health and physical health is well-documented. Chronic stress, often a result of unaddressed emotional issues, can lead to a host of physical health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, weakened immune function, and obesity. By improving our ability to identify and manage emotions, we can reduce stress levels, thereby mitigating its physical health risks.

A close-up of a man's hand rejecting a glass of beer due to strong emotional granularity.

Additionally, emotional identification can have direct benefits on behaviors that affect physical health. For example, recognizing emotions can help us identify emotional eating patterns or understand the emotional triggers behind unhealthy habits, such as smoking or excessive drinking. With this awareness, we can work toward healthier coping mechanisms, contributing to better physical health outcomes.

The Interconnectedness of Emotional and Physical Health

Understanding and managing our emotions can also enhance our motivation and energy levels, encouraging us to engage in physical activities and maintain healthier lifestyles. This positive feedback loop between emotional well-being and physical activity further underscores the interconnectedness of emotional and physical health.


Embracing the power of emotional granularity opens a gateway to myriad benefits that touch every corner of our quality of life. For autistic adults grappling with alexithymia, the challenge of deciphering emotions can pose significant hurdles in personal relationships, professional environments, and overall health. However, the concerted effort to develop this crucial skill can lead to transformative outcomes, leading to richer connections, career fulfillment, and a resilient state of mental and physical health.

In part 2, we will delve into practical strategies aimed at bolstering emotional granularity, providing a roadmap for those seeking to navigate the complexities of emotions with greater clarity and confidence so they can achieve the promise of a richer, more rewarding life.

And if you'd like to get started now, we have coaches at Thrive Autism Coaching who are skilled at helping clients improve their emotional granularity. We offer a complimentary consultation to explore whether this might be a good fit for you, and if you'd like to explore this, you can book a consultation at the link here.


Commenting has been turned off.
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page