What is Emotional Literacy?

So often our day is packed with meetings, projects, to-do lists, errands, and obligations that we find ourselves running on auto-pilot.

Slowing down and turning inward helps you to pay attention to what is beneath the surface. It’s about noticing all the chatter in your head, the waves of emotions and feelings that come and go, and how the two work together to influence your perceptions of the world around you, and your actions.

Enhance Emotional Literacy is the ability to name and understand emotions. From a very young age, you were able to identify basic emotions such as happy, sad, angry, and excited. People who have emotional literacy are able to move beyond these four basic emotions to explore an unlimited variety of feelings and emotions.
 

Why pay attention to your emotions?

Our emotions signal us to pay attention. They are data points providing meaning. As you become more emotionally literate, you will be able to use a variety of words that have different meanings to describe how you are feeling in the moment.

Continue with the practice sessions in this module to develop your ability to name your feelings and understand the value they bring to you.

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An Emotional Range of a Teaspoon

"One person couldn't feel all that." #emotionalintelligence #unlockinginfinitepossibility

There is a thoughtful scene from the movie Harry Potter between the three friends: Harry, Hermione, and Ron. You can watch it here

Hermione rattles off a set of feelings like she’s reading the weekly grocery list. In response, Ron says, “One person couldn’t feel all that.” Hermione’s response gets a laugh from all three, “That’s because you have an emotional range of a teaspoon.”

If you find yourself relating more to Ron, you are not alone. Identifying how you feel may not come easy and you might find it difficult to go past feelings like happy, excited, angry, or scared.

If that’s you, try this exercise to help you start to recognize a variety of feelings. Think back to some of the emotions and feelings you experienced throughout your life. 

Whether it’s the first time you experience something or the 100th time, life is full of emotions and feelings. Many emotions and feelings.

Talk with your coach or someone you respect and discuss the following.

What do you typically do with your feelings?

What did you learn about feelings as a child?

What patterns do you notice about your feelings?

Consider for a moment what would happen if you didn’t pay attention to your feelings.

How can paying attention to your feelings inform you?

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Your Perceptions of Feelings

We all have perceptions of feelings...

…and often times those perceptions can be hard at work influencing how we think about feelings.

I was recently leading a group of executives through an exercise and asked them to identify their perceptions of feelings. Each person walked to the whiteboard and scribbled out a few words. We saw everything from:

  • Something I don’t have
  • Unpredictable
  • Something to ignore when making big decisions
  • Helpful information 
  • Something to pay attention to when leading others

As you can see from this list, perceptions around feelings can vary greatly. So what are your perceptions and how are they influencing your choices?

DIRECTIONS: Read the front and back of each of the six cards below. Each card has an A response (in green) and a B response (in red).  You can flip each of the cards by hovering over it. 

I believe...

A. There is value in paying attention to my emotions throughout the day, even at work.

I believe...

B. There is no place for emotions at work. They need to be put on the side and not be considered in my daily interactions.

The chemicals of emotion and chemicals of thought intermix in your brain, helping the brain and body work together. This means, whether you are aware of it or not, your emotions actually influence your thoughts and actions. 

Practice: A few times each day, practice noticing your feelings. How are your feelings influencing your thoughts? How are they influencing your actions?

Which are you more likely to say?

A. Let’s talk about how you are feeling.

Which are you more likely to say?

B. Just get over it.

We often learn how to respond to feelings from our family based on our culture and beliefs. Talking about your feelings helps you to understand yourself and others at a new level. Feelings do serve a purpose, and when acknowledged, can provide you with valuable insight. Telling someone not to feel a certain way closes the door to conversation.

Practice: Rather than trying to ignore and stuff your real feelings, try to intentionally identify and name them. What value is in the feeling you identify?

I believe...

A. More than one emotion can exist at a time. In fact, I can feel scared, angry, hopeful, and excited all at once.

I believe...

B. It is impossible to feel both scared and excited at the same time.

People tend to focus on the loudest or most obvious emotion, but emotions typically come in layers. While emotions can be in alignment with each other (scared, worried, nervous) different emotions can also coexist (scared, excited, hopeful). Paying attention to the feelings beneath the surface often provides more insight into what is happening.

Practice: When you catch yourself in a loud emotion, ask: What else am I feeling in this moment? How are my feelings working together? How are they influencing my thoughts and my actions?

I believe...

A. My emotions are contagious and impact others.

I believe...

B. My emotions are my own and they can be hidden from others.

Your emotions do affect those around you. Emotions form a communication channel with others. Even when emotions are not outwardly expressed, others have the innate ability to read your emotions watching your face or body language, or hearing the tone of your voice. Individuals with positional power and people with close ties have even stronger emotional transmitters.

Practice: Pay attention to the feelings that are stirring within you. As you begin to identify the multiple layers and variety of feelings, intentionally choose which one you would like to intensify. Maybe in your confusion and doubt, you are also feeling curious. How can you amplify that feeling so that others can be curious with you?

I believe my reactions to high intensity situations are...

A. On me.

I believe...

B. A direct result of the other person, not me.

With self-awareness and practiced skill, you can learn to recognize your reactions so that you can successfully navigate through the things that trigger you.

Practice: Take a moment to identify your triggers. How do you typically react to that trigger? What might be a better way to respond so that you can continue to focus on the goal or the relationship?

I believe that some emotions like anger, fear, and sadness should be...

A. Acknowledged. I know my thoughts and ultimately my actions are going to be influenced by how I feel in the moment.

I believe that some emotions like anger, fear, and sadness should be...

B. Avoided as much as possible. Those are bad feelings, and I should focus on feelings that are good.

All emotions are valuable and provide some great insight, even ones that you might perceive to be “bad.” Acknowledging the emotion will help you to gain greater self-awareness so that you can navigate through challenging emotions successfully.

Practice: When you are feeling an emotion like anger, fear, or sadness, take a moment to dig a little deeper. What is driving this emotion? What else are you feeling? Why is this important?

Give yourself ONE point for every green answer you chose.

If you scored 5-6 points…
Your perceptions of feelings will have a positive influence on your ability to develop the skills of emotional intelligence. 

  • How can you help others perceive emotions in a way that puts value in all emotions?

If you scored 4 points…
Your perceptions of feelings are somewhat neutral. 

  • What perceptions do you need to challenge? 
  • How can this help change the way you consider your own feelings when making decisions and interacting with others?

If you scored less than 4 points…
You have an opportunity to see feelings and emotions from a new perspective.

  • What would happen if you saw emotions as data points to help you understand yourself, others, and the current situation better?
  • What are you learning about your perceptions of feelings? 
  • What makes emotions challenging?
  • How can you look at the emotions you experience from a new perspective?

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Turning Inward

As you focus on developing your Emotional Intelligence, pausing to turn inward will help you to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. With greater self-awareness, you will be able to understand what is happening in you and around you. 

Take a look at this short commercial and practice turning inward. Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings you experience watching this video.

1

Take a minute to turn inward and name the different feelings you experienced watching this video. If you haven’t done so already, you can download a list of feelings for help.

Download

Feelings and Emotions Chart

2

What were you thinking? How was this influencing your feelings?​

3

If you know your Brain Style from Six Seconds’ Brain Brief Profile, how does your brain style influence what you are seeing? What might you be missing?​

Share this video with someone else and invite them to also turn inward. 

Compare the different feelings you both experienced. What was similar? What was different? 

What are you learning about yourself and others through this experience?

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Understanding Others

When you are not accustomed to doing so, talking about your feelings can seem really awkward. And yet, to really understand others you need to get beneath the surface and start understanding emotions. So how do you get started? 

Going deeper in conversations with others

Trust is a key factor in going deeper in conversations. Before any conversation can move beyond the surface, trust must exist. 

Gaining trust can be difficult since trust can mean different things to different people. Start by engaging in conversation that demonstrates your genuine interest without making the other person feel uncomfortable. Be careful to listen, hold back judgment, and never betray confidentiality.

As trust develops, be curious and ask deeper questions that move beyond the surface. That must have been hard for you. How are you feeling about that? What would you like to change about those circumstances? What do you need to be effective in this situation? How does that impact you? What is holding you back?

With today’s pace, it can be challenging to have deep conversations. I remember being in weekly meetings with a colleague and being asked the question, How are you? While it was a great question, he often asked it while looking at his watch and writing on his tablet. I always sensed this question was just a scripted way of saying hello with no intention of a deep response. So I would give my cursory response, and move on to the agenda.

To really get beneath the surface, set aside an appropriate amount of time with no distractions to have a conversation with someone. 

Start small. Try setting aside five minutes to connect with someone this week.

The quickest way to prevent someone from going beneath the surface is to show them that you are not listening. 

Clear your table or desk. Put your phone down. Turn toward the other person. Make some good eye contact.

Focus on what is being said and how it is being said. What clues can you pick up from tone, metaphors, and body language? Be curious and dig into the metaphors. Reflect back what you are hearing. Sounds like there is a lot going on. You have a very difficult decision to make. If you continue on this rollercoaster, what is likely to happen? How are you feeling about that? What options do you have? In the end, what really matters?

With the right invitation, time, and trust, conversations will eventually flow beneath the surface creating greater connection and understanding with others. 

What relationships would benefit from going a little deeper? 

If you could focus on building Trust, setting aside Time, and keeping Focus in your relationships, what would be different? How would that directly impact you?

Reflect on the conversations you had this past week. Were they surface conversations or deep conversations? What do you think influences both?

Select one or all of the key areas Trust, Time, and Focus and identify one thing you want to practice this week to increase your understanding of others’ emotions.

Copyright ©2018, EQuip Studios www.EQuipStudios.net

Hiding Your Emotions

The Iron Lady is a fantastic film about the life of British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. There is a scene in the movie where Margaret Thatcher shares her perceptions about feelings.

You can read a selection of hte script below or you can go to You Tube and view the SCENE.

Margaret Thatcher: D’you know, one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas. Now, thoughts and ideas, that interests me. Ask me what I am thinking. (…) Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine. But I do so appreciate your kind concern.

Margaret Thatcher describes the impact thoughts have on actions, but she doesn’t acknowledge what influences her thoughts. 

A lot of things influence our thoughts including the circumstances, your upbringing, your perceptions, and your FEELINGS.

In fact, neuroscience proves that your:

  • FEELINGS influence THOUGHTS
  • THOUGHTS influence FEELINGS
  • BOTH influence ACTIONS 

What are your perceptions?

Talking about your feelings with someone else can be uncomfortable if it’s new to you. Consider your own perceptions of feelings.

Think about a recent situation that you found challenging. Maybe you were facing a difficult decision, a tight deadline, or preparing for a challenging conversation.

As you reflect on this situation, recall your thoughts in the moment. Now recall how you were feeling in the moment. 

How were your thoughts and feelings workng together to influence your perspective?  If you chose to ignore your feelings and only focus on your thoughts, what would happen? 

Take a moment to identify the feeling that felt the loudest to you…the one you couldn’t let go of. Feelings provide important data or messages to us. What message might be behind this feeling?

This week:

  • Take time to identify how you are feeling in challenging situations.
  • Find the message in the feeling.
  • Step out of your comfort zone and talk about what you are discovering about how thoughts and feelings work together. If this feels too uncomfortable, start with someone that feels safe and pay attention to how they respond.

Copyright ©2018, EQuip Studios www.EQuipStudios.net

Sample Session: Hiding Your Emotions

The Iron Lady is a story about Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister. There is a scene in the movie that really stood out to me. Margaret Thatcher shares her perceptions about feelings. You can watch the scene HERE, or read the script below.

“D’you know, one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas. Now, thoughts and ideas, that interests me. Ask me what I am thinking. (…) Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that. And I think I am fine. But I do so appreciate your kind concern.”

Margaret Thatcher

In this scene, Margaret Thatcher didn’t want to talk about her feelings. What is it about feelings that can make us uncomfortable?

What are your perceptions?

Talking about your feelings with someone else can be awkward if it is new to you. Consider your own perceptions of feelings.

  • People often tell me that talking about feelings is a sign of weakness. Do you agree with this? If so, consider for a moment what you might gain from talking about your feelings. What do you lose by not talking about your feelings?
  • What are the costs of sharing your feelings with others? What are the benefits?
  • How might being vulnerable affect your relationships and connections with others?

Think about a recent situation that was somewhat complex. Maybe you were facing a difficult decision, a tight deadline, or preparing for a challenging conversation.

Now turn inward. What was really going on? What were your thoughts in the moment? What were you feeling in that moment?

How did your thoughts and feelings influence how you reacted to the situation?

If you chose to hide your true feelings about the situation from others (and possibly yourself), what was the consequence?

As you think back on that situation, how did your thoughts and feelings inform the situation?  What might have been the benefit of sharing them with someone else?

This week step out and try telling someone how you feeling. Don’t worry if it’s a little uncomfortable. Start with someone that feels safe and pay attention to how they respond.

Copyright ©2018, EQuip Studios www.EQuipStudios.net