tune-inHow can we handle emotions more effectively?  An incredible group of emotional intelligence practitioners at the EQ Certification in Phoenix, AZ, April 2014, put together some ideas.  I’ve edited and expanded the list:

Every person has emotions.  They’re part of being human.  So what do we need to know in order to get a handle on feelings?

1. We almost always have multiple emotions at the same time.  To understand your feelings better, tune in and sort the messy mixed feeling into basic emotions: Joy, Trust, Anticipation, Surprise, Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sorrow.

2. Every emotion has a purpose.  They give us messages about opportunities and threats.  The “Emotoscope” offers many examples of the purpose of feelings.

3. There is power in the ability to name emotions – “name it to tame it”.  When we name feelings, we get a handle on our own experiences, and then communicate more effectively with others.  So… Expand your emotional vocabulary.  Learn more words – try the Plutchik Model for a start, or feelings from this article written for young people: Decoding Emotions.

think-feel-act4. To identify feelings, remember: Emotions affect us physically.  What is your body telling you?  Are your muscles tight, do you feel pain anywhere, are you hands hot, cold, etc?  Are you smiling? Frowning? Forehead furrowed?

5. Treat all feelings a neutral – data about your experiences.  There are no “good” or “bad” feelings.

6. Treat feelings as normal.  Don’t apologize for your feelings, nor “show off” with them (“look how emotional I am!”).  Don’t make a “big deal” about other’s feelings; neither reward people for being vulnerable, nor criticize – keep a neutral, curious, caring tone.

7. Remember that if you don’t pay attention, feelings usually escalate.  The earlier you attend to this message, the easier it will be to handle the feelings.

8. When strong feelings come up, be an observer.  “Oh, that’s interesting,” or, “What can I learn from this?”

9. Emotions ≠ actions.  Notice emotions as sensations, and distinguish between that sensation and the way people act.  Anger is an emotion, yelling is an action – but one does not NEED to yell just because s/he is angry.  We have choice about how we use our emotions.

10. In different situations, different emotions are useful.  For example, with loss it’s useful to feel sorrow; relaxing on the beach it’s useful to feel peace.  When understanding feelings, think about what’s useful in the current context. To learn more about the functions of feelings, try this article.

11. Validate feelings.  Name them, acknowledge them.  Start by assuming they’re valuable & useful.

12. Don’t obey feelings blindly, don’t lock them away: find the middle path.  Feelings are signals saying “something interesting is happening!”


Thanks to Gary, Jim , Angie, Robert, Veronica, Eileen, Joel, Lynette, Jody, Mike, Jesse, Dan, Mike, Todd D,  Todd A, Tonja, Joan, Penny, Michele & Susan for an amazing week of EQ learning, and looking forward to lots more sharing.

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Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.
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