Six Seconds

6 principles to teach
emotional intelligence


To deliver emotional intelligence effectively, what are the essential ingredients? Drawing on decades of experience and research on the methodology for transformational learning, we’ve identified six elements that take our work to a higher level, and will do the same for you. As a facilitator, educator, coach or consultant, the Six Seconds Learning Philosophy offers a blueprint for engaging people to grow.

Six Seconds Learning Philosophy Overview

Watch this video for an introduction to the 6 principles of Six Seconds’ Learning Philosophy:

The 6 Principles and How to Apply Them

Here’s an introduction to each learning philosophy principle, with tips to apply them in your work and life. The videos describe how to use each principle in a coaching context, but they are applicable for consulting, facilitating, managing, parenting, and more.

I. Wisdom Lives Within

People learn best when they construct meaning vs. if we “tell them the secret.”  This principle is about blossoming and unfolding; growing and transforming. Our job is to create an environment and experience where people can find their own answers. Self-reflection is key!  

In practice, this means your job as a manager, consultant, or coach is to ask questions, reflect, and help the client or employee discover their own answers (versus telling them what to do).

Wisdom Lives Within In Action: Ask, don’t tell. Be curious and encourage curiosity, ask powerful questions, listen, rephrase what you hear, ask the client to synthesize / summarize. Provide time and space for reflection.  Share your own reflection.  Validate answers – focus on the deeper concepts vs. “right answers.”  Don’t read slides – ask good questions about slides.

II. No Way is The Way

There is no such thing as “one size fits all,” so we need to differentiate and personalize. We need flexibility and space for people to develop authentic, powerful, individual solutions. Likewise, people learn in a variety of ways, and we need to teach to many learning styles. We also need to adapt and flex to effectively work with the complexities of real people!  There is not a “silver bullet” or magic formula for you – nor for your clients. Authenticity provides more value than a script.

No Way is The Way In Action: Focus on each client, encouraging them to form their own style (observe others as examples and models but don’t try to copy). Engage many different learning styles so different people can learn in their own best ways. In conclusions of activities, encourage participants to do their own synthesis and craft their own authentic next steps.

III. The Process is the Content

Learning comes from experiencing and reflecting – doing, thinking, and feeling. Our job is to model and to use our own emotional intelligence so others can develop theirs! In coaching or consulting, this means the way you interact with your client is more important than the “factual” messages you deliver. They will walk away valuing your input based on the experience they had with you. The same is true for your clients when they deal with others in their lives. In facilitation, this principle reminds us that optimal learning comes from role modeling; talk the talk + walk the walk.  Create a powerful learning process of Engage, Activate, Reflect.

The Process is the Content In Action: Be real – while your focus is the client, be willing to disclose your own struggles and express what you are really feeling; be deeply, compassionately respectful – and courageous. Model your own emotional intelligence and use an experiential approach with many opportunities for discovery – as well as powerful conceptual theories. 

IV. 1, 2, 3, PASTA!

If people don’t take action with what they’ve learned, we have not changed their lives and improved the world. So we need to help them put new ideas into action. Our purpose is to help people make positive change – not just to raise awareness, but also to take action based on their increased insight.

1, 2, 3 PASTA! In Action: Foster the feelings of anticipation, excitement, and joy to motivate action. Invite participants to identify how to put ideas into action and next steps. Be sure to save time for this important component. Frequently ask the client what he is going to do, how they are going to implement their new insight.

V. Fish Don’t Talk About Water

While distress undermines learning, some stress is valuable; it takes a moderate level of dissonance to learn and to gain new perspectives. This means learners and facilitators need to move out of the comfort zone into the stretch zone. We all take a great deal for granted – like fish take water for granted – and make a huge number of assumptions.

To get people to enter “the land of the unknown” they need both safety and discomfort / dissonance. Our job is to make it safe enough for people to go beyond comfort and conformity and to gently push them toward the land of the unknown.  Your affect will influence this greatly – if you quickly establish trust in the group, the exercise will give them a new and valuable perspective on themselves and their work.

Fish Don’t Talk About Water In Action: Do activities and hold discussions that create a small degree of discomfort, encouraging participants to look at situations in new ways.  Talk about the “elephant in the room” in a respectful open way. Make others good (“they are doing the best they can given their skills and experience – and I could do no better”), ask tough questions, make succinct observations about what you are hearing, let your caring show, and push gently.

VI. Emotions Drive People

Emotions are valuable signals that help us survive and thrive. When we learn how to use them, emotions help us make more effective decisions, connect with others, find and follow purpose — and lead a more whole-hearted life. They are also powerful motivators; they can push us to stay stuck, or to move forward. Create the right emotional conditions for change. We don’t create meaning with emotion or analysis alone; optimal learning integrates feeling + thinking (and action!)  Head + Heart + Hands.

Emotions Drive People In Action: Connect to your own emotions and those of others. Notice and name them. Consider emotional consequences in decision making and performance. Share your own emotions involved in a situation and in decision making with others, and elicit their emotional connection to the learning and change process. Invite them to create the feelings that will be useful for moving forward.

Six Seconds Learning Philosophy In Action

What does the Learning Philosophy look like in practice? Our certifications offer insight into how we implement these principles. Check out this video to get a sense of the interactive, self-directed nature of our learning programs:

Learn more about Emotional intelligence Certification with Six Seconds.