Hi. How are you?
How many times have you asked and answered the, “How are you?” question?
It is really more of a greeting than a question we want an answer to. We have been conditioned, starting at an early age, to not talk about how we’re feeling; to suck it up, be tough, get over it. We’ve learned that the correct response to, “How are you?” is, “Fine” or “Good,” even if we’re not feeling that way. Please don’t respond with “I’m feeling really sad today,” or “I’m angry, irritated specifically, and feeling it in my chest. I’m doing everything I can not to scream.” We haven’t been trained to deal with a response like that!
As we continue to follow this social rule, we’re teaching our kids that their feelings aren’t to be shared with others, especially the “bad” ones. As a result, kids are not developing an emotional vocabulary. When kids don’t have permission or don’t have the words to talk about how they’re feeling, they shut down, act out or say, “my tummy hurts.” We typically respond to the behaviors we see, not taking the time to understand what feelings and needs are beneath the behaviors. So, the behaviors keep showing up, and needs remain unmet.
Beneath every behavior is a feeling. And beneath every feeling is a need. Ashleigh Warner, Psychologist
Permission to Feel
We need to give kids permission to feel whatever shows up, without judgement, explore these feelings with curiosity, and tap into this incredible source of information to understand what they need. And we need to help them develop a strong emotional vocabulary. Experts agree that naming and talking about how we’re feeling is a critical part of self-management.
As a kid, I experienced a lot of stress and anxiety. At some point in childhood, I decided that feelings like sadness, fear, anxiety were signs of weakness and failure. To be strong, I needed to “get over” any “bad” feelings I had, fast. I did everything I could to not experience these feelings and pretended I was okay, even when I wasn’t. I didn’t ever talk about my feelings and wouldn’t have known how.
It’s hard enough growing up in “normal” times trying to understand and manage big emotions and new feelings. For kids who experience more stress or anxiety the challenge is greater. Now on top of all the “normal” childhood development challenges, we have some scary, hard to understand world events that even most adults are struggling to manage effectively.
Social and emotional skills are NOT soft skills, they are POWER skills!
To think clearly, make sound decisions, develop healthy relationships, and navigate uncertainty with confidence and resilience, we need to develop social and emotional intelligence, including self-awareness and self-management skills. Social and emotional skills are NOT soft skills, they are POWER skills!
Historically, IQ has been regarded as more important than EQ (emotional intelligence), but that is changing. The World Economic Forum has emotional intelligence and other social and emotional skills on their top ten list of most needed skills now and in the future. These are skills that machines can’t do and that make the difference in our performance, relationships, and health (physical and mental).
All feelings carry important information that we need for emotional regulation.
Marc Brackett, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive (great book!), tells us there are 5 key ways our feelings matter.
- Our emotional state determines where we direct our attention.
- Different emotions cause us to have different perceptions of the world and, therefore, make different choices.
- Our feelings affect our social relations. What we feel and how we perceive others feel affects if and how we interact with them.
- Our feelings influence our health. Different feelings cause different neurological reactions in our brains and bodies, releasing powerful chemicals that affect our physical and mental health.
- We can use our emotions as tools to tap into our creativity, perform well and collaborate better with other.
So now you understand the importance of acknowledging, accepting, exploring and expressing your emotions. How do you practice it?
5-Step Process for Emotion Management
Our 5-Step “All the Feels” process helps you develop go-to skills to manage whatever shows up, when it shows up. (The Connection Zoo® Feelings Chart is designed around this process)
- Feel It: Notice, Acknowledge, accept, and explore with curiosity, not judgement, whatever feelings show up.
- Name It: Choose the word that best describes the emotion you’re feeling.
- Mention It: Express what you’re feeling by writing it down or talking about it with people you trust.
- Move It: Move your mind and your body to shift from your emotional to thinking brain.
- Think It: Notice and then choose the way you’re thinking about your feelings.
Remember to Partner: Make sure you ask someone you trust to help you move forward when you feel stuck.
Developing these skills happens with practice. Over time. The great news is you’re never too old to learn how to process and manage your emotions more effectively, but the earlier, the better. Get started with our FREE All the Feels Activity Guide, designed to help you identify, process, and manage whatever feelings show up so you can feel better, be better and do better. This guide (and our Connection Zoo® Feelings Chart) are appropriate for any age (how well developed is your emotional vocabulary?).