This is the first in a series of posts I’m going to give you – and it’s all about feelings.
Like it or not (and many people don’t – there’s a deeply ingrained, cultural dismissal of ‘feelings’ that we will come onto soon!), feelings are always present in our lives – in the decisions we make, in the way we react to events, and in how we relate to the world around us.
They are a key part of the way we live, and of course, the way we work – so why aren’t they given the importance they deserve? Shouldn’t learning how to identify and manage your feelings be a part of a standard education?
Over the course of the next three blog posts, we’ll be exploring:
– the importance of recognising feelings from an early age
– the impact of feelings at the workplace
– practical tips for dealing with our own feelings, and the feelings of others
So why is it so important to understand feelings from an early age?
Simply put, because understanding and managing your emotions means that you can achieve more. Research tells us that those of us who are comfortable with recognising and managing our feelings performed better in the classroom, have stronger relationships, and are more likely to make healthy and positive lifestyle decisions. We’re also much more comfortable communicating, and being aware of and understanding the feelings and reactions of others.
Unfortunately, though, our cultural inheritance often teaches us that emotions are invalid – that they are a distraction, and even a sign of weakness. Many of us – and sadly it’s most often men and boys – are taught to hide what they’re feeling, cover it up and suppress it; rather than identifying a feeling, understanding it and talking about it.
If we can teach children to start recognising and managing their emotions from the earliest age, so that it becomes part of their normal, everyday life, then we will be setting up healthier, happier workplaces in which colleagues have a greater understanding of each other, and for whom the sky is the limit.
If you understand your own emotions, where they come from and why, it’s so much easier to address the root causes of a problem, and come up with a solution.
How do we teach it?
It’s tricky. The range of children’s life experiences to date alone makes it difficult to come up with a ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be used for different age groups. Then there’s the range of emotions – there are simply hundreds of words to describe how we feel, all with different nuances – simply because there are so many different ways to feel.
One of the most prominent school programmes for teaching about emotions is RULER, developed in 2005 by Marc Brackett, David Caruso and Robin Stern of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. It’s used in hundreds of schools, predominantly in the US, across all age groups up to about 13. K-8. The name, RULER, is an acronym for its five goals:
Recognising emotions in oneself and others
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
Labelling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary
Expressing emotions in accordance with cultural norms and social context
Regulating emotions with helpful strategies
Schools in which they have adopted this programme have reported better academic performance among pupils, better relationships, and a reduction in aggression and bullying. Imagine what could happen if we translate these results to the workplace!
In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll explore how important feelings can be in the workplace, and the impact they can have when things go right – and when they go wrong.