Start with Self-Awareness
We've set a benchmark around what emotions actually are and learned that emotions are physiological sensations that we experience in our body when something's going on in our world. We’ve realised that what we do then with that sensation, what we make it mean and the thoughts we allow our internal dialogue to ruminate on, will determine a feeling we choose to feel. From there, it can escalate in intensity, turn around corners, go everywhere, and can spiral down if we're not able to regulate what's going on.
This week, I'm going to help you to understand what's going on by helping you to realise that it all starts with self-awareness.
Do you experience sensations in your body that you're not quite sure of what they are?
Do you have feelings that creep up on you and take you by surprise?
Well, stick with me because this week, I'm going to help you to understand what's going on.
Hi, this is Grant Herbert, VUCA Leadership and Sustainable Performance Coach, and today I want to continue our conversation around Emotional Intelligence by helping you to realise that it all starts with self-awareness.
Over the last couple of weeks, we've been looking at this wonderful intelligence called Emotional Intelligence. We've set a benchmark around what emotions actually are and learned that emotions are physiological sensations that we experience in our body when something's going on in our world. We’ve realised that what we do then with that sensation, what we make it mean and the thoughts we allow our internal dialogue to ruminate on, will determine a feeling we choose to feel. From there, it can escalate in intensity, turn around corners, go everywhere, and can spiral down if we're not able to regulate what's going on.
You and I looked at the fact that Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of the emotion that you are experiencing, in the moment, and then use that information to manage your response to it. It's not about managing the emotion, ignoring, suppressing, or trying to change it. It's about being able to control what goes on in your brain so that you can then come out with resourceful behaviour.
This week, we want to start looking at the competencies.
Last week we learned that there is a quadrant of self-awareness, and then there's a quadrant of self-management.
Let's start going through the first quadrant of self-awareness, where it all starts.
It starts with going from that unconscious incompetence, where you don't know what you don't know, to having direction because of clarity in what it is that you're actually experiencing, and what it's trying to tell you, so that you can move forward with that information.
Self-Awareness has three elements: emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and personal power.
Let's start with Emotional Self-Awareness.
Emotional Self-Awareness is the ability to know right here and now, what's going on.
You ask yourself:
“What is this sensation that my body is using to get my attention?”
“What does it mean?” And,
“What is it that it's telling me?”
When you have that level of awareness, it enables you to do the other part, and that is to navigate the emotion.
So, emotional self-awareness is firstly about being present to be able to notice that you’ve actually experienced the emotion and being able to realise that this is something that you can look for an understanding in your day-to-day. It is being able to stop and ask the question:"What is this emotion?” And being able to do that using the logical processes of your brain. When you ask “what” questions, you are lighting up the neural pathways that will help you to determine what emotion you are actually experiencing.
It's not about knowing: “Why am I feeling this way?”
If you start the question with a "why", it will take you down into another conversation that will ignite that internal dialogue of uncertainty — all those fears and all the different things that you could make them mean that are going to send you off the rails.
So, being able to notice the emotion you’re experiencing right now, then being able to give it a name. You cannot navigate an emotion if you don't know which one it is.
What we're going to do as we move forward is work out strategies to be able to navigate each emotion in a healthy way.
You need to know which emotion it is so that you can apply the correct strategy.
One of the challenges you can encounter when navigating an emotion is when you use a strategy that does not fit. When you use the wrong strategy, you will end up with a less than favourable result for you and, a lot of times, for the people you are with.
So, being able to express the emotion as a feeling in a way that is empowering.
We talked a couple of weeks ago about the fact that an emotion can start, or the experience of our navigation of an emotion can start, with something less intense but very quickly get to something that's a lot more unmanageable.
We used “anger” as an example because it’s an emotion that people talk about all the time.
When you get to the point of being angry, the way that your body is (the physical sensations that are going on and the way that it's responding to being angry) is different to where it started. I talked to you about the fact that you could start off being misunderstood, which could then (if it continued) lead to being disappointed, frustrated, and eventually getting to feeling angry.
By being able to be more aware in the moment when you start at the less intensity of being misunderstood, you will then be able to employ a strategy to bring things back on track.
Emotional Self-Awareness needs two things:
It needs to be something that you feel is of value to you. It's something that you need to work on and bring into your day-to-day.
You need to be able to have space to stop and ask yourself the question.
Emotional Self-Awareness needs a large emotional vocabulary.
There are over 2000 words in the English language alone to express how you might be feeling in the moment. Most people just use a handful.
We're either happy or we're sad.
We’re calm, or we're angry.
The problem is there are so many more that you could be experiencing in that moment. So, being able to build up your emotional vocabulary is really important for you to pinpoint which emotion you are actually experiencing in the moment.
Another key factor is to make sure that it is “languaged" in a way that takes it away from your identity.
Remember, your emotion is not who you are; it’s something that you're experiencing. It's a physiological clue in your body that goes through a psychological process to become a feeling. Therefore, when you find yourself saying, “I am angry” or “I am sad”, be aware that you're doing that and pull that back to go: “No, I'm not angry. I am feeling angry, or I feel angry.”
Therefore, you need to:
Have a great emotional vocabulary.
Be able to give yourself space to stop in the moment and ask yourself the question: “What is the emotion I am feeling right now?” Then, language it in a way that is external to you and more fleeting rather than a part of who you are.
To do that, we can use two simple sentences:
1. “I FEEL [insert whatever the feeling is]."
2. “I AM FEELING [insert whatever emotion you are feeling in that moment]."
Emotional Self-Awareness is a critical component of being able to navigate your emotions in a healthy way.
It's where it must start.
We live in a world where we have delayed gratification challenges, and we want to have everything right now. It doesn't work with Emotional Intelligence. When we employ a strategy like that, we need to start at the basics.
What I encourage you to do as you go through the rest of your day and move forward, is when you sense that you might be feeling a particular way, I want you to challenge that. I want you to ask yourself: “Is that really what I'm feeling?” And give it a different name, being able to realise that it may not be that go-to feeling that you normally use.
Well, that's it from me for another week. Join me again next week as I unpack the next competency in Emotional Intelligence in that quadrant of Self-Awareness, and that is Accurate Self-Assessment.
I'll see you then.