Walking the Talk: How Emotional Literacy Can Improve Your Life

Uncategorized Mar 02, 2022

In my role as a wellness/life coach, professional speaker and digital wellness entrepreneur, I tend to focus my workshops around DOING.

However, earlier this month, I was honored to kick-off a legal conference with a unique “walk and talk” where we focused on BEING and FEELING.

How Do You Want to Feel? 

Everyone talks about what they want to achieve when they set goals. However, in this recent “walk and talk” workshop, I turned the tables and asked participants to think about how they want to FEEL in 2022.

I asked: Do you want to feel energized? Confident? Calm? Proud? Content? Supported? A sense of belonging? Connected? Compassion? Kindness? Gratitude? In this vein, I asked the participants to pick a core emotion/feeling that they want to feel or experience this year. 

Emotional Literacy Exercise 

Are you ready to focus on FEELINGS this year?

Choose your desired feeling for 2022. On your own or with colleagues, friends or family, talk about what you’d need to do differently to ensure that you feel and be the emotion you identified.

For instance, if you want to be calm at work, what do you need to do physically?

  • Do you need to change your office?
  • Remove clutter?
  • Say no to high-maintenance clients?
  • Hire a new assistant?
  • Delegate?
  • Leave or join a partnership?
Deciding how you want to feel about your life and your work practice can really help you make decisions about what’s important. 

Bringing the Exercise to Life 

After the 20-minute walk & talks, we met up as a large group for 20-minute discussion and sharing. Interestingly, I found that many participants, especially men, did not have the language to have a conversation about emotions.

As you probably know, men have traditionally been taught to hide their emotions and that certain emotions such as vulnerability, sadness, loneliness, etc. aren’t “manly” or “macho.” Beyond this result with some of the participants, other interesting outcomes occurred, including:

  • Some participants eclipsed the walk & talk agenda by discussing more tangible topics like the pandemic and politics.
  • Other participants were so overcome by overwhelm, imposter syndrome, or perfectionism, that they armored up and numbed themselves so they couldn’t feel any emotions, never mind articulate them.
And you know how it goes ….When we numb emotions, we numb everything: joy, happiness, love, gratitude, etc. and this numbing of emotions can also manifest into physical problems such as: headaches, anxiety, depression, hypertension, stomach issues…
  • Among the participants who articulated their feelings, the focus tended to be on the more negative feelings like apprehension, stress and fear. I wondered why this was and deduced that perhaps the pandemic has led people to connect to emotions such as grief, anxiety and worry - and less on say kindness, compassion and happiness.
Give yourself permission to bring your desired feeling to life! 

Using tools from my own toolkit as well as from the incredible Brené Brown, I was able to help participants discuss their emotions beyond the common three: Happy, Sad, Angry.

What Is Emotional Literacy? 

Emotional literacy starts with encouraging participants to lean into discomfort: Having difficult conversations, untangling messy topics, being emotionally connected, and having a language to name our feelings.

I was able to steer participants toward more positive emotions found inside what Brené Brown refers to as “places we go” in her book Atlas of the Heart:

  • When it's beyond us (curiosity, wonder, interest, surprise)
  • With others (compassion, empathy, boundaries)
  • When we search for connection (belonging)
  • When the heart is open (trust, love)
  • When life is good (joy, happiness, calm, gratitude)
  • To self-assess (pride, humility)

You see, we need to focus on how we’re feeling in the present moment, how we'd like to feel or be, and what we need to do in order to get to the feeling we want to achieve. There are several ways to do this but understanding & acknowledging our feelings and emotions is a big step forward.

The biggest step in all of this? Vulnerability. 

“Vulnerability if not about winning or losing. It’s about having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” -- Brené Brown 

Almost no one likes to be vulnerable. It’s hard. It’s scary. It feels risky to let ourselves be seen. To be heard. To be imperfect. To feel shame, fear, anxiety, uncertainty.

Connecting with yourself will help you better connect with others authentically and with humility. Brown’s Atlas of the Heart is a metaphor that means: with the right maps (emotional literacy), one can travel anywhere and never feel that we are losing ourselves, even when we don’t know where we are.

Here are some takeaways from Brené Brown’s roadmap of 87 emotions & experiences:

  • When we lack an understanding of how emotions shape our thoughts and decisions, we become disembodied from our own experiences and disconnected from each other.
  • Naming our experience(s) gives us the power of understanding and meaning.
  • With emotional literacy, we can communicate our needs more effectively and get the support we need from each other.
  • “Vulnerability is the path back to each-other but we’re so afraid to get on it.” Instead, we end up not venturing outside our comfort zone, blaming and hurting each other.
  • “True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to BE who you are.”

Implement This Technique in Your Own Life 

  • On Your Own: If you’re trying this on your own or with your walking buddies, talk about what you want to be, how you want to feel and what you need to do differently - at work and in your personal life - to live an integrated and abundant life.
  • Guiding Your Group: I can also help your organization or meeting/conference implement emotional literacy. A large audience can be divided up in dyads or triads. This can be done at virtual conferences by joining Zoom breakout rooms by mobile phone or in-person, dividing the audience up in groups of two or three.

Reach out to me HERE to discuss!

  • Personal Coaching: Get on my COACHING WAIT LIST so you can learn how to explore new options, directions and creative space for yourself. The coaching program includes access to BYTE-SIZE WELLNESS ACADEMY (now available for personal use).

Be well. Be vulnerable.

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