How Are You Feeling - And Why Does it Matter?


How are you feeling? 

So often when I ask a client this question, the response is an automatic “good” or “bad.” Then, when I share a list of over 200 emotions with them, they will say “wow, I had no idea there were SO MANY!”

The core of high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is self-awareness. It’s the degree to which you are in touch with your feelings and emotions, are able to distinguish one emotion from another, and to understand why that emotion has occurred. 

If you don't understand your emotional condition as well as your responses, it's nearly impossible to develop an understanding of others. A lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities. This applies to every aspect of your life — from the living room to the boardroom. 

When we know specifically how we are feeling (elated, frustrated, stressed, sad, joyous, guilty, etc.), we’re able to communicate more openly and honestly where we are at with others, which in turn creates deeper connection. Additionally, greater self-awareness leads us to develop a strategy for better dealing with unpleasant emotions; studies have shown that when you can effectively label these emotions, you’re able to move through them more quickly.

Understanding our emotions in nonjudgmental ways can be quite valuable in terms of helping us to regulate them better, and consequently navigate our environments more smoothly. When we don’t know how we are feeling, we may often find ourselves acting out in peculiar ways — for instance, losing our temper and misdirecting it at some innocent bystander, or becoming distracted and not knowing why. Or, in some cases, repressing our feelings; thus, becoming emotionally short-circuited and completely disconnected from ourselves and others.

Too little emotional self-awareness can lead to an inability to differentiate between our feelings and their logical sources. This may result in feedback that you’re in denial of your own feelings, or that you’re are immature or cold. Too much emotional self-awareness can create the perception that you’re self-consumed, self-centered and self-indulgent.

As is the case for all aspects of EQ, it’s all about balance. The best way to correct for too much or too little emotional self-awareness is to exercise those EQ elements that naturally balance emotional self awareness: Empathy, social responsibility, and reality testing.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple and clear actions to develop and support emotional self-awareness:

  • Become curious about your mood and feelings, and track how you’re feeling throughout the day. Print out Byron Katie’s list, and check off the emotions you recognize at various points during the day.

  • Start noticing your emotional triggers. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who are the people that stress you out and why, and under what conditions do you feel triggered?

  2. What are the words, expressions, and topics that trigger you?

  3. What thoughts are triggering strong emotions – negative or positive?

  • Expand and deepen your emotional vocabulary. Start attaching an emotional adjective to what you are feeling.

Remember — these skills only develop with practice! It will most likely feel weird at the beginning, but don’t give up. The more you practice asking yourself these questions, and step into your feelings, the more natural this will become.

Ready to start? Take this short EQ Quiz and find out where you stand:

Alan CohenComment