Hey, how are you feeling right now?
Do you know? How specific can you get? Is it something that you can’t quite put a finger on?
Or only some general label of feeling? Or something super specific down to the exact identifying emotion?
In coaching we like to generate awareness first of what is going on inside before racing towards a solution.
That awareness includes knowing as specific the emotions we are feeling as possible. The path then to the root cause is much clearer when we know.
But why wouldn’t someone be able to come up with what they are feeling inside?
There could be many reasons.
In my own situation, it boiled down to culture and being the child of immigrants in the United States.
First, the Chinese culture tends to moderate or suppress emotions. I did not hear emotion language being used in my household ever. Subsequent conversations much later in life revealed that even the language does not readily make available emotion language. So emotion words simply aren’t learned or used very much at all.
Next, coming to the U.S., my parents learned a new language. Expression is already difficult when you are just coming up with basic words and sentences in a new language; situations demanding the translation of emotional feeling are all the more difficult. So us kids modeled our language after what we heard in our household and we didn’t get any constant training in the use of emotional words.
When I became a coach, working with emotions came to the forefront. I found that I literally could not make the neural connection between words that were in my brain and what I was sensing in a client or in myself.
It was frustrating as heck!
It took me two years of receiving coaching myself to figure out what was preventing me from identifying emotions and then to put into practice the ability to sense it in others and derive effective coaching from this ability.
What a time of massive growth for me!
For my clients, sometimes it is cultural. Sometimes it is something else.
Fear of not being heard. Not being validated. Loss of love.
Being punished if you do.
One tool I have found to be extremely helpful in uncovering emotions is the Feeling Wheel. Developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox of The Gottman Institute, it is an amazingly simple and useful graphic.
You start from the middle with the high level emotion. Then you move outwards towards more specificity.
Play with it now. What are you feeling at this moment? If you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is, try the Feeling Wheel. Start from the middle and move outwards. Where did you end up?
BONUS: Do this every morning. Take a moment to identify and write down up to 4 emotions you are feeling. How does it feel to exercise your emotion identifying muscles?
Download the Feeling Wheel here from the Gottman Institute.
Here is an emotion wheel from Calm.com which expands on the emotions in the outer ring.
And one more designed to help navigate Non-Violent Communication.