Aug 19

“Permission to Feel”: Marc Brackett’s RULER Approach

New to paperback is last year’s Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive by Marc Brackett, PhD, founder and director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

On his website, Brackett notes that emotions influence the following:

  • Attention, memory, and learning
  • Decision making
  • Creativity
  • Mental and physical wellbeing
  • Ability to form and maintain positive relationships
  • Academic and workplace performance

The architect of the RULER approach to social and emotional learning in schools across the country,  Brackett believes emotional intelligence is as important as academic intelligence. And, “Think about it: how many of us had a comprehensive emotion education?” asks Bracket (Maria Shriver website).

RULER stands for the five skills of emotional intelligence: Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotions. And it’s not just for kids; it’s for all of us.

Tara Well, PhD explains RULER in a Psychology Today post. Excerpts are featured below:

  • Recognizing emotions in oneself and others. This is not just in the things we think, feel, and say, but our facial expressions, body language, vocal tones, and other nonverbal signals…
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotionhelps us make better predictions about our own thoughts and more informed choices about our behaviors.
  • Labeling emotions with precise wordsPeople with a more developed feelings vocabulary can differentiate among related emotions such as pleased, happy, elated, and ecstatic. Labeling emotions accurately increases self-awareness, helps us to communicate emotion more effectively, and reduce misunderstandings in social interactions.
  • Expressing emotions, taking context and culture into consideration. By expressing our feelings in accordance with cultural norms and social contexts, we can inform and invite empathy from listeners…
  • Regulating emotions effectively to achieve goals and well-being…(I)nvolves monitoring, tempering, and modifying emotional reactions in helpful ways, in order to reach personal and professional goals…

Selected Quotes from Permission to Feel:

My message for everyone is the same: that if we can learn to identify, express, and harness our feelings, even the most challenging ones, we can use those emotions to help us create positive, satisfying lives.

Most of us are unaware of how important vocabulary is to emotion skills. As we’ve seen, using many different words implies valuable distinctions—that we’re not always simply angry but are sometimes annoyed, irritated, frustrated, disgusted, aggravated, and so on. If we can’t discern the difference, it suggests that we can’t understand it either. It’s the difference between a rich emotional life and an impoverished one. Your child will inherit the one you provide.

In one study, sixth graders who went five days without glancing at a smartphone or other digital screen were better at reading emotions than their peers from the same school who continued to spend hours each day looking at their phones, tablets, computers, and so on.

Emotionally intelligent individuals had an intuitive understanding of one of the central conclusions of happiness research: Well-being depends less on objective events than on how those events are perceived, dealt with, and shared with others.

…(T)he necessary skills: The first step is to recognize what we’re feeling. The second step is to understand what we’ve discovered—what we’re feeling and why. The next step is to properly label our emotions, meaning not just to call ourselves “happy” or “sad” but to dig deeper and identify the nuances and intricacies of what we feel. The fourth step is to express our feelings, to ourselves first and then, when right, to others. The final step is to regulate—as we’ve said, not to suppress or ignore our emotions but to use them wisely to achieve desired goals.

May 20

“Personal Intelligence,” A Theory by John D. Mayer

As defined here, personal intelligence is an intelligence that involves reasoning about personality and personality-related information.  Each of us has a personality, and personal intelligence allows us to reason both about ourselves and about other people. For example, whenever we notice another person’s pattern of behavior—that she is good at problem solving, or late, or kind—we are using our personal intelligence to describe the individual and, often, to anticipate her future behavior. John D. Mayer, Personal Intelligence: The Power of Personality and How It Shapes Our Lives

Psychology professor John D. Mayer, co-developer of the theory of emotional intelligence, now has written a book about personal intelligence (PI), a term he’s coined himself.

Publishers Weekly: “…(W)hat is innovative here is his focus on personality as a social skill, an interaction between self and environment that manifests not just through interpersonal relationships but across our collective society, including our legal system.”

An excerpt from the publisher’s description of the book:

…Mayer explains that we are naturally curious about the motivations and inner worlds of the people we interact with every day. Some of us are talented at perceiving what makes our friends, family, and coworkers tick. Some of us are less so. Mayer reveals why, and shows how the most gifted ‘readers’ among us have developed ‘high personal intelligence.’ Mayer’s theory of personal intelligence brings together a diverse set of findings—previously regarded as unrelated—that show how much variety there is in our ability to read other people’s faces; to accurately weigh the choices we are presented with in relationships, work, and family life; and to judge whether our personal life goals conflict or go together well. He persuasively argues that our capacity to problem-solve in these varied areas forms a unitary skill.

Mayer’s website warns that those who won’t be interested in the book are those don’t like to do a lot of reading about either psychological studies or people’s stories and those who prefer a prescribed program of self-help steps. Some consumer reviewers, moreover, find it overly scholarly. And, taking a peek at Mayer’s Psychology Today blog called The Personality Analyst, I have a sense of what they could mean.

Another website warning is that this book offers no PI test for readers to take on their own. There is, however, a demo quiz on the site that’s intended to give an idea of how the actual full test, which can only be administered by professionals, can work.

What kind of specifics, then, can readers hope to learn from reading the book? More about the PI theory from Kirkus Reviews:

Successful judges of personal intelligence enjoy better relationships and more success in life. Poor judges are worried, manipulative, insecure and generally disagreeable. Essential to personal intelligence is the ability to know thyself, a preoccupation of philosophers since the dawn of history. Everyone, the author included, urges us to look inward, but good research reveals that introspection has its limits. It’s accurate for emotions (‘I’m angry’) but less so for abilities (‘I’m smart’). Perhaps too much self-knowledge depends on what others think of us: our reputations. This is no small matter since misinterpreting one’s own traits leads to mistakes in evaluating others’.

Peter Salovey, President, and Chris Argyris, Professor of Psychology at Yale: “With Personal Intelligence, Mayer once again challenges us—arguing that there is a set of skills that may determine what sets successful people apart from those who seem oblivious to the needs and desires of those around them. He is a clear thinker and a beautiful writer, and his arguments compel us to broaden our understanding of what constitutes an intelligent individual.” 

May 02

Active Listening Debunked By At Least Two Leading Researchers

“Many ‘active listening’ seminars are, in actuality, little more than a shallow theatrical exercise in appearing like you’re paying attention to another person. The requirements: Lean forward, make eye contact, nod, grunt, or murmur to demonstrate you’re awake and paying attention, and paraphrase something back every 30 seconds or so. As one executive I know wryly observed, many inhabitants of the local zoo could be trained to go through these motions, minus the paraphrasing.” Robert K. Cooper, co-author of Executive E.Q.

Neuroscientist Robert K. Cooper, quoted above, has extensively studied the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Psychologist John Gottman, often cited as one of our foremost marriage researchers, similarly pooh-poohs active listening. Like many therapists, he once thought it worked—he regularly recommended it to his clients. But eventually he found that it didn’t really help them.

“It’s my job to talk and yours to listen, but please, let me know if you finish before I do.” Anonymous

In an interview with Randall C. Wyatt on psychotherapy.net, Gottman explains that the concept works better in therapeutic dialogue than in real-life dialogue. The difference? In therapy, he states…

…the client is paying, the therapist isn’t paying. Usually the client is complaining about somebody else, so it’s very easy for the therapist to say: ‘Oh, that’s terrible what you have to put up with, your mother is awful, or your husband, or whatever it is. I really understand how you feel.’

But in marriages, it’s different because now you’re the target, and your partner is saying: ‘You’re terrible,’ and you’re supposed to be able to empathize and be understanding. We found in our research that hardly anybody does that, even in great marriages. When somebody attacks you, you attack back….

He adds that while empathy is important, “Real empathy comes from feeling your partner’s pain in a real way, and then doing something about it.” Just reflecting it back, therefore, isn’t the key—making a needed change in your behavior is what’s going to make the difference.