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Resilience Skills : How regulating our emotions can transform our relationships


The responses received to the question, “How are you?” can vary from “I’m fine” and “Not so bad” to “Busy as ever” and “To be honest I wish I hadn’t got out of bed this morning”. It’s pretty rare for you to hear responses such as, “I’m grateful” or “I’m lonely”. If you should receive such a reply, you might like to take notice as you may just have met a resilient person.

Two of the characteristics of highly resilient people are that they are not only aware of their feelings but, if required, they are able to control those feelings. Thankfully for those of us who don’t already display these characteristics, with practice we can learn them.

You might like to start by thinking about the following:

Part of being self-aware is being able to name your feelings
Without being able to identify how you feel and understand why you feel that way, you will find it very difficult to communicate your feelings and needs to others. This will have an impact not only for you in deciding the best course of action but also to the success of your communication both at work and at home. Try therefore to develop a vocabulary for your emotions. The vocabulary wheel included in this article may help you express how you feel.

It is important to put a label on how you are feeling rather than pigeon-holing people or situations
An awareness of how we are feeling and then expressing that feeling is a lot more helpful and ultimately productive than lashing out at other people or the situation you find yourself in. For example, Tom had a tiff with his partner before leaving the house and then got caught in a traffic jam which made him late for his weekly management meeting. The meeting didn’t go well and resulted in Tom being given a tight deadline in which to finish a report. He returned to his team to discover they hadn’t finished the analysis gathering he required to put the next part of this report together because the internet connection within the organisation had been down for a large part of the morning. To explode and shout about “how outrageous” the situation is would leave everyone, including Tom, feeling very differently than if he calmly expressed “I feel frustrated and disappointed about this morning”. This emotional awareness will help Tom communicate more effectively with his team and, in turn, allow him to listen to his team members’ emotional cues better.

There is a difference between your thoughts and your feelings
Sometimes people confuse their thoughts and feelings. You might hear someone say “I feel unappreciated at work”. This is not an emotion it is a thought and it may be that they voice it because they are actually out of touch with their feelings which could be “I feel panicky” or “I feel annoyed”. Remembering that thoughts are not facts, and learning to stand back from our thoughts allows us to be less inclined to believe they are the reality. This coupled with being able to see that emotions give rise to thoughts and thoughts give rise to emotions helps us to realise that we can change our thoughts and thus our emotions.

You need to take responsibility for your feelings
Although it may not initially seem like it, others cannot make you feel a certain way – you are the only one who can affect your feelings. For example, instead of saying to a colleague, “You are making me nervous” before you start a presentation, you should be saying, “I feel nervous”. The revelation for a lot of people here is that they have control over their emotions and can therefore learn how to overcome their belief system about a person or situation they are facing. So instead of commenting that their boss “made me feel awful about …” they realise that the anguish they are feeling is actually in their hands and within their control to change.

Learn to recognise how your feelings affect your performance
If we return to Tom’s morning as described above, we can see how feelings can affect performance. By acknowledging and calmly expressing his feelings of frustration and disappointment, Tom was in a better position to manage his state of mind and realise that he needed to alter it to a more positive one in order to increase his effectiveness and performance. So by returning to his office, doing a few stretches, taking a 20 minute break for a walk in the fresh air during which he visualised making up with his partner that evening and accepted there was nothing he could do about either the traffic or the internet connection, Tom returned to the office to consider how he could manage both his and his teams’ workload to ensure the report deadline was met. He was in a happier state of mind with obvious benefits for himself, his team and his organisation.


This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.

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