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The Gift & Power of Emotional Courage

In this TED Talk, Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility. We highly encourage everybody to watch it.

The Reasons We Feel Thrilled with this TED Talk

This TED Talk is indeed powerful. And with the risk of turning Susan David into a walking infomercial for our Conversational EQ game, here are some important points worth highlighting.

The World Health Organization tells us that depression is now the single leading cause of disability globally — outstripping cancer, outstripping heart disease. And at a time of greater complexity, unprecedented technological, political and economic change, we are seeing how people’s tendency is more and more to lock down into rigid responses to their emotions.
— 04:26

This was surprising at first, but after consideration, it makes sense. In our experience training others in emotional intelligence, one of the common blocks is this "rigid response" to emotions people have learned. This is addressed by using game dynamics which opens the experience to be fun and engaging.

In a survey I recently conducted with over 70,000 people, I found that a third of us — a third — either judge ourselves for having so-called “bad emotions,” like sadness, anger or even grief. Or actively try to push aside these feelings. We do this not only to ourselves, but also to people we love, like our children — we may inadvertently shame them out of emotions seen as negative, jump to a solution, and fail to help them to see these emotions as inherently valuable. Normal, natural emotions are now seen as good or bad. And being positive has become a new form of moral correctness. People with cancer are automatically told to just stay positive. Women, to stop being so angry. And the list goes on. It’s a tyranny. It’s a tyranny of positivity. And it’s cruel. Unkind. And ineffective. And we do it to ourselves, and we do it to others.
— 05:52

Here, Susan David is referring to what we call the Corrective Complex, which the common knee jerk reaction to fix, heal, teach, convert and direct. When we are in Corrective Complex, everybody loses joy and can become vulnerable to shame.  David goes so far as to refer to it as a "tyranny of positivity."

Research on emotional suppression shows that when emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger. Psychologists call this amplification. Like that delicious chocolate cake in the refrigerator — the more you try to ignore it the greater its hold on you. You might think you’re in control of unwanted emotions when you ignore them, but in fact they control you. Internal pain always comes out. Always. And who pays the price? We do. Our children, our colleagues, our communities.
— 07:57

In Conversational EQ, we teach individuals the skills to process their emotions using emotional intelligence. This leads to emotional regulation.

Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions — even the messy, difficult ones — is the cornerstone to resilience, thriving, and true, authentic happiness. But emotional agility is more that just an acceptance of emotions. We also know that accuracy matters. In my own research, I found that words are essential. We often use quick and easy labels to describe our feelings. “I’m stressed” is the most common one I hear. But there’s a world of difference between stress and disappointment or stress and that knowing dread of “I’m in the wrong career.” When we label our emotions accurately, we are more able to discern the precise cause of our feelings. And what scientists call the readiness potential in our brain is activated, allowing us to take concrete steps. But not just any steps — the right steps for us. Because our emotions are data.
— 10:57

Playing Conversational EQ expands our emotional vocabularies and increases self-awareness which improves the accuracy of which this refers to. Conversational EQ trains our brains to be aware of and process emotional data appropriately.

In my research, when I looked at what helps people to bring the best of themselves to work, I found a powerful key contributor: individualized consideration. When people are allowed to feel their emotional truth, engagement, creativity and innovation flourish in the organization. Diversity isn’t just people, it’s also what’s inside people. Including diversity of emotion. The most agile, resilient individuals, teams, organizations, families, communities are built on an openness to the normal human emotions.
— 13:56

Yes, yes, yes! Using emotional intelligence skills, we can make a difference in teams, organizations, families and communities by becoming more agile, resilience and open. For those that re building teams or looking for strategies to support mental health, the gift and power of emotional courage is beyond transformational.