Recently I had the opportunity to attend one of our Youth Development workshops entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matters.” This particular workshop was facilitated by Dr. Marc Brackett, Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and one of the developers of the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning. This is a whole-school/district-wide approach to teaching social and emotional learning that is based on principles of child and adult development and emotional intelligence theory. Through ongoing research with more than 50,000 teachers and school leaders and 500,000 students and families, schools that utilize the RULER approach have demonstrated more positive climates (including improvements in empathy, leadership, social competence, respect, and prosocial behavior) and an 11% increase in academic performance.
Before I go further, let me just say that I do NOT need to be convinced that social and emotional intelligence are important to academic and life success. Both as a trained counselor and even within my own circle of family and friends, I have seen ample evidence of the OPPOSITE situation – when someone who is very talented in terms of grades and test scores has had career and home struggles due to a lack of self-awareness and/or social skills. As someone who has worked professionally in fields such as violence and substance abuse prevention, I have also attended many workshops and conferences where researchers cite their findings that efforts to teach interpersonal/intrapersonal skills result in better adjustment for individuals and more productive schools and workplaces.
So with all of these past experiences, I was not expecting to hear anything at the workshop that was wildly new or unique. I was wrong. Late in the morning as Dr. Brackett was describing what he calls the “6 steps of the meta-moment,” I was struck by a thunderbolt. He was describing a method for responding when an event brings about an emotional trigger in us. In the space between what we FEEL and what we DO is a moment where we can pause and make choices. What Dr. Brackett says we should do at that point is to “imagine your best self” before you act. It sounds so simple, not at all life-changing, and yet it is. For example, visualize the following. I am facilitating a workshop in which a participant stops me every 5 minutes to ask (what seem to be ridiculous) questions. Ordinarily I might say to myself, “she doesn’t like what I am saying and is trying to trip me up.” I start to feel annoyed or being even threatened and stop “noticing” her hand in the air. Stop. Now replay the same situation with me imagining myself as the best workshop facilitator. This time I say to myself, “Wow, she is really paying attention and trying to understand what I’m saying.” Now I feel validated, and I even take time at the end of the workshop to speak further with the woman.
Or what if I was to wear my best parent hat. When my daughter starts to complain about how much she dislikes her internship supervisor (an internship I helped her secure), I respond by saying, “this is not turning out as you expected, is it?” and then waiting for her to say more. Without this hat, my immediate response was more likely to be “you should just be glad you have an internship!” I think you can see which is these is more likely to promote a positive relationship.
If you would like to read more about the RULER, please visit the website at http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/. The website has testimonials from real people about the impact of RULER concepts in their lives,
scholarly articles on the scientific evidence that this approach works, and a brochure which you can download.
As for me, next time I go to a workshop I am going to strive to be the best workshop participant I can be. There always is something new to learn or a fresh way to approach an old topic!