WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Emotional Agility by Susan David

Dr Susan David is an emotions researcher and executive coach. This book is essential reading for anyone working with clients in conflict, and anyone who experiences emotions (yes, that’s all of us)!

‘Agility’ is about breaking free from our emotional habits so that we can make more conscious choices about how to respond when our emotions are triggered. It’s about being aware of our emotions and our meta-emotions and how we express them (or not). It’s also about behaving in a consistent way with our intentions and our values, not letting our emotions take over and behaving in a way we later regret.

Dr David suggests four main steps: (1) Showing up: facing into your thoughts, emotions and behaviours willingly, with curiosity and kindness; (2) Stepping out: detaching from and observing our thoughts and emotions to see them for what they are – just thoughts, just emotions; (3) Walking your why: choosing your reaction based on your values; and (4) Moving on: making small, deliberate tweaks to our emotional routines and habits (our “hooks”) to keep improving.

The book includes a chapter specifically about emotional agility at work, and another on raising emotionally agile children.

Goleman’s book starts with an overview of how our brain experiences emotion, and introduces the concept of an emotional hijack – when our emotions lead us to behave in ways that we later regret. The next part of the book explains the concept of emotional intelligence – how we can become more self-aware. Part three explores applications of emotional intelligence – putting it into action. Part four examines emotions in family contexts, following trauma and the link between emotions and personality. Finally, the book considers emotional literacy – the risks of not developing it, and advice about how we can educate ourselves in it.

Also look out for Daniel Goleman’s follow up book Leadership: The power of emotional intelligence, applying the concepts to those in leadership positions.

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