A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lauren Wills
(Life Coach, AUSTRALIA)
Many of us are out of touch with our emotions. They are not easy to pin down and yet we often react to situations directly from our emotions. In order to respond mindfully to situations rather than react rashly we must be aware and accepting of our emotional states. Our bodies are a conduit to our souls and when a client is unable to accurately identify their emotional state, it is here, as coaches, that we must first start.
An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response. (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2007)
As coaches, we know the importance of Emotional Intelligence for ourselves and for our clients. But how do we work with a client who is unable to access their emotions? While emotions are universal, like anger, how we experience those is subjective. Anger can range from mild annoyance to blind rage. Find it, Feel it, Name it, Own it helps clients to recognize their emotions and enables them to explore ways to respond to situations in a more mindful and conscious way rather than being at their mercy.
Salovey and Mayer (1997) proposed a model of Emotional Intelligence based on four factors ranging from basic to more complex processes:
- Perceiving Emotions: being able to feel and identify emotions
- Reasoning with Emotions: using emotions to promote thinking and cognitive activity
- Understanding Emotions: Our interpretation of what these emotions mean
- Managing Emotions: Regulating emotions, and responding appropriately
Find it, Feel it, Name it, Own it deals with Factors 1 – 3 of Salovey and Mayer’s model of Emotional Intelligence. The first factor of the model requires us to feel and identify our emotions. Most of us feel our emotions somatically. They hold a place on our body. When someone asks us “how are you feeling?” they mean it figuratively, however we do feel our emotions literally as well. You know that feeling when you fire off an email complaining about your boss and you hit reply instead of forward? Your stomach lurches and you begin to sweat, your heart beats a million times a second. This is your sympathetic nervous system kicking in to remind you of your options in this situation; fight or flight.
A team of researchers at Aalto University in Finland mapped the physical location of emotions from 700 volunteers from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan. The study relied on self report data and as you can see from the graphic representation below, each emotion has a location on the body.
Once we have identified the emotion’s physical location and given it a name we are able to reason with and understand the emotional state we are in and then the coach will be able to use traditional coaching practices to move the client onto the final factor of the model – managing emotions.
Managing our emotions is an important step in developing emotional resilience. When we are overwhelmed by our emotions we are not able to act or speak as we would like to and we may do or say something we will regret. Once we can recognize our emotions we are able to separate from them and then improve them through action that is line with our values.
Lynda is a stay-at-home mother of two young children. Her husband has suggested that she get a coach to help her deal with her “anger issues” particularly when dealing with the children. Lynda gets particularly angry towards the end of the day when she is preparing dinner. If the children ask for help during this time she is short tempered with them and if they spill a drink or make a mess she blows up in a rage. This affects Lynda’s view of herself as a mother.
When asked what she is feeling, Lynda responds with “I am angry at the children for making a mess all the time” but after several seconds of silence she adds “but that’s not it, it’s something more than that but I am not sure what it is”. Her coach invites her to use Find it, Feel it, Name it, Own it and Lynda is able to identify that what she is feeling is actually resentment and not anger. She feels resentment towards her husband for not being home from work yet and also because she has given up her career to care for the children. She feels this most acutely at dinner time when she is waiting for her husband to get home and she and the children are tired.
By using the tool Lynda is able to identify the emotion and the root cause of the emotion. She is then able to plan a better way of responding to it in the moment as well as address the cause directly. Lynda decided to put music on in the kitchen and dance while she prepared the dinner, this allowed her to let go of some of the physical tension the resentment brought with it. The children also loved this and dinner time became a family disco! Lynda was also able to discuss her resentment with her husband who committed to coming home earlier two nights a week and together they formulated a plan for Lynda to return to work part time in 12 months time.
As a coach we can sometimes have clients that stir emotions in us for no apparent reason. This can affect our ability to remain non-judgmental and to deeply listen to what our client is saying. If we are too wrapped up in what our emotions are trying to tell us we cannot hear our client’s truth. Sometimes the emotional toll of a coaching session can take us by surprise and we find ourselves in an emotionally strange place after a session. Find it, Feel it, Name it, Own it is a great “palate cleanser” for a coach either before or after a coaching session. It can help to ensure that the coach is an empty vessel at the beginning of the call or, when used after a call, can help the coach to protect themselves from taking on the emotional energy of a client.
Find it, Feel it, Name it, Own it is a practical tool that can be conducted in session with a client’s permission or set as optional homework using the companion audio recording.
Find it – “Where in your body is this emotion?”
Ask the client to take three or four deep breathes and then tell you where they feel the sensation of this emotion in their body. Have them describe it. Is it tightness in the stomach? A pain in the chest? A tingling in their face?
Feel it – “Tell me how it feels”
Have the client continue to breathe deeply. Ask the client to focus on a part of the body that feels good or neutral. This is often their hands, feet or legs. After a few breathes ask the client to focus on the area where the emotion is sitting. Breathe deeply and lean into the feeling. Have the client describe the feeling. After several breathes or if the client begins to get uncomfortable have them focus again on the neutral area of their body for a few breaths. From the safety of the neutral area of the body ask the client to “glance” over at the part of the body experiencing the emotion.
Name it – “Try out some names for this emotion”
While the client is “glancing” at the emotion have them try and name it. Try out a few names until one resonates with the client. “Is this anger? Fear? Frustration?” Test it out “How do you know this is anger?”
Own it – “Tell me about it”
Once the client has named the emotion they can sit with it. Breathe deeply into the area of the body that feels the emotion. Acknowledge the emotion out loud “I am angry”. Lean into the emotion again. “I am angry because_________”. Ask the client to notice what happens to this part of the body as they acknowledge and breathe deeply into it. Does it expand or contract, does the feeling intensify or abate? After a few moments have the client open their eyes and give them space to sit with the emotion and regroup.
Now that the emotion has been accurately identified and acknowledged you are able to continue the session armed with the client’s emotional truth. Some further explorations for the client could be:
- What do you do when you feel like this?
- What do you need when you feel like this?
- Knowing how you feel, how could you respond differently in this situation?
- Where else in your life does this emotion show up?
- Who can support you when you feel like this?