Developing Emotional Skills

I frequently have people tell me that I have a talent for communication and emotional connection. I appreciate hearing this, however I don’t think people realize that these aren’t talents, they’re skills, and I’ve developed them.

Talent or a natural inclination to connect with others can certainly give you a good head start. Having a stable upbringing or parents that were good communicators can also provide a solid base. However neither of these things on their own make you good with your own feelings or the feelings of others simply on their own. Plenty of innately connective people are terrible communicators and plenty of people who were shy recluses become awesome counsellors.

I have the benefit that about 12 years ago I began training to be a coach. It was through this experience that I began to learn actual skills for understanding, processing, and working with my own emotions and the emotions of others. I learned and practiced a discipline for listening and I learned what types of questions moved me toward insight and which toward judgment.

I practiced shutting up when I wanted to talk and I learned how to relax my own feelings and not react instinctively but instead respond thoughtfully when I was triggered.

I learned to understand and be gentle with my own anger and sadness and how to be compassionate with the feelings of others without being brought off centre or violating my own boundaries.

I didn’t know how to do these things before and I still practice them everyday.

Frequently I hear people say “I’m just too emotional.” or “So and so is a good listener” or “They’re just not good at being supportive” or “They’re just not an emotional type of person”. I hear these opinions expressed as if they are fixed traits and fixed states. They’re seen as “who” someone is rather than “what” skills and knowledge they have developed. Emotion and our behaviour around it are seen as living in a different realm than the ability to cook or use a computer or drive a car. Yes my feelings are still very intuitive but my ability to work with them is not. Learning to drive didn’t allow me to alter physics, but it certainly taught me how to work with it.

Don’t lock your learning down by deciding that your state as a communicator or as an emoter is fixed. There are tons of great books, mentors, and resources available to help you build these skills. Know that like any other skill that you only get good through practice and failure. Start talking and start changing.