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Building Simple Self-Awareness

As we’ve worked with educators and parents over the past decade, our most common discussion is about their hopes and dreams for their kids' futures. I’m always curious to hear them articulate what they hope their kids are like when they grow up—which is a much different conversation than what they hope they do for work. 

If I could sum up everything I’ve heard from thousands of conversations (and I’m not exaggerating to make my point sound bolder!), overall, parents and educators hope that their kids become emotionally intelligent adults. They might point specifically at phrases like “being good humans,” “generous,” and “kind-hearted” and describe them as able to make a difference in the world and have a great family. Still, it all comes down to the same core element: emotional intelligence. That’s what we all want for our kids. Ironically, a subject not taught deliberately or explicitly in school. 

The question then becomes: If Emotional Intelligence is our desired goal, what can we do to ensure it’s the natural result?

Borrowed from one of my longtime closest friends, Charlie Ruce, a trauma-informed therapist, corporate consultant, and executive coach, building emotional intelligence starts with a really simple two-step process:

  1. Talk about the externals: describe the events of the day like where you went, who you interacted with, and what you talked about. 
  2. Talk about the internals: describe what was going on for you underneath the surface, both from an emotional perspective (“I was feeling really anxious about that meeting because I knew it would make or break our money for the next few months”), as well as physical (“I was feeling nauseous and a little dizzy right before the meeting, and then I noticed during the meeting that I was only taking super shallow breaths”). 

That’s it. Super simple and repeatable by anyone. 

When kids hear you over and over and over talk about the externals of your day as you reflect, and listen as you describe what was going on for you internally, both emotionally and physically, you’ll be implicitly teaching them the importance of reflection, awareness, honesty, and likely self-regulation, too. You will be modeling the fundamental building block for all emotional intelligence and making it normal for them to develop self-awareness over time. 

Taking it Further: We’ve had Charlie Ruce on the show as a guest not once but twice…

P.S. What if there was a way to get the best resources to impact the kids in your life—delivered to you at the right time?
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For years we’ve been studying what a young person needs in order to transition into a healthy, thriving adulthood.  

They're uncommon sense ideas, really.

Download this checklist and use it with your students (or kids).

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