What is emotion coaching, you might be wondering? Emotion coaching is a program designed by the Gottman Institute for parents of children. It is designed to increase empathy, connection, and effective parenting.
Emotional Coaching is based on the research done by Dr John Gottman and joined by Julie Gottman, Clinical Psychologist, Co-Founder of the Gottman Institute on emotional intelligence and its effect on children; tracking how they performed in school, related to their peers, how appropriately they behaved socially and how they related to their parents. Emotion coached kids were more successful as adults on measures like peer friendships, gainful employment and academic performance.
“Successful parenting begins in your heart and then continues on a moment-to-moment basis by engaging your children when feelings run high when they are sad, angry or scared. The heart of parenting is being there in a particular way when it really counts.” John Gottman, PhD
The biggest reason that we need emotion coaching, is that we all need it. I believe we all have our own inner toddler who tantrums and wants their own way, is scared and wants to hide and who definitely needs “a hug”, to be embraced, “coached”, encouraged and loved.
We have described this as increasing EQ (emotional intelligence) as adults, or conflict coaching with adults. It is very much the same. Here’s why:
The hardest thing we have to do is to become “masters rather than disasters”(John Gottman, PhD) of relationships; including the relationship we have within our own self. To increase awareness of our heart rate, nervous system and reactivity is one of the best things we can do. Along with the full STOP, breath, and return to a calm state where our executive functioning can articulate a wise and empathic response.
Why is this so hard?
Those who have had backgrounds needing survival have the hardest time. Many women I work with identify with the “don’t mess with me, I have my machete” mentality. Meaning, they have learned to survive disaster by aligning with the part that is ready to fight and defend. While this is understandable, it presents many challenges in the world of relationship whether that is with their partner, child or co-worker.
The avoider, or one who struggles with “I am out of here” or flight, contends with life-long avoidant patterns which makes intimacy, safety, and commitment a real struggle.
The third pattern of “freeze” makes it truly a challenge to overcome Mt. Everest because they simply do not take the courage, the next step and are thwarted with fear.
These patterns have been described as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” Revelations 6:2-8 symbolizing pestilence, war, famine and death, respectively.
John Gottman, PhD. describes these Four Horsemen in relationships as:
Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt and outlines their antidotes here:
Terry Real, Psychotherapist, Founder of the Relational Life Institute in Boston describes this as losing strategies of the adaptive child. The adaptive child is the part that adapted to an overwhelming or dysfunctional environment.
The goal here is to increase self-compassion, calm state, and to engage in the functional adult.
This is clearly a daily practice, as it is so easy to become triggered in any of these states. The responsibility and ability to slow down the emotional train, pause, breathe and make choices occurs every day- in traffic, in disagreements, the myriad of conflicting episodes we encounter.
The 5 steps in emotion coaching whether for our own inner child or in parenting are:
- Be aware of emotions. Tune in to your child’s feelings and your own.
- Connect with your child. Use emotional moments as opportunities to connect.
- Listen to your child. Respect your child’s feelings by taking the time to listen carefully.
- Name emotions. …
- Find good solutions.
Let’s practice being masters rather than disasters of conflict and relationships.
Emotion Coaching is a program we are offering through Sharla Macy, LMFT & Associates for parents of elementary ages and tweeners by
Sharla Macy, LMFT
Ivan Junge, Registered Professional Counselor
Register here to come to a complimentary introduction to learn more. http://sharlamacy.com/emotioncoaching
We also offer the Seven Principles For Making Relationships Making Marriage Work for couples and organizations.
Sharla Macy, LMFT & Associates specializes in building connection, engagement and harmony in relationships for individuals, couples, families and organizations. Sharla is a Gottman Referred Therapist.
John and Julie Gottman, The Art of Emotion Coaching, Global HR 2014 https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/ivan/FMfcgxwDrHrgLCMlwrhcLxflqXjjJmXx?projector=1G
Terry Real. https://www.terryreal.com
Daniel Goleman, PhD Emotional Intelligence (10th Anniversary Edition) 1st edition
Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Dan Harris, https://happify.com/