Emotions are like an elevator. Logic and problem solving, our natural support strategies, are all on the ground floor. Unfortunately, when someone is feeling big emotions, they are often much higher up than the ground level! When we try to problem-solve without addressing feelings first, it can make the person ride their elevator up even higher, getting more frustrated and less likely to want to accept support.
Emotion coaching is how we get back to the ground floor. It can help to increase cooperation, de-escalate situations, and teaches emotion regulation. Through our words and tone of voice, we can demonstrate empathy and that we “get it” and can try to co-regulate those big feelings.
Here are the steps to emotion coaching:
Step 1: Validate
- Follow a 2-part structure to make sure that you have labelled the feeling and provided reasons why they may be feeling that way. We do this to allow time for calming to occur. It is okay to take a guess! Often, an individual will correct you if you have missed the mark.
- If they don’t, you could continue with other validation statements (e.g., “It must be frustrating that I don’t quite get it, would you like some space before we keep talking, or would you like to tell me what’s going on?”)
Step 1a: Label the emotion
- “I can understand why you might feel/think/want __________”
- “It makes sense that you feel/think/want ____________”
Step 1b: Provide 3 reasons why it makes sense:
- “Because ________, because ________, because _________.”
Step 2: Support
- This step is where most of us naturally gravitate when supporting others. Once you have validated, you could offer any number of emotional and practical supports.
- First, provide emotional support strategies such as physical comfort, offering distraction, talking, etc.
- Next, offer practical support strategies such as problem-solving.
Emotion coaching takes practice since this type of communication doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Don’t be afraid to try it out whenever you can! Over time, you will find you can rely less on the structure and provide validation however best fits for you. It can be very rewarding to support people we care about in this way.
For more information and resources, visit: https://www.emotionfocusedfamilytherapy.org/steps-of-emotion-coaching/
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