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Expressing Joy

October 20th 2009 Emotional intelligence Share Tweet

We just finished a beautiful long weekend here in Waterloo, Ontario. Ours was jam packed with activities and some of the best bits for me was having Jack experience his first parade and his first Oktoberfest. As a new mom and an expert in emotional intelligence (well I might teach this stuff but I ain’t no Master yet myself! LOL) I am continually amused and amazed at how children have quick access to all their emotions and a trust that they can and should express those.

Those with high levels of emotional intelligence can quickly access and name a full range of emotions, thoughts and wants. Ok, so kids don’t have self management skills to go along with the self reflection but they have something that we as adults seem to learn to downplay or minimize over time. The expression of joy! They trust that those around them are capable of handling their joy. This weekend, I watched Jack express utter joy as he paraded out into the middle of the Oktoberfest dance floor, stumbling over drunken couples. As they moved aside for him, he giggled and decided it would bring us and him great joy if he exposed his belly while he attempted to dance without the requisite lederhosen. He did bring us joy and laughter. As adults in the room, we got giddy as we observed this little fella charging from one end of the room to the other, diving into his mummy’s arms or body slamming her in fits of giggles! Interestingly, if we observed an adult doing such a thing most of us would have judgment about the adult’s ability to be appropriate… and yet, we take such joy out of their joy. This begs the question, “what IS appropriate?” Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of taking off my shirt and dancing in a room full of people. (stop thanking me!). This rambling is really just about my reflection on how we, as adults, need to learn something about expressing joy.

In my work, I teach that everyone is primarily emotional. Everything that people do, or refrain from doing, is triggered by their deeper emotions, whether you’re conscious of it or not. “Emotional Intelligence” (or EQ) refers to your capacity to recognize your own feelings and those of others, for motivating yourself, and for managing emotions well in yourself and in your relationships. Self Management is one component of EQ and according to the work of Goleman it includes:

  • Emotional self-control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control
  • Transparency: Displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles
  • Achievement: The drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence
  • Initiative: Readiness to act and seize opportunities
  • Optimism: Seeing the upside in events

Perhaps wee Jack was quiet for the first half hour of the Oktoberfesting because he was getting the lay of the land? Perhaps he wasn’t being shy but was taking in his surroundings and self managing? His expression of joy was definitely transparent and while he had never been to this kind of event before he certainly learned to adapt in record time. He ran across the room and dove into my arms over and over and over again, perfecting his leap and his shouts of laughter and each time he saw empty space on the dance floor, he took the initiative to fill that space!

So what’s the bottom line for me in this reflective note? It is either:

  1. Notice when you’re not expressing your joy and figure out why. I am always amazed in my coaching sessions to learn how many clients are just as afraid of joy as they are anger. So… is it a fear that you will be judged or do you believe that others can’t handle it and you’re wrong? Make sure you know the difference between fact and interpretation in each moment. Or…
  2. Perhaps this is me being the “optimist” and hoping that I am doing something right as I attempt to raise a happy, healthy, and emotionally intelligent child… or …I am simply delusional and need to acknowledge I have little or no control.
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