Emotional intelligence is a game-changer. It makes moving through the tough moments as a family an opportunity for growth instead of turmoil.
I think anybody who’s going to talk about emotional intelligence as it pertains to families should be required to spend three months on the road in a small trailer with their family. Nothing prepares you quite as well to talk about emotional intelligence as having your own emotions front and center, with nowhere to hide during that kind of experience. Living in close quarters requires you to emotionally regulate yourself on a very constant and conscious basis. It’s that day-to-day tracking of one’s own emotions that can make the difference between a pleasant experience or a disaster.
3 Month Airstream Family Road Trip #EndlessCaravan
Lucky for me this is not a hypothetical situation, this is exactly what I am up to. As part of Airstream’s Endless Caravan tour my family is spending 3 months on the road touring around the United States. This is a trip of a lifetime and a real dream come true. On our journey my wife, Megan, is holding creative family events focused on process art and I am leading parent workshops at schools across the country through my work with Yale University’s Emotional Intelligence Lab. I am field testing in a very real way what I am presenting to parents.
For example, in a recent experience with my family on the road, we were all worn thin. The youngest was crying, jumping up and down, while the eldest was crossing her arms as we walked in the hot sun towards a restaurant we couldn’t find. Lost, tired, hot, and hungry, everything in that moment was terrible. I realized I was feeling the same way my kids were.
So I took a deep breath and found some space in myself to move forward in a good way. Connecting with the eldest first, I let her know I totally get it. “It makes sense to feel frustrated right now. We’re going to get some food soon, and just maybe you can have a sip of my sweet tea,” I tell her, which sparks a small smile. Then she turns to her sister with some hope that things may improve.
It Starts With You
Everything centers on my own ability to recognize how I am feeling first.
Knowing when your own tank is empty or you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated can help keep you from lashing out at your family. Being aware of your own emotions could keep one moment from escalating out of control and into something difficult to handle. Using your emotional intelligence, a potential calamity remains a positive experience.
As I look at this in my work with families, I see this happening all the time. One parent comes home from work tired, or another had a tough day at home with the kids or their own job, and emotions spiral out of control. Suddenly the adults find themselves in the middle of chaos: kids not doing their homework, no one is listening to anyone, and all kinds of hell breaks loose. They look at each other and think: how did we get here?
15 Minutes of Unpleasant Emotions Vs A Whole Night of it – You Choose…
Without emotional intelligence, that one moment of frustration at the time when most families reunite at the end of the day, turns into a whole evening of nobody getting along, nobody feeling close, and nobody getting what they need emotionally from each other. The time when families come together has turned into a time of pulling apart. That’s where the practical skills or tools of emotional intelligence come in: recognizing your emotions and understanding them, and taking a proactive approach to dealing with them can turn the situation around and bring you back to harmonious togetherness.
In times of chaos, I consider the impact on my children. They are young and have done nothing to me to deserve my vengeance or aggression. As the adult, it is my role to model for them how to muster up the calm and then move from the love and sweetness I know is possible instead of letting my battered nerves guide the ship. Through practice, I learn to soften even when I am pushed to my limit.
I want these practices to be accessible and change the ways families engage during their precious time together. That’s why I’m excited about the work Yale is pioneering at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the information I am bringing to people across the country right now with this road trip. It’s a tremendous opportunity not only for me but those I meet. At its core is the question: What brings us closer as families? The answer is simple, but not easy. It is about how we relate to ourselves, internally, and to one another.
Families Want to Enjoy Each other
When people— kids or parents— are able to more deeply understand their own emotional experience, regulate those emotions, and then communicate from that regulated place, people become closer, families become tighter, experiences become more fluid. I truly believe it helps families do what they’re intended to do: enjoy each other, help one another to be happy, to live amazing lives, and to encourage one another to reach their potential.
What I love about working with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is that they’re moving away from creating a methodology or program. Director Marc Brackett’s ideas, and what he and his team are pushing forward, are more practical: by learning the skills and developing ourselves, we become aware of and in tune with our own emotional and social beings. Emotional intelligence becomes a part of everything we do, seamlessly integrated to the life and culture of our family.
It’s a theory of change. It’s about how we learn more about ourselves and our emotional experiences in this world and how to use that experience to achieve the things that we want to do in our lives, whether it’s to have closer family relationships or to achieve success in our personal or professional growth.
Emotions matter, in many nuanced ways, which is a fundamental piece of the work that Yale has proved through their research. Emotions affect our quality of attention, our focus, and our ability to have meaningful relationships. This is not a soft skill. This is about how we show up in the world and how we live out our dreams. It’s about how we reach our potential as human beings on this planet.
Emotional intelligence is a skill people have overlooked. Society has taught many of us not to care about what we’re feeling. We’re told to get over it. Move on. Don’t cry. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel so much.
But the truth is we are feeling beings. You can’t stop the emotional experience from happening. You can try to scare it out of people, you can attempt to restrict it, you can make people go underground and bury their emotions. But you cannot stop the emotional experience of being a human being. It’s fundamentally who and what we are.
Emotional intelligence, used as a way of understanding ourselves, can transform our relationships, can transform our interactions with people, whether it’s with your family, or outside the home. It can transform anyone, whether you’re a 4 year old, a 24 year old, or a 50 or 60 year old. This transformation can happen across genders and generations.
I’m super excited to be traveling across the country, sharing this with people of all ages, in all situations, at various venues. To learn more about RULER visit http://ei.yale.edu/ruler/
To follow my family on Facebook visit @CoachAaronSchiller or Instagram follow @coachschiller @artpantry and #endlesscaravan
If you have questions send me a note – firstname.lastname@example.org – I love hearing from people and will respond promptly.