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  • Writer's pictureJason Carrasco MSc., RP, RMFT-SQ

How to be the best emotional coach

If you've been following us this month, we have focused on emotional intelligence. Our podcast episode introduces the concept while also focusing on practical steps to help you improve your emotional intelligence!

With that being said - now is the time to bring all of these concepts together and explore emotional coaching! If you’ve taken your hand to the mat in the world of emotional intelligence training, you know that one of the hardest parts is figuring out how to be an emotional coach for others - but first, what exactly is an emotional coach?

The Gottman's describe an emotional coach (or emotion coaching) as: "it is not about what you think a person ought to feel about the problem they are faced with, but about working together to determine the true emotions in the situation."

To us - this is very much part of what makes effective communication in all interpersonal situations effective!

Since this is often a broad-reaching skill that can have a major impact on one’s relationships, we wanted to give you some practical tips on ways to enhance ones ability and help put everything together.


1) It is important that we tune into ourselves to notice what our bodies may be doing/feeling! This is an important step, which will help provide you with some level of context in order to do the same thing with others.

When engaging in a conversation with someone important, it will be important for you to make them feel heard. One way you can do this is by paying attention. Tune in to the cues that let you know something is off for the other person. Doing so, sooner rather than later, will help to control the emotional escalation.


2) We have been here before - intentionality is all about doing things on purpose, with purpose! This is what we must tap into during our interactions with loved ones. Make a conscious choice to respond, connect, and support your partner/friend/colleague with curiosity and a willingness to understand where they are coming from.


3) This is not something that is passive. In fact - there is a lot going on during this process. Firstly, make sure that you are giving the other person space to tell their story and share

that with you. While listening, do not remain silent. ASK!

Be curious about what you are hearing! Make sure you are on the same page by summarizing (in your own words) what you've heard! Be present for the conversation if you have capacity to do so.

This definitely sounds a lot easier said, than done - and you're right, it is! The reason for it, is that you must also (at the same time) be able to recognize what emotions you are experiencing during the conversation and find ways to remain grounded and present!

Are you starting to see why emotional intelligence is kind of important?


4) It may be helpful, and sometimes necessary to support the person we're speaking with by helping them label and identify their emotions. If we can't do that for ourseleves, this may be tricky to do with others (check our instagram on ways to tune inwards to improve this piece).


5) Lastly, you may have understood what the problem is for your partner and you may have helped to identify the emotions present - now what? Well, you may be drawn to providing a fix or a solution to the problem - and that may in fact not be the best thing! Check in with your partner and ask in what ways could you best support them? How can they be best supported by you right now?

Sometimes there's not "action item" here other than: a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, arms to be held by - and that's totally okay! Other times, it may also be needed to problem solve! This is where you can both, collaboratively, discuss and explore what a problem solving measure looks like in this instance.

If you really want to go further with your emotional coaching skills, focus on developing the following three competencies:

a) Empathy – This allows you to genuinely “feel” what someone else is feeling, which is a crucial prerequisite for effective communication.

b) Self-reflection and openness – Being able to try on other people’s emotions and see things from their perspective–and then take that insight and use it to improve your own approach.

c) Vulnerability – The ability to be open, honest, and permissive to be fully seen by others through the "vulnerability recipe": a) emotional exposure; b) unknown outcomes; c) risk.

Lastly, remember that emotional coaching involves both an art and a science, which means they involve both deliberate practice and thorough reading. By nature, these skills lean more towards the “art” side, whereas very tangible qualities such as assertive communication or goal-setting might be more on the “science” side. With this in mind, be patient and kind with yourselves as you begin to shift your conversations into more relationally enhancing and emotionally attuned ways.


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