26 October 2020

4 steps to develop your emotional agility

(Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)

In 2008, in Akureyri, a town at the foothills of the Eyjafjörður fjord in northern Iceland, hearts appeared in traffic lights in reaction to the gloomy climate that had set in during that same year’s global economic crisis.

If we jump forward in time, in March 2020, Italian rainbows began to travel from country to country and became the symbol of the global pandemic that is currently affecting us.

The hearts of Akureyri and the rainbows of the pandemic remind us that in times of crisis, the lowest common denominator that unites us, whether at work or at home, is our emotions. We all react, in our own way, to the events around us. And these reactions are powered by our emotions.

Here is a short exercise in four simple steps to allow you to take the pulse of your emotional state and your current situation and thus gather valuable information to guide your decisions and actions.

Your emotions, a precious source of information

Stop for a moment, inhale and exhale. Wherever you are, be it at home, at the office, or somewhere in between. Take a moment to be fully present.



For example: People are chatting around me, I am receiving notifications on my computer, my colleagues are walking in the corridor, a car honks in the street, birds are singing, children are quarrelling in the living room, my dog is asking for my attention, the phone is ringing, it’s quiet, it’s noisy…


Now turn your attention inward. Inhale and exhale.



For example: I feel joy, worry, discouragement, irritation, confidence, fear, melancholy, frustration, enthusiasm, sadness, annoyance, gratitude, anxiety, well-being, anger, hapiness…


Take a moment to welcome what is there for you, without judgment. Try to identify what you feel with words that seem as accurate as possible.


Now, review of your sensations.



For example: I have butterflies in my belly, I have a tightness in my throat, my head is buzzing, I’m cold, I’m hot, I’m tense at the shoulders, I feel like a lion/lioness in a cage, I’m heavy hearted, I’m light hearted…


Is this feeling isolated or overwhelming? Temporary or persistent? Unpleasant or pleasant? Observe this feeling with curiosity, is it new or common?

Inhale and exhale. Repeat the breathing in and out a few times as needed. Let the emotion or sensation pass. An emotion usually dissolves in six seconds, a sensation may take longer to dissipate (sometimes hours, days or even months).

The emotion or sensation you have identified is carrying information. It tells you that one or more of your needs are being met or need to be met, that one or more of your values are aligned with your decisions and actions…or that they need to be more so.

Again, stop for a moment. Keeping in mind the emotional information gathered, explore the following question:



For example: I need comfort, letting go, space for myself, respect, balance, protection, stability, meaning, fulfillment, kindness, venting, collaboration, justice, lightness, silence, gentleness, creativity, movement, spontaneity…


Allow this information to settle and record what you observed, if necessary.

Be emotionally agile in order to handle change

This short emotional self-awareness exercise is a simple tool that allows you to gather valuable and useful information to align your decisions with your current needs and personal situation.

In these times of uncertainty, change and transition, many are experiencing an emotional roller coaster ride. As you may have observed in and around you, the emotional charge can be strong and several emotions can coexist at the same time. It is also possible that the stress level may be higher than usual if one or more of the ingredients of NUTS recipe are present :

  • Novelty : Something new you have not experienced before.
  • Unpredictability: Something you had no way of knowing it would occur.
  • Threat to the ego : Your competence as a person is called into question.
  • Sense of Control : You feel you have little or not control over the situation.

In order to optimally manage the emotions and sensations that run through us, it is necessary to create a space to welcome, observe and interpret them.

As Dr. Susan David, author of the book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life as well as the Ted Talk The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage « when we are emotionally agile, we are able to recognize our emotions before we react, and decide how we would like to react, and react in a way that is aligned with our values and in our best interest. »

Creating a space between our emotions and our reactions allows us to take the most appropriate actions possible in the situations we encounter.

Not that easy you’ll say, and you’re quite right. This requires us to exercise control over our impulses. It asks us to retain the desire to act, to speak and to respond. In a world where everything is fast, this asks us to take the time to slow down and to feel in order to bounce back.

A first step towards emotional agility

You don’t climb a mountain in a single stride and you don’t become emotionally agile in a single day. To develop your emotional agility, start by paying attention to the moments when you find yourself being hooked by a difficult or unpleasant emotion or thought.

For example, a colleague sharply expresses an opinion that differs from yours about the health measures in place and makes strong statements that are not in line with your own values. Notice the emotion and/or thoughts that emerge, take a moment to step back and observe how you grab the hook, stop and then go through the four questions again:

  • What’s going on around me right now?
  • How am I feeling?
  • How does this emotion or feeling manifest itself?
  • What do I need at the moment?

When you are able to recognize and release the hook generated by your emotions, you create that space that allows you to expand your choice of reactions.  Rather than acting on impulse, it becomes possible to choose the reaction you feel is appropriate for the situation and align it with your values in your best interest.

I leave you with a quote to feed your thoughts:

« Between the stimulus and the response there is a space. Within this space is our power to choose our response. It is in our response that our growth and freedom is found. »
– Viktor E. Frankl

Looking forward to reading your reactions!


Note: This pandemic affects us all differently. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing mental health issues related to COVID, resources are available through the governments of Quebec and Canada. The content of this blog does not replace the help, advice and/or care of a healthcare professional.


At Alievo, we focus on the development of Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills to optimize well-being and performance, both at the individual and organizational levels. We leverage our EI expertise, and that of our allies, as well as the use of scientifically validated psychometric tools to create rich and transformative learning experiences.

Do you want to put emotional intelligence at the heart of the performance and well-being of your teams? Contact us to find out if we are the allies you are looking for.

© This entry was written by Mylène Beauchamp and published on the blog of Alievo™. The content is relevant to you? You wish to share it? Please do so by citing its source and redirecting to this page!

Articles found in: Blog, Change, Decision making, Stress Management, Uncategorized, Wellness