Susan David

Author of Emotional Agility

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 25, 2016

Discussion

Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
Hi, I’m Susan David, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. I’m the author of Emotional Agility: Get Stuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, based on the concept that Harvard Business Review heralded as a Management Idea of the year and has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other leading publications. For years I’ve been researching how the way we navigate our inner world - our thoughts, emotions and stories - can determine our success in life. I’m really glad to be here taking your questions, as they relate to the workplace (e.g. stress, work/life balance, or challenges), parenting (e.g. helping your kids deal with frustration), or life (e.g. your attempts to make positive changes to your health and wellbeing).
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @ Twitter, Previously @ Product Hunt
What is the best tip you can offer entrepreneurs in terms of work/life balance?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@andrewett - 1) Your values are not in conflict. You may value your career/entrepreneurial project AND value family. Just noticing that is freeing. 2) What often is in conflict are your goals. You simply cannot be in two places at once. So my tip: make your time in each place intentional. Make it count. When you're with family BE with family (not checking your phone). When you're with your project, BE with your project.
Christy Fletcher@fletcherchristy · Founder, Fletcher & Co
How can emotional agility help people become better managers, especially in environments like startups where there is a lot of change and uncertainty?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@fletcherchristy We - managers included, often become so caught up in their own emotions (avoidance of a tough conversation, fear of failure, frustration with staff). Their emotions drive their decisions and actions. In Emotional Agility I describe how our emotions are data, but not directions, and how to cultivate key skills at being able to be with emotions in a way that is effective, so that your values drive your actions. For managers and leaders, critical skills you can ask today are: am I so focused on being right that I'm not being effective; am I getting so caught up in my anxiety about change, that I've stopped enjoying the process of living and leading.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@fletcherchristy Also, I think people can often struggle with the idea that there IS change, i.e. wishing that it wasn't. I think the sooner that we realize and really come to terms with the idea that change is here to stay, and that uncertainty is not going away, we can free ourselves up to actually work through the process and issues.
Mara Smith, EdD@drmarasmith · AthleteMinder
Coaching - which is teaching first and foremost, is a two way street with coaches imparting knowledge, but also constantly learning from their "students". Often coaches see themselves has having the expert, finite knowledge they need. How do you encourage coaches to embrace challenge, be flexible in their thinking and strategies and continue to learn everyday?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@drmarasmith. I think coaching is about the other person, and about helping them to learn from themselves (i.e. to unpack and connect with what is inside of them) and then to help them shape that. As with so many things, my sense is that when we as the coach, speaker, teacher, leader - make it about us, and about our own learning and ego, we close ourselves off to learning. So I would say: be focused on the present - the person in front of you; truly see them. From there, so much follows. In Zulu - SAWUBONA is the greeting - meaning "I see you" and by seeing you I bring you into being. I think that by seeing the other (the coaching client, the child) and being present to that person, so much comes to life.
Crystal Ellefsen@crystalellefsen
@susandavid_phd @drmarasmith I love that Zulu word. Beautiful.
Mara Smith, EdD@drmarasmith · AthleteMinder
@susandavid_phd Thanks so much for this thoughtful answer. Not being distracted away from our presence. As Simone Weil said "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity"
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@crystalellefsen @drmarasmith Yes, it is quite literally the idea that by seeing you, I bring you into existence. This is such a remarkable sentiment.
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Enchanted Book Inventor
Thank you for showing up for us. I recently launched a Kickstarter project that is not going to reach the funding goal. Any suggestions for people in my shoes NOT to take it as a personal rejection? My product feels like a beloved child!
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@mcgrawbridget Yes. First, you have done something wonderful - taken something that you've believed in and brought it to the point where there is a kickstarter. That's wow! Don't let that reality escape you. Second, show up to your sadness, disappointment etc. Don't try to ignore it or talk it away. Recognize it in a way that is compassionate and kind to yourself. You took a risk, made a huge investment of time, and it hasn't worked. There is a lot of grace and dignity in facing into that. And third, think about your product and whether it might succeed and what it needs. If the best entrepreneur in the world was advising you what is needed next - what would that person say? See what you can learn and how you might be able to tweak things so that it isn't just a win/lose. And then finally, one thing that I talk about in Emotional Agility, is the need to know when to Grit and When to Quit. It is critical to know when to keep with something and when to move on. Asking yourself questions like, will this succeed, is it truly values aligned and so on, will help you make this decision. See my recent HBR live for a discussion on this topic.
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Enchanted Book Inventor
@susandavid_phd Wow! Thank you for the remarkably helpful and compassionate response. I truly appreciate it and will take it to heart.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@mcgrawbridget - You have followed something that you believe in. There is so much dignity in that!
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
If people could make just one change to their working life to improve their overall mental well being, what would it be?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@ayrton I would say to not struggle with your feelings, i.e. I shouldn't feel this. Rather notice any struggle that you are going through in a compassionate way, and without judging yourself. Acceptance is a pre-requisite to change.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@ayrton Let me expand here: often we'll say "I shouldn't feel...sad" or "I shouldn't be ... upset with my boss"... at least I've got a job. We try to rationalize our emotions away, rather than being with them and learning from them.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Susan! I'm curious how you've applied your learning/teaching to your own life?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@rrhoover Ryan, in so many ways. I have had many setbacks and 'failures' in my life'; so many near losses and near wins; people ill and dying. LIfe's beauty is inseparable from its fragility. I always, always try to be kind to myself. This is not the same as ignoring things I've done wrong but just being kind. This for me is so important. Many years ago I caught myself saying things like, "Oh that's so stupid" to myself, and I decided to stop - to really extend kindness. Second, I am focused in moving forward with what is important despite failures and setbacks.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
How do you teach a child emotional agility? What are your top tips for parents?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@ems_hodge This is a topic very close to my heart. With the best of intentions parents will often invalidate their children's emotions: "you're okay!" when a child is sad, or "It's alright" when a child is sad. First and foremost is to signal and communicate to the child that ALL emotions are okay - sadness, anger, jealousy, etc. No emotion is off limits. When you do this, you teach the child that emotions are not to be feared and that they are 'bigger' than the emotion. (Note, this is not to say that you're communicating that emotions should all be ACTED on, but rather that all emotions are normal and okay).
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
So excited to be here! I'm ready!
Larry Kaplan@larry_kaplan
@susandavid_phd How do we logon to the live chat?
Maura Koutoujian@maura_koutoujian
@susandavid_phd Your enthusiasm always delights me!!!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@larry_kaplan @susandavid_phd hi Larry - you're already logged in! Feel free to type a question for Susan here. 👌
Deirdre Walsh@dmwalsh · Integrative Health Coach
Listening, in all its complexity, is a key skill for good coaching. How do you keep at the leading edge of your listening skills?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@dmwalsh Years ago I did this beautiful exercise with a group in which we truly "LOOKED" at each other - as in, into each others' eyes. We tend not to do this - even with people we really love. Now, not suggesting to go and stare your clients out, but opening your heart to them and looking at them, is so critical to listening and hearing.
James Souls@jsouls58
What is your best recommendation for someone who recently closed a business and is stuck on what to do next?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@jsouls58 Spend some time asking yourself questions: What am I good at? What do I enjoy? What is of value? What are opportunities in the marketplace that are aligned with those. More than anything though, and assuming here that you can pay your rent, don't beat yourself up for not 'having the answer'. I think that the idea that we all have ONE passion and ONE purpose is overrated and likely not true.
James Souls@jsouls58
Susan - Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am trying journaling in an effort to gain some perspective on my past. In the hope of freeing my mind up from all the negative emotions that seem to continually drag me down.
John McDonald@john_mcdonald2
Hi Susan...I have been using ACT techniques for the last few years. Is emotional agility similar to the ACT concept of "emotional flexibility"? I find both your video talks & new book Emotional Agility valuable because you clearly explain this mindfulness-based approach and make the strategies accessible. I confront significant professional & personal challenges!
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@john_mcdonald2T Thank you for your lovely feedback. Yes, my work strongly draws on ACT, the social psychological research and also wok on emotions. Yes, emotional agility and psych flexibility are nicely congruent.
Larry Kaplan@larry_kaplan
How do you know if your actions are consistent with your values? How do you clarify to yourself what matters to you How do you recognize when your goals are not serving you?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@larry_kaplan Thanks for joining Larry! Many of us go through life without knowing what our values are or whether our values are really 'our values' as opposed to our parents' values or those of others. Some questions that are key here: At the end of the day - what did I do today that was worthwhile? (Note, not that made me happy but rather that was worthwhile. I make this distinction because not everything that makes us happy is necessarily worth our time). If today was my last, what could I do that really mattered. These will start giving you signposts to your values.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@larry_kaplan Larry - another part of this is to be connected with your disappointments and sadness. Often beneath our emotions are signposts of our values. People don't get upset or angry about stuff that they don't care about. It doesn't mean that these emotions are "RIGHT" but rather that they have a function and that underneath them are often clues to what we most value.
John Romeo@johnromeo
Thanks for your work Susan.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What its your number one recommendation for stress alleviation?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@jakecrump I have many, but first: many people who are stressed, say "I AM STRESSED". What you're doing here is making 100% of you about stress. It is important to recognize that you are not your stress. Also by using a blanket term like "stress" we don't put ourselves in the optimal position of psychological learning and health. So critically: try to label your stress in a nuanced way. There is a massive difference between being stressed and disappointed, stressed and angry, stressed and worried, stressed and frustrated. Research shows that giving an accurate label to emotions is critical in then starting to activate change in that area.
Maura Koutoujian@maura_koutoujian
@susandavid_phd @jakecrump I completely agree with the idea that it is about naming or labeling the emotion...anger, frustration, exhausted...not necessarily the result which shows up as stress. What is the actual strain on emotions that is causing the stress.
Bridget McGraw@mcgrawbridget · Enchanted Book Inventor
@susandavid_phd @jakecrump I want to upvote every response I see. Yes! Precision labeling.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@mcgrawbridget @jakecrump Upvote away! :-) There is a really interesting body of research showing that (1) difficulty labeling emotions in a nuanced way is associated with lower wellbeing over time, and (2) that labeling emotions moves something that feels difficult and stressful into something with parameters and that can be navigated. Such a critical skill.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi there. Thanks for joining us. What do you think the biggest barrier to make positive changes? What causes people to be 'stuck'? If you had to give us all one tip to thrive, what would it be?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@corleyh I think that the biggest barrier to positive change is people giving in to their fear. Fear shows up in so many ways (nah, I'll sit this out; me, no?) but fear's answer is always NO. Our brains are very blunt instruments and we interpret almost any uncertainty or newness as unsafe. Courage is NOT the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. It's about feeling your fear, noticing it compassionately and moving forward in the direction of what is important to you. So, my one line of 'advice': Every day - move to the edge of what is comfortable, whether this is in your relationships, your learning or in other areas of your life.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Community Lead, Product Hunt
Why do people find change so hard to grasp?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@bentossell Our brains are designed to avoid change at ALL costs. To the brain, change so often is translated very crudely as "UNSAFE". This can lead us as humans to live on autopilot - to keep doing the same thing, going back to the same bad relationship, stay in jobs we don't enjoy all because it is .... comfortable. We will often stay in things that are uncomfortable even if they don't serve us. This is why it takes key emotional skills to notice your autopilot, to recognize your emotions when change is happening and you want to just run away, and to keep moving towards what is important to you, EVEN if it feels uncomfortable. Once again: Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. Moving towards what is of value.
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
Any others? Throw them at me!
John McDonald@john_mcdonald2
As I work though Emotional Agility, it strikes me that we really don't have as much control over over the constant stream of thoughts, feelings, images and scripts that our mind generate in response to challeneges and difficult situations. Having said that, I have often considered the old cliche that 'we are our own worst enemies' as I read your book. One big take-away for me is that if I can expand my ability to tolerate the internal discomfort I experience when tackling my challenges, I can do almost anything that's important to me! Does this make sense?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@john_mcdonald2 Absolutely! Our culture tells us to "Be happy" and that we should "control or conquer" our fear. So we get into this mindset of happiness as a goal and that we'll only be able to do what is important to us when we've conquered/ gotten rid of our fear (or sadness or anger or whatever...). I don't agree with this. This prioritizes how we are feeling rather that what we are trying to do. WE get to choose, our emotions don't. So this is an absolutely critical learning point in Emotional Agility.
John McDonald@john_mcdonald2
@susandavid_phd Thank you...I really appreciate your ability to articulate your work so forcefully & directly...your passion comes across!
Daniel Sempere Picó@daniel_sempere_pico · Founder, DSP Homes
Hi Susan, what tactics do you use personally to avoid distraction/multi-tasking and focus on deep uninterrupted work (I.e working on a single task or project for a few hours)?
Susan A David, Ph.D.@susandavid_phd · Susan David
@daniel_sempere_pico Sorry Daniel - didn't get to his one. I (1) block time out for specific tasks. (2) try to consolidate all of my calls and meetings for one day (for me a Thursday), and this allows me time to focus.
Daniel Sempere Picó@daniel_sempere_pico · Founder, DSP Homes
@susandavid_phd thank you for taking the time to do this chat and for getting to my question!