In the last ‘SET’ discussion question, students were asked to think about whether any of the emotions from their Charades game might be expressed differently in their everyday life.
Use their answers to this question to transition into the last RULER skill – regulating emotions. Tell students that how they choose to express their emotions is largely influenced by their context, and share a personal example to support this statement. Then, go through the questions that Dr. Marc Brackett suggests asking yourself to determine how to best express your emotions.
For each question, ask students to think of an example for how their emotional expressions might differ in different contexts.
Tell students that, being able to modify their emotional expression according to the context depends on their ability to regulate emotions – the last RULER skill. Then, use the slide deck to help you teach students the three emotion regulation skills introduced in the READY section: Predicting and planning for future emotional experiences (i.e. forward-looking strategies), talking to yourself in the third person (i.e. attention-shifting strategies), and the Meta-Moment.
At the end of the presentation, ask students to follow along as you explain the Meta-Moment instructions. Let students know that the Meta-Moment is a really quick, accessible, and indiscrete emotion regulation tool that you would like them to diligently practice. Explain that, over time, it will become second nature for students to take a Meta-Moment before responding to a triggering event or situation.
Finally, give students the third part of their Emotion Scientist Lab Book and the next 20 minutes to complete the first Lab Book activity, which involves creating a forward-looking strategy. In this activity, students are asked to think about a future experience that might give rise to strong emotions.
Students are then guided through the creation of an action plan that will help them appropriately express and regulate their emotions in that situation. Briefly, students will identify different strategies, phrases, or people that they can access to support their health and wellbeing.
For homework, students continue their daily check-ins and practice taking Meta-Moments before completing one final reflection exercise. At the end of the week students will hand-in their completed Lab Books, which will be marked based on completeness, effort, and overall alignment with the assessment criteria.
Does everyone express emotions the same way?
Not necessarily. In the early 1970s a researcher (Paul Ekman) travelled to a remote village in Papua New Guinea where he studied tribal people to determine whether emotions were expressed the same way across all cultures. He determined that there were six distinct emotions that everyone expressed the same way. If you are familiar with the movie “Inside Out” then you probably know these emotions. They include happiness (joy), anger, sadness, disgust, fear, and (not in Inside Out) surprise. However, we now know that, although certain expressions have common themes or characteristics, people express emotions differently based on culture, gender, background, and even personality. These differences are normally not enough to deter you from recognizing the core emotion. For example, anger almost always involves lowering your eyebrows together to form a ‘V’ over your nose, wrinkles on the nose and nostrils flaring. When you are interpreting other people’s emotional expressions, be careful that you do not jump to conclusions, and always take the time to understand their experiences by asking inquisitive questions.
Can I learn how to express emotions if I am not good at it now?
Yes! Every letter in the RULER framework is a skill, which means that it can be learned, and you can get better with practice. The key to getting better at expressing emotions (and any other emotional intelligence skill for that matter) is to practice.
Is it possible for me to help others express and regulate their emotions?
Yes! Both expressing and regulating emotions can be thought of as co-skills, which means that they (to a certain extent) depend on another person. Picture coming home from a really bad day at school. You were hoping to express your feelings with your mom when you got home. Unfortunately, your mom seems distracted and during the whole conversation, she kept checking her phone and disregarding your feelings. This interaction is likely not conducive to building confidence in expressing emotions. Half-way through the conversation you might give up and retreat to your room or, if you have been holding in your emotions all day then this might just be the breaking point for you. You can help another person express their emotions by listening to them and making sure that your actions, words, and body language communicate that you are engaged in the conversation. Ask the person questions about their experience, lean forward, and keep an open posture, and let them know that you are there to support them. When it comes to regulation, let’s consider another example. In this scenario, you were really angry when you came home from school and you started shouting. If your mom starts shouting back at you, then you’ve probably just entered into a competition of who can yell the loudest and the longest. You will probably get each other worked up and both end up feeling worse than before. Alternatively, if in response to your yelling, your mom had spoken in a soft voice, acknowledging your emotions, and asking if you would like to sit down and talk about it, then you might have calmed down and been able to engage in a more constructive conversation. The way you respond to another person’s emotions matters and affects their ability to regulate emotions.