Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Gift of Feelings

Most of us do not receive training in how to deal with our own feelings – or should I say – most of us do not receive SKILLFUL training in how to deal with our feelings.

Feelings are a gift – they are happening all the time inside us in reaction to everything within and around us and they are like a constant temperature reading for our internal state.

We also know that feelings are very influenced by thoughts. If I believe the world is flat and not round, I will have many different feelings about alot of things than someone who believes the world is flat. I may be hesitate to go on a boat ride, I may be hesitant to fly, I may also disparage or be confused by or angry with others who disagree with me. I would find myself in a very small minority, which is often a difficult experience.

Feelings are not good or bad. They just are. When we learn how to skillfully handle our feelings, we decrease the likelihood that we will mishandle them. But what does it mean to skillfully handle feelings?

In simple language it means that we can all express our feelings when it’s our turn in a way that has integrity, has processed the feelings, and has integrated thought and knowledge into the feeling.

If I believe the world is flat but then I am exposed to undeniable proof that makes sense to me that the world is round, I will very likely change my mind and my thoughts. I will also have accompanying feelings: Shame that I was wrong for so many years, curiosity as to how this round globe works, and wonder at what else I can learn about it.

A person who refuses to open him or herself to new information or incontrovertible proof might become just angrier or argumentative. Another person may go a step further and try to convince as many people as he or she can that the world is indeed flat.

What makes us have variety in the strength of our emotional reactions? Many things.

When our physical or other sense of security is threatened by someone else’s thoughts, ideas, words, or actions, we tend to have larger reactions.

When something related to our self-definition of ourselves is threatened by someone else’s thoughts, ideas, words, or actions, we also tend to have larger emotional reactions.

Of course, we’re all very different and one person’s mild annoyance is another’s ruin of his or her day.

Notice your emotional reactions. Notice the intensity of them. Notice how small, medium, or large they are. Ask yourself why you’ve had the reaction you did.

Ask yourself how someone you admire would have reacted? Are there any differences? Do you know why?

Consider this scenario;

What if you are in a foreign country and you are accused of a minor crime which you did not commit?
How strong will your reaction be?

What if the country is known for having an unfair, corrupt judicial system very different from that in a democracy?
How strong will your reaction be?

What if the country denies you access to assistance during your accusation?
How strong will your reaction be?

What if news reports are published about this and you are interviewed? What might you say?

What would you feel and what would you say and express if you are told by a kind-hearted person who wishes to help you that your best chance for avoiding 20 years in a horrible prison is to plead guilty even though you’re innocent?
What would your feelings be? What would your actions be?

Whether we realize it or not, we are confronted with less intense forms of these questions several times a day.

Do we say something to the father we see abusing his young child in the subway or do we keep walking?
Do we tell our boss what we really think of a situation or do we remain silent?
Do we tell the truth about wrongdoing we’re aware of or do we not say a word?
Do we tell our partner we need a change in the relationship because our needs aren’t getting met or do we not say anything?
Do we try to discuss a conflict with a family member or do we drop it and hope it goes away?
Do we ask a friend for greater boundaries around an issue between us or do we not mention it?

All of these situations are inevitable conflicts we all encounter in life.

Wouldn’t it be great if as children, from grades K through 12, we were all annually taught Emotional Intelligence and Non-Violent Communication skills so we would learn how to skillfully be aware of our many feelings, learn how to be aware of our needs, learn how to communicate those at the right time and in the right way and lastly, but not least, always seek solutions for our own feelings and needs that did not do any harm to anyone else’s feelings or needs and supported the fulfillment of those for others as well.

Imagine such a world!

Start today making this a reality in your own world!



When We Can Get Stuck – Like a Needle in the Groove of a Skipping Record

Have you ever been in a conflict with someone and in the course of the discussion, there is new information presented either by you or the other person that ideally would steer the discussion in a new direction towards resolution – only somehow that doesn’t happen?

Let’s say the conflict stems from a misunderstanding – as most conflicts do – and let’s say that you are earnestly trying to let your friend know that you weren’t late to meet him for the movie because you don’t respect his time or value his company – but that you were at work and your boss required you to stay a bit later and it was an emergency situation and you didn’t have time to call your friend to say you’d be late.

Let’s say that you manage to get these words out in a nice, calm respectful tone, that you truly mean every word you say, and that you truly want the conflict to be resolved as you really do value your friend and wish for the conflict to be understood and resolved for you both.

However, let’s say what happens next is unfortunately something that happens many times with some people in conflicts. Let’s say that your friend is so angry and so upset and so hurt that he somehow doesn’t absorb what you’ve said. It may seem that he has heard you, but he remains angry. Why? Wouldn’t he say, “Oh, well that makes perfect sense. I understand.” And he may not say it, but he may think, “I’m so glad I was mistaken about my incorrect assumption that my friend doesn’t value me or my time.” You would think he would feel relief, right?

Many times, that is how these kinds of misunderstandings end. However, some people get stuck in a feeling – very much like a record-player needle (remember those?) stuck in the groove of a record album (remember those also?).

Your friend may recall something you said earlier in the conflict that perhaps was not you at your best. You may have said “Why can’t you just believe me when I tell you I wasn’t disrespecting you? You know I have a demanding job – everything isn’t about you ya know! You can be so self-centered!”.

Even though you may have gotten yourself to a better place and have found a way to communicate more skillfully in this conflict, your friend may still be hurting from those comments. And you may still be hurting from your friend’s assumptions that you don’t value or respect him. When different sides in a conflict are still hurting, it often takes a conscious choice to pull ourselves up and out of that record groove so we do not get stuck in it.

So, you may have managed to consciously pull yourself up and out of that groove, but what if your friend hasn’t and after you make your calm and peacemaking statement, providing new information to him, instead of saying he understands and everything is okay now, he says, “But you said I think everything is about me! You said I’m self-centered! What kind of friend are you? Why do I even bother?”

There is so much that can be said about this kind of moment in a conflict. Some of it is about all those involved in a conflict needing to try to do their best to resolve it. But what does trying our best really mean?

We know we all have different conflict resolution styles and skills. We can start by making a commitment today – whether we currently have conflicts with others or not – to consciously choose to improve our conflict resolution skills.

We can read helpful books such as those by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD or others such as Getting to Yes or When Anger Scares You.

We can let those close to us and whom we trust know that we are making a conscious effort to improve our conflict resolution skills and ask that they be patient with us and kind to us as we do our best to make better choices during moments of conflict.

We can remind ourselves that conflict is inevitable among humans and that it can be an opportunity for positive communication, growth, sharing, and connection and it does not need to be unpleasant. We can remind ourselves that skillful conflict resolution is a skill that most of us were not taught as children and so we have a lifetime of unskillful methods of responding to conflict to UNLEARN and replace with new learning.

To some of us, this may sound daunting, but to some of us, this sounds like an exciting adventure. Think of it as learning a new language or a new game. Think of it as needing more practice than just remembering how to ride a bicycle, and as something that can get you alot farther than a bicycle! Think of it like learning to play a new instrument or working out and developing muscles that you rarely or never use!

Remind yourself that learning a new skill at any age keeps our brains healthy and more vibrant and keeps all of us healthier in every way!
This is only one benefit of learning new and healthier conflict resolution skills.

Another thing to consider is how REACTIVE we are. Our reactivity is often determined by how we were taught to respond to conflict. Or, sometimes, it is our attempt to speak up for ourselves when were not able or allowed to as children. In any case, being reactive to conflict situations is something to notice, consciously choose to stop doing, and practice stepping back and silently observing our feelings, thoughts, needs, and OPTIONS regarding how we can respond to something.

Let’s revisit our imaginary conflict with our friend, from earlier: Our friend hasn’t really absorbed the new information we’ve given him about why we were late. He is focused – and stuck – on something we said earlier that wasn’t helpful and that wasn’t us at our best.

Let’s say we choose to apologize for that. Our friend can hear and accept our apology, assuming we’ve said it and genuinely meant it. OR, our friend can continue to be stuck in the groove of the record – continue to be stuck in that feeling. He can repeat this and bring it up over and over again – even when you think the conflict is resolved. He may bring it up days, weeks, or even months later.

This gives us valuable information:
1. Our friend is still hurt.
2. We may need to apologize again.
3. Our friend may have other past hurts connected to this hurt that he needs to talk about.
4. Our friend may or may not want to talk about these hurts and may or may not even be conscious of these hurts.
5. Our friend needs help getting unstuck and may not realize he is stuck.
6. Our friend may get stuck regularly and may or may not realize this about himself.
7. Our friend may or may not see this as a problem or something he can or should try to change.
8. Our friend may or may not want help and may or may not want to explore or change this.
9. We can use this an opportunity to examine ourselves and see if we ever do this.
10. We can make a conscious effort to stop doing this, if in fact, we do. That means getting ourselves whatever help and support we may need.
11. We can try to talk to our friend about this as compassionately as possible.
12. We can be mindful to not try to change our friend. He will make his own choices. We can only offer our own experience of him to him and only if he wants to hear it.

We can ask our friend to make an appointment with us to talk about something important and delicate that involves strong feelings. This will prepare our friend for the kind of conversation we hope to have and our friend can let us know when he is able to do this.

We can let our friend know how much we love, respect, value, and enjoy him. We can say we want things to be wonderful between us. We can say that we, ourselves, have been working on our own responses to strong feelings and conflicts, and that we’ve noticed that we ourselves sometimes get stuck in a strong feeling, like a needle in the groove of a record – even though there have been apologies and new information that theoretically would change our emotional response. We can say that we’ve learned this means there is still hurt, and we understand it’s hard to move past hurt – especially strong hurt. We can observe that our friend still seems hurt and upset and we are hoping that in this conversation, we can let our friend know that we did not intend to hurt him and we wish we hadn’t.

Hopefully this will help our friend climb out of the groove of the record and get unstuck.

Sometimes, the first conversation about this may not work. Sometimes, more conversations and more time is needed.

But, it is worth a try. And, hopefully, after the hurt is addressed and attended to and resolved, your friend can make a conscious choice to begin to observe when he gets stuck in a groove, when he is reactive, and when he is so hurt that he has trouble absorbing what others in a conflict are saying. And, hopefully, your friend will be able to observe and identify his feelings, his thoughts, his needs, and then ask for his needs to be met.

Hopefully he will be able to process his feelings and thoughts and really ask himself before he speaks if he is seeing clearly, if he is seeing accurately, if he has all the info needed to judge the situation, if he is giving the other person the benefit of the doubt (or if he can or if he feels they deserve it), and if he is thinking and judging the situation with fairness and integrity – rather than just having a kneejerk reaction of “OUCH! That hurt me!” and then lashing out verbally and climbing into a record groove to stay there for a long time.

There is more to be said about how sometimes it feels safer for some people to climb into a record groove and remain angry and stuck – than it does to climb out, step back, observe thoughts and feelings, question them, and try new ways of resolving conflict. More on that in another post.

In the meantime, I highly recommend Marshall Rosenberg’s very thin yet excellent book, Getting Past the Pain Between Us, published by puddledancer press. See for more information!Thanks,

EQ and Assertion -As Opposed to Aggression or Passivity

Have you ever thought about the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Healthy Assertion? Those of us who try to live our lives as our best selves and make the best behavioral choices we can, have likely examined our ability to be assertive in healthy ways as opposed to being either aggressive or too passive.

Certainly there are unusual times when being passive or aggressive (but not both together!) is the best and most appropriate thing to do. If someone is about to step in front of a car, yes, be aggressive to save that person! If a violent person is holding a gun to your head and being passive will save your life, that is a good choice!

However, in daily situations, we are presented with opportunities to choose the right words and tone many times a day. How can we do this with so much emotion bubbling under the surface?

One thing to remember is that most of us were not taught healthy assertion as kids, and so it’s a learned skill. And, just like any other skill, it takes time and practice to learn it, gain experience with it, and master it.

So, be patient with yourself. It is normal to be slightly more aggressive or even passive when you are aiming for a certain amount of assertiveness. It’s sometimes hard to find that balanced place of assertiveness that isn’t either aggression or passivity. Keep trying. It’s all any of us an do.

Again, the best gift we can give ourselves is the self-awareness of knowing what feelings we are experiencing. When we know what these are, we can handle them. When we don’t know what those are, we are powerless.

What Can Happen When We Start Learning About and Using Emotional Intelligence?

Sometimes when we start using new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, and being, those around us have a reaction to that. We might expect these reactions to be completely pleasant, since we are working on improvements, but frequently, these reactions can be challenging.

Have you ever made a conscious decision to work on yourself to have more integrity or be more honest with yourself and others or handle conflicts in healthier ways only to discover that these new endeavors on your part get angry, resentful, or pained responses from those around you?

This presents a challenge. One person had her mother angrily say resentfully, “she likes to make things better”. Another person had someone at work say, “Are you trying to start a problem?” Another person had a former friend say “you shouldn’t use your knowledge of conflict resolution and emotional intelligence because everyone else in your family doesn’t know that stuff, and it’s not fair!”

What is a person who wishes to be the best they can be supposed to do in the face of such threatened resistance?

These present conflicts within conflicts and require thoughtful and delicate handling. What would you do? What kinds of things have you tried? How did they work out?

Let us know, and I’ll share my thoughts on what can work well in another future post!


Welcome to Denise Romano’s EQ Blog~

EQ is Emotional Intelligence.

We use it all the time in our lives. It isn’t just about the external way we communicate such as tone of voice, choice of words, facial expressions and how “polite” we are. It begins in our minds. Our feelings are directly influenced by our thoughts.

Many of us have had the experience of having our feelings about a situation change once we get new information. Consider that you read in the newspaper a story of a house that burned down. Your first emotional reaction is in response to this information, and you think “what a terrible thing”.

Then you may read that the police suspect the house has burned down because of arson. Then you may feel angry at whoever set the fire.

Then you may read that the person who the police suspect in the arson is a mentally disabled person with the IQ of a six-year old. You may then feel angry at whoever was responsible for watching the mentally disabled person who set the fire, and you no longer feel anger at the person who set the fire.

Then, you may read that the grandmother of the mentally disabled person who set the fire was watching him, but she had a stroke and died, so he was left alone, frightened, and confused. Then, you may not feel angry at all. You may just feel sad for all involved.

What can we learn from this?

We can learn that frequently our emotional reactions are in response to only some of the facts or are in response to incorrect assumptions. If we have a strong feeling, we want to make sure we have all the facts before we react or take any action. Otherwise, we risk not having all the facts and having a mistaken reaction that might be completely different than if we had all the facts.

We generally call “not having all the facts” a MISUNDERSTANDING. In fact, misunderstandings are the cause of many conflcits between friends, siblings, co-workers, spouses, and among other family members.

That is why it is so important to make sure we aren’t misunderstanding something before we react.

How many families do you know who have huge emotional reactions to things they think are true, but are actually misunderstandings? How many times have you had an intense emotional reaction to something only to find out later that you misunderstood something or didn’t have all the facts? What happened? Did your thoughts and feelings change once you got more information?

That is the value of being able to breathe through strong emotions, not react immediately, set aside the strong feelings, tell yourself you may not have a complete understanding of the situation, and be able to truly listen to the other person.

How many of us can do this? How many of us learned how to do this growing up? 1%? 2%? Not many of us learned this growing up.

The really great news is that we’ve learned over decades how to resolve conflicts in a healthy and fair manner. The challenging news is that most of us have learned the exact opposite of the skills needed to resolve a conflct in a fair and healthy manner.

So, we all need to unlearn what we’ve learned while growing up, going to school, and watching TV, and begin to learn the ways of conflict resolution that we know work.

This is not easy, as once we become angry or annoyed or overwhelmed with other strong emotions, we immediately and instinctively revert back to our default conflict style, which is the one we’ve grown up with. So, we have to practice the ways we know that work. We have to take a deep breath and remind ourselves to use the new ways we’ve learned and to not just let our fuse light up and explode like a firecracker or a neutron bomb.

When you get angry, do you stew silently, blow up, or do something else? We all have our own unique conflicts styles and anger responses. It is a good idea to become familiar with yours.

What does conflict resolution have to do with Emotional Intelligence? A great deal.

The more emotionally intelligent we are, the more we are able to bring self-awareness, assertiveness, flexibility, and empathy to the conflict resolution process.

Imagine a world in which all families practice and teach sound conflict resolution skills and work to develope emotional intelligence! Imagine a world in which schools do the same thing! Imagine a world in which temples, mosques, and churches also teach EQ and sound conflict resolution skills! Imagine how much healthier families, schools, friendships, love partnerships, marriages, and workplaces would be!

What can you do to improve your conflict resolution skills and to further develop your Emotional Intelligence skills?

Visit to see what Denise can offer you.