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Defining Emotional Agility with Dr. Susan David

May 29, 2018 / Corporate Wellness

Dr. Susan David, Harvard Medical School Psychologist and Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board Member has outlined the following working definition for emotional agility:

Emotional agility = an individual’s ability to experience their thoughts and emotions and events in a way that doesn’t drive them in negative ways, but instead encourages them to reveal the best of themselves

Why is this important?

When we are emotionally agile, we are able to recognize our emotions before reacting, and decide how we’d like to respond, and respond in a way that aligns with our values, and in our best interest.

When we’re able to create a separation between what is happening around us, and how we choose to act in response, we can cope with the complexities and challenges of today’s modern workplace while still remaining engaged and productive within an organization.

Emotional Agility is Based in Choice

David often cites Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor who said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

What Frankl is referring to is, in essence, a tool towards emotional agility. Our ability to recognize our emotions before reacting, and decide how we’d like to respond, and respond in a way that aligns with our values, and in our best interest.

Workplace Example:

A disgruntled employee thinks, “my colleagues are idiots,” which immediately becomes, “there’s no point in my contributing to this meeting because my colleagues are idiots.”

This an employee who is not implementing emotional agility, and is behaving in a way (by not contributing) that is likely against his or her personal value system, but fails to see that without pausing between stimulus and response.

This employee likely values being a productive team player, but because their reaction is unexamined, their behavior does the exact opposite.

Want to read more about how emotional agility can empower your employees to bring their best selves to work?

Click to read, “Emotional Agility at Work: Helping Your Employees Master Complexity & Stress,” developed exclusively with Dr. Susan David and Virgin Pulse.

Renee Mitson Circle Photo

Renee Mitson is the Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Virgin Pulse. She loves living in Providence, and enjoys cycling and eating spicy food (but not at the same time). 

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