5 Steps towards Emotional Literacy

Emotional Literacy was noted as part of a project advocating humanistic education in the early 1970s.[1] The term was used by Claude Steiner (1997) [2] who says:

Emotional Literacy is made up of ‘the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to listen to others and empathise with their emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively. To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and improves the quality of life around you. Emotional literacy improves relationships, creates loving possibilities between people, makes co-operative work possible, and facilitates the feeling of community.[3]

He breaks emotional literacy into 5 parts:

  1. Knowing your feelings.
  2. Having a sense of empathy.
  3. Learning to manage our emotions.
  4. Repairing emotional problems.
  5. Putting it all together: emotional interactivity.

Having its roots in counseling, it is a social definition that has interactions between people at its heart. According to Steiner emotional literacy is about understanding your feelings and those of others to facilitate relationships, including using dialogue and self-control to avoid negative arguments. The ability to be aware and read other people’s feelings enables one to interact with them effectively so that powerful emotional situations can be handled in a skillful way. Steiner calls this “emotional interactivity”. Steiner’s model of emotional literacy is therefore primarily about dealing constructively with the emotional difficulties we experience to build a sound future. He believes that personal power can be increased and relationships transformed. The emphasis is on the individual, and as such encourages one to look inward rather than to the social setting in which an individual operates.

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