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What do you do when big emotions come up during your live session?
That was the question that came up in training I led a few weeks ago. What is the best way to respond when someone shares a frustration or an emotional challenge?
For a long time, I didn’t have a good answer to this question.
I’m someone who tends to bottle my emotions up. So when I started leading groups I shied away from dealing with emotions altogether. My default response was to move on – as quickly as possible.
It was impacting the group’s experience.
Not in a good way. Discussions remained superficial. People checked out. And I felt anxious because I knew I wasn’t serving my group in the best way I could.
I learned that you can deal with big emotions in a ✨healthy way✨.
Learning how to handle big emotions has been one of my biggest learning curves in leading groups. (And trust me, I’m still learning!). When you welcome emotions into group sessions, people feel heard and included. They are more likely to engage. And they get more out of your session.
How can you handle big emotions in your groups with ease? That’s our Quest for this week 🔎
👉Liz & Mollie’s Strategies for Managing Difficult Emotions at Work
👉The “4A” Framework for Handling Big Emotions in Live Sessions
👉 Susan David’s List of Emotions
💡Strategies for Managing Difficult Emotions at Work
You may know Liz & Mollie for their brilliant illustrations like this one👇
Illustration by @LizandMollie on Instagram
Fewer people know them for their work as workshop facilitators and L&D professionals.
I listened to the podcast to see what they could teach us about managing difficult emotions in live sessions.
Here are my 3 biggest takeaways:
👉Big emotions are impossible to keep out of the workplace. This came sharply into focus during COVID. The lines are even more blurred with more people working from home.
👉Accepting emotions makes them more productive. The question is not if they are “good” or “bad”. The question is what can we learn from them?
👉Supportive group leaders make a difference. They create conditions for working through emotions in a healthy way – or not.
How does your workplace manage difficult emotions?
🪜The “4A” Framework for Handling Big Emotions in Your Live Sessions
It can be challenging to know how to handle big emotions when they come up in your live sessions.
Do you stop everything and give the floor to the emotional group member? Do you keep things moving for the sake of time?
Working with emotions is an inevitable part of leading live groups. The better you get at it, the less awkward it will feel. And the better your sessions will be.
Today I want to share a framework that can help you handle big emotions in your live sessions.
I call it the “4A” Framework. Let’s take a look at each of the A’s👇
You may not know what big emotions will come up in your groups. But you can anticipate what kind of emotions could come up.
Tip 👉 Make a list of big emotions before your session. For example anger, frustration, worry, and so on. They may not arise. But at least you won’t be surprised if they do.
All people want to be seen and heard. It’s a basic human desire. Sometimes just acknowledging that someone is experiencing emotions is what is called for.
Tip 👉 Listen actively. Reflect back on what you are seeing and hearing. For example, “I can see that you are frustrated, have I got that right?” And then let them respond.
Emotions aren’t good or bad. They just are. And they give us valuable information that can help us make meaning of situations that we face.
Tip 👉 Show curiosity. Explore what the individual and group can learn from the emotion. Is there a connection to your session’s purpose?
It’s not easy to share emotions in a big group. Expressing emotions can spark breakthroughs that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Tip 👉 Thank the person for opening up, being real, and taking the group deeper.
It takes practice and time to get comfortable with handling big emotions in your groups. Start with small steps. Use this framework and you’ll get more confident. And your group will get more out of your sessions.
What is one small step you could take to take to handle big emotions in your groups?
Disclaimer: This framework responds to common emotions that arise in groups. Complex conflict situations and trauma work need specialized skills and training.
💛Big thanks to my mentor Nadia Chaney for her coaching and expertise in handling emotions.
📋Susan David’s List of Emotions
One of the things that has helped me to handle big emotions in my live sessions is getting better at naming emotions.
Here’s a list of emotions from Emotional Agility author Susan David that has helped me develop my “emotions” vocabulary.
✍️ Illustration of the week
Illustration by @LizandMollie on Instagram
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