Family Dinner Topic: Which Emotion is Most Difficult for You to Express?

Family Dinner Topic-Which Emotion is Most Difficult for You to Express at Home and Why

Last night, I asked this question at dinner: “Which Emotion is Most Difficult for You to Express at Home and Why?”

Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book, “Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” (1995) explored the powerful fact that our ability to identify, understand, and regulate our emotions is fundamental to our happiness and ability to connect with others. As a child who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I missed the whole EQ bus. My family didn’t talk about emotions or practice how to regulate them in a healthy way.

“What really matters for success, character, happiness and life long achievements is a definite set of emotional skills – your EQ. Not just cognitive abilities that are measured by conventional IQ tests.” 

Daniel Goleman

When my kids were babies, I realized I had a lot to learn to help my family (and myself) develop Emotional Intelligence. After reading Goleman’s book and others, we started talking more openly about our emotions. And we still do.

My family’s responses to my question were honest, insightful and a good reminder that EQ is a life long journey.

Difficult and Uncomfortable Emotions

One responded, “When I’m feeling annoyed. When I’m annoyed, I just need some space. But I realize I need to let you guys know when I’m feeling this way.”

Another said, “I don’t want everyone to try to make me feel better, so sometimes I don’t share when I’m sad.”

I shared that I have a hard time showing when I’m sad too. I don’t want to burden the family.  This is an old habit of mine that has proven difficult to change. As my family’s EQ role model, I’ll keep working on it.

This meaningful dinner conversation left all of us feeling more connected and understood. It also reminded us of the importance naming our uncomfortable emotions and what we need in those moments. (space, to be heard, a hug, etc)

Name to Tame

The phrase “Name to Tame” is used in child development and counseling circles. When we pause and put words to what emotions we’re feeling, we’re on the path to regulating those emotions.

Please note that this family conversation requires an atmosphere that is emotionally safe. If your family has a habit of making fun or being critical of each other, work on creating a safe atmosphere first.

If you are interested in learning more about Emotional Intelligence, here are two great books:

Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

John Gottman, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child”

If you have this dinner conversation with your family, I would love to hear how it goes!

Ground Rules to Support Family Dinner Connection and Conversations

  • Make the dinner table a safe space. Practice respectful listening. Do not make fun or embarrass anyone about what they share. (This rule has grown into a house rule too.)
  • Turn off and put away devices. Make the dinner table a no phone, tablet, or TV zone. 
  • Make the conversations fun, especially as you get started. (Later, families may delve into more serious topics and discussions.)
  • Choosing not to respond is okay. Allow family members just to listen if they prefer not to share.
  • To start, introduce just one topic at each dinner. From there, decide what works best for your family.

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Published by Jessica Speer, Author

Author and Advocate for Kids and Families

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