Focus on the Second Step of the “RULER” Method: Understanding Emotions

by Sandra Clifton on February 21, 2011

The first step of Emotional Literacy in the “RULER” Method, developed by Dr. Marc Brackett of the Health, Emotion, and Behavior Laboratory at Yale University, is Recognizing multi-faceted feelings in each individual and social situation. The second aspect of this process is Understanding what those emotions mean and how they play into the unfolding dynamic of each relationship. This step may sound simple and automatic, but the different facets of feeling can vary quite a bit for each individual.

One tool that is especially helpful in this process is called the “Five Languages of Love.” Dr. Gary Chapman has developed several assessments to help identify the variety of ways that we communicate our care for each other. Some people may need verbal confirmation of commitment the most (like hearing the words, “I love you,”) while others instinctively assume that “words are cheap” and expect to see affirmation of affection through effort (“actions speak louder than words”).

Chapman identifies these Five Languages of Love as:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
  • Quality Time
  • Gifts

Each of these expressions of love is valuable and can be appreciated, but some “speak” louder than others with each individual involved. For example, if your child is sick and her primary language of love is Acts of Service, nothing means more than your effort to contact teachers and get her homework assignments or turn in the project she worked so hard on by making a special trip out of your way to her school before you depart for work that day. However, if your son’s primary language of love is Quality Time, perhaps the best investment you might make is to stay right by his side through the night while he tosses and turns and even ask off from work the next day to communicate your concern for his health and affirm your accessibility when he is ill.

While our intentions may be absolutely honorable and heartfelt, sometimes we are not “speaking” the best language of love for the people we care about the most, especially in our families. By reading Dr. Chapman’s books and/or visiting his website to access the love language assessments for parents of teenagers and children, you can better understand the emotional angles of the people nearest and dearest in your life.

Recommended Reading by Dr. Gary Chapman:

The Five Love Languages of Children
The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers
The Five Languages of Apology


About the Contributor: Sandra Clifton, Founder & Director of Clifton Corner: An Academic Coaching Center, is a regular blog contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the areas of social intelligence & emotional literacy

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