Linking Emotions to Equity

Amy Kesling, ACC
March 30, 2020

Last month, Step Up cofounder Amy Kesling had the opportunity to participate in a weeklong emotional intelligence training from the global EQ leader, Six Seconds. Emotional intelligence is about being smart with emotions, and it's tied to overall success, individually and organizationally.

Why does Step Up care about emotions? Because our approach - Recognizing, Owning, and Disrupting biases - brings up a lot of emotions. Not to mention that right now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we're all experiencing a heightened sense of fear, which can cause amygdala hijacking.

Emotions, like biases, are neither good or bad. They're data. Being able to recognize what's happening inside us gives us the power to be more intentional in our decisions and responses.

Photo of a park path along a river. There is an empty bench in the distance.

Imagine you are at a park and you see someone wearing a surgical mask. Imagine that person appears Asian. Though the path is wide enough for you to maintain recommended social distance, you pivot and walk the other way. The person wearing the mask sees you and adds this experience to the growing list of ways they're made to feel toxic.

Practicing our emotional intelligence skills and our ability to recognize biases can change this interaction. How?

  1. Building awareness of our emotions, like fear, can help us assess whether the emotion is useful. Is the feeling of fear actually protecting me, or is it unwarranted?
  2. Recognizing biases lets us make more intentional choices. Am I letting political figures paint a picture of who is safe/risky? Can I see this person as an individual rather than a stereotype?
  3. Practicing empathy shows us the impact of our actions on others. How might this person feel if I avoid them? How would I feel if this happened to me every day? Alternatively, how might they feel if I simply said hello?

The more you practice these skills, the quicker and more natural the process becomes. Like any new habit, it takes time to build. It's easy to fall back on our biases and let our emotions drive our decisions. The question is, is that how you want to show up in the world?