Part 4 of EI and Nursing – Emotional Clarity and Repair

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Part 4 of EI and Nursing – Emotional Clarity and Repair

            Hi Fabiah readers, welcome back to our series EI and Nursing. We are continuing our deep dive into the three traits used to measure Emotional Intelligence (EI) – attention, clarity, and repair. Last time we talked about attention, the trait that can come back to bite us if we’re not careful. If you want to read about how emotional attention can actually lower your EI, check out the previous article (Part 3) in this series. If you don’t want to miss the next article, sign up for the weekly newsletter below.

            This time our subject is the other two traits, clarity and repair. Unlike attention, there are no downsides with clarity and repair. The more you have of one or both of these traits, the better off you and your EI will be. We’ll start by getting a better handle on what these traits look like. Then, we’ll see what research has to say about their benefits.

            When it comes to our emotions, clarityis the trait that lets us distinguish one feeling from another. Without emotional clarity, we’re left not knowing exactly what we’re feeling. This is especially true when we’re tired or stressed. Imagine you’re exhausted and running around a hectic clinic with a thousand things to do. You ask a colleague a simple question and, in response, you get a short, rude answer. Inside, you feel an emotion ignite, but what emotion? It’s easy enough to react before you know exactly what you’re feeling. EI, however, requires being able to tell which emotion you’re feeling. In other words, EI requires clarity.

            Going back to that rude colleague (we’ll call her Sheila), let’s add some different contexts and see how clarity works. It turns out, Sheila was not rude to you just this one time; she routinely treats you unfairly. In light of this context, clarity helps you understand that the emotion you’re feeling is anger. Let’s imagine another scenario, where her rude treatment began after you made a serious medical error. In this case what you’re feeling is embarrassment. What about this: it’s not just Sheila, it’s all your colleagues who are rude to you, now what are you feeling? Probably sadness and maybe confusion. Those who score high in clarity know for each situation which emotion they are feeling. Next, they need to deal with that emotion. For that, they need the final trait: repair.

            Clarity helps us figure out what we’re feeling; Repair helps us do something about it. Go back to the examples above. If you’re response to Sheila is anger, you might repair that feeling by saying to yourself something like, “Getting angry is only going to make my day worse. Instead, I’m going to focus on positive aspects of my job, including other, fantastic colleagues.” There are many ways to manage the anger in this example. The point is that repair gives us some control over our emotions, and that control improves our lives and work.

            Many benefits come with high scores in clarity and repair. Clarity correlates with lower levels of anxiety and depression. Repair tracks with life-satisfaction, better mental health, and greater compassion. Also, clarity and repair tend to go together. When we score high in one, we are more likely to score high in the other, which is almost certainly because these two traits work together. After all, we can’t choose a strategy for repairing an emotion unless we have clarity on which emotion we are trying to repair.

            It’s not just clarity and repair. All three traits – attention included – work together. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a case. In that case Tabitha, a nurse, used her EI to care for a difficult patient. Tabitha started by paying attention to what she was feeling, then gained clarity about the emotion (she felt insulted), and lastly repaired (or regulated) that emotion. In stressful situations, we can think of attention, clarity, and repair as steps we need to take. First, we need to look at what we’re feeling, second we need clarity about the emotion, and third need a strategy for repairing the emotion.

            Breaking the process down helps us address weaknesses. For example, if we are trying but failing to repair an emotion, we should reconsider whether we really have clarity on what we’re feeling. On the other hand, we could be confident about which emotion we’re feeling but unable to repair. In that case, the clarity we have is a good start, and now we should focus on finding an effective strategy for repair.

            Having these three EI traits gives us patience with ourselves and others. We can recognize when one colleague is struggling to understand what he’s feeling. When another colleague knows what he’s feeling, but hasn’t yet taken steps toward repair, we could encourage him to talk about it. We might even notice someone falling into the too-much-attention trap, brooding and feeling helpless. Awareness of these EI traits can help you improve EI, take better care of your colleagues, and together improve the care you provide patients.

            This article brings us to the halfway point of our EI and Nursing series. So far we have introduced EI, applied it to Emotional Labor, and broken it down into attention, clarity, and repair. We’re starting to get a good handle on EI. In upcoming articles, we look at how EI relates to other, older concepts in nursing, like compassion, sympathy, and empathy.

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