What is Emotional Literacy?
During the past decade the phrase “emotional literacy” has entered our culture’s vocabulary. Daniel Goleman’s best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, (Bantam, 1995), has brought this critically important issue into the national consciousness. New research has indicated that emotional intelligence is a key factor predicting success or failure in all aspects of human relationships – school, work, family, friendships – and in the well-being and optimism that is the consequence of self-esteem.
So what is emotional literacy? Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, manage, and express one’s emotions in a mature and conscientious manner. With this ability comes the capacity to empathize with the feelings of others. Emotional literacy educational programs offered by the Lionheart Foundation are designed to foster self-understanding and social, emotional and spiritual growth; and encourage responsibility and accountability towards oneself and others.
Consequences resulting from a lack of social emotional learning (SEL) and the resultant lack of emotional literacy can be staggering… abusive behavior toward others or oneself; high levels of frustration, anger, sadness, and personal suffering; inept parenting, addictions of all sorts, and much physical dis-ease. Social emotional illiteracy is a pivotal factor underlying most crime. One of the clear indicators of emotional illiteracy among youth is the increased violence in American schools.
The good news is that emotional literacy skills can be learned at any time in life. Social emotional learning results in the ability to read one’s own feelings as well as the feelings of others. When people develop emotional literacy skills, they are better able to identify, express, and manage their feelings. There are greater options for effectively dealing with stress and tension. There is greater impulse control. There is heightened self-awareness and self-understanding. Social skills and the ability to communicate effectively are enhanced. Consequently, behaviors and attitudes that arise from emotional literacy skills support and reflect self-esteem, empathy toward others, and appropriate action in the world.
The cultivation of emotional intelligence nurtures and elicits the best in people. Knowing this, it surely makes good sense to offer the necessary resources to support emotional literacy for every prisoner, youth-at-risk and teen parent. In fact, most adults and all children can significantly benefit from the heightened emotional intelligence and resulting confidence gained through specific education in this domain.
Furthermore, if we truly want public safety, we must make social emotional learning a national priority. The National Emotional Literacy Projects for Prisoners and Youth-at-Risk offer unique, accessible, and powerful resources toward this end.