Character Chats

Becoming more aware of our own and others’ emotions

Every month here at True Balance Karate we have a social and emotional learning program called True Character.

This month’s True Character word of the month is awareness.

For our young students, we define it by saying “Awareness means I pay attention to my surroundings.” For our older students and adults, we say “I see people’s feelings. I know where I am. I ask great questions.”

We’re going to talk this week about awareness of emotions and feelings, and how we can recognize those emotions and feelings with others.

More than just our surroundings

Being aware is not just about our physical surroundings.

Last week, we talked about being aware of things around us, being aware of where people are at, being aware of where I’m at, being aware of when things are safe. Is it safe to ride my bike down that street right now? Is it not safe? Is it safe to talk to this person or not?

We talked about awareness and how once we start to understand things are there, we start to see more of it. Like when we find a new car or a bike that we would like, we start noticing it all around once we’ve seen that.

Well, we also can be aware of our feelings and the feelings of others.

Being aware of our own feelings

Being aware of our own feelings is really important. When we’re feeling sad or upset, what can we do? How do we recognize it? When we are feeling happy or excited, how do we recognize those feelings?

When you’re feeling sad and upset, sometimes you feel it in your stomach. Sometimes you feel butterflies if it’s nervous. Sometimes you just feel heavy if it’s sad. Sometimes you feel hot if it’s angry. Being aware of those feelings, being aware of those sensations, can be warning signs that we’re starting to feel these things.

It’s important to keep aware of that with ourselves and to keep honest with ourselves. If you have that butterfly feeling in your stomach — stomach’s a little fluttering and you’re not so sure — being aware of that can help inform you.

Maybe you have that feeling when you’re meeting somebody new for the first time and you get a little butterfly feeling about it. Well, maybe your subconscious is telling you that you need to be careful a little bit there, right?

Maybe you’re having a conversation with a friend and they said something and you start to feel that hot feeling. Well, we don’t want our anger to take over and sour our friendships, right? We all get angry, but feeling that feeling before we blurt out and yell something back can really help us save our friendships.

We always want to be aware of how we feel physically before those emotions bubble up.

Being aware of how others feel

We also want to be aware of how other people feel.

How can you be aware of how other people feel? One of the ways we’re aware of how other people feel is through their facial expressions. We can look at them. Now that we’re all wearing masks because of Covid, that has become a lot more difficult, hasn’t it?

That’s the one thing we’ve noticed in class, especially when we have new little students in class and we really make that eye contact. I want to know, are they having fun? Are they enjoying it? Have we connected with them? Or is the student still nervous? Are they still a little scared?

That’s an important feeling for us to understand. We’ve lost a little bit of the facial expressions behind the mask, but we can still see it in their eyes.

A lot of times I’ll get right down to a student’s level and look them right in the eye, and be like, “Hey, how’s it going?” And you look square into their eyes and you can see that feeling.

You can see if they’re happy. You can see if they’re sad. You can see if they’re scared. But you have to be aware of it.

Being aware of it is consciously taking an action to notice how they’re feeling and how they’re thinking. And that’s an important step to empathy. It’s hard to have empathy, understanding how somebody else feels, if you don’t even notice how they’re feeling.

Observe how other people are feeling

Take those conscious actions to pay attention to how other people are feeling.

Listen to their voice. How does their voice sound? Does it sound excited? Does it sound angry? Does it sound sad? Did their voice slow down? Did their tone lower a little bit? Did it speed up? Did it get higher pitch and faster? Did it get a little bit stronger, like they’re getting a little angry?

How about their body language? How can you tell how people feel through their body language? We can be aware of that. How are they standing? Are they standing relaxed and loose? Are they standing bored, with their posture messed up? Are they standing nervous, inward, small? Are they standing big and moving a little fast? Or are they just open and ready to see you?

Our body language can tell a lot about how we’re feeling, but we got to be aware of that and understand what it means. And we have to actually watch for it. That’s how you can be aware of how other people are feeling.

Building healthier relationships

Now, how do we build healthier relationships with others by doing this? Starting conversations, making eye contact and listening to what they have to say are just a few ways to show awareness for others. We can really help build and grow our relationship with other people by being aware of how they’re feeling.

Sometimes you get a friend — maybe you weren’t aware they were sad — and you start telling funny stories, talking about your day. You start complaining about something small and you realize they’re sad because something big happened to them.

We can really build our relationships by just noticing those things. We come in, we see our friends, we hear them start to talk. And as long as you’re aware, you can know if something is off with them and ask them how they’re feeling, how they’re doing.

So let’s all work on our awareness for each other’s feelings, make sure that we notice it and that we act on it.

In this current world, I think we’re all actually getting a little bit better. With our masks, we’ve taken away one big aspect of our face where we can see how they’re feeling, and it’s made us pay attention to all the other physical aspects of how people show how they’re feeling.

So let’s all practice our awareness and we will see everybody out on the mat.

Thanks. Have a great day.
– Master Helsdon