Touchstones: A Communication Pathway

Part Four: Before you Communicate with Another, Know Your Emotions

  It is critical for people to identify their own emotions as accurately as possible before attempting to engage in any dialogue, especially those that focus on problem solving or other difficulties. Toward this goal, the first author, Ries, on the basis or her own clinical, mediation, and arbitration practice, identified twelve emotions that she has demonstrated are important in the reception and use of the Touchstone Skills. In our earlier book In Justice, inAccord  (Ries & Harter, 2012) we grouped these emotions into two categories, Empowering (Positive) Emotions  and Disempowering (Negative)Emotions, anticipating that an acceptance and mastery of the Touchstone Practice skills would enhance the empowering emotions and attenuate or weaken the strength of the disempowering emotions. And this is precisely what we found.

Although this conceptualization is decidedly Western, it is compatible with Eastern Buddhist perspectives on different classifications of emotions. For example, the Dalai Lama (2011) distinguishes between those emotions that are beneficial and those that are harmful, to the point of being interpersonally destructive. This, he points out, is particularly problematic where their intensity is disproportionate to the situation in which they arise. Destructive emotions can erode our capacity for genuine contentment and undermine our mental equilibrium, both of which are necessary for authentic communication.