Many people only half listen to what another is saying. Why? They are too busy framing their argument. There is a better way.  First some humor.


Listening is a developed skill and how well we listen depends on our ability to set aside the beliefs that we hold most passionately. These are the beliefs that shape our behavior, our explanations of what is and what is happening. Such beliefs help us navigate the ups and downs of life.

Think of the very basic idea that the ground or flooring beneath our feet is solid and safe to walk on. Then imagine if we could never be sure when we could safely take a step because the ground was sometimes solid and sometimes not.   Mega uncertainty; for many the uncertainty would be immobilizing.

Cognitive theorist and Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan is the leading authority on this. Kagan notes that certainty or uncertainty about the core beliefs we hold drives much human behavior.

In addition to the need for certainty, humans share a few other basic needs. We want to be safe, we want to be affirmed, we want to be competent, we want to be feel good about ourselves, and we want to feel powerful.  Uncertainty about any of these basic needs is emotionally painful.

How painful uncertainty can be resolved determines whether we get angry or depressed. If we can blame someone for creating uncertainty by their contrary beliefs we get angry and argue but only if we believe we can win those arguments.

If we blame our selves for being too weak to win the battle for certainty, we blame ourselves and become immobilized by despair or depression.  What to do? Try the following

Emotional Fitness Tips

Emotional Fitness Training tip one: Listen for possible truths in beliefs that contradict yours.

Emotional Fitness Training tip two: Make judgments of other people’s beliefs  the basis of kindness versus cruelty. Moreover, accept that cruelty can be disguised as kindness and some kindnesses are cruel.

Emotional Fitness Training tip three: Own your passionate beliefs as emotional and not always rational. Don’t set aside your core beliefs, but don’t let uncertainty about what cannot be proved lead you to attacking other people’s beliefs.

Emotional Fitness Training tip four: When arguing religion, remember faith is best defined as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. So it really becomes a matter of opinion.

Emotional Fitness Training tip five: Don’t try to predict the future, particularly other people’s behavior.  Patterns may seem apparent, but change is constant. Even weather men with all the advanced technology at their command can only guess about what tomorrow’s weather.


Emotional Fitness Training tip six: Stick with facts and realize that interpretation plays a huge part in what most people accept as factual.

Emotional Fitness Training tip seven:  Realize that name calling and character assassination signal an end to reasoned debate.

Emotional Fitness Training tip eight:  Self-soothing skills strengthen everyone’s ability to act on the above.



Kagan  also  notes that infants and children in their first efforts to understand the world accept what is as normal and what should be.  Helping a child deal effectively with life’s uncertainty depends on know how children think. Children are not miniature adults and do not think like adults.

I am surprised at how many parent advisers and therapist st tailor their suggestions to the child’s thinking age and stage.  However, I am not surprised that parents don’t fully understand the ins and outs of a child’s thinking and how it changes as they grow. So here is a link to one of my posts about How Children Think.


The heart of emotional intelligence is the ability to know what your heart tells you to do, but then partnering with your thinking skills so you make the best decision possible. I use Daily Prompts to help me think more critically.  Here’s today’s.

DAILY PROMPT –  I’d Like to Thank My Cats: You are receiving an award –- either one that already exists, or a new one created just for you. What would the award be, why are you being honored, and what would you say in your acceptance speech?

Not sure of the award, but maybe for promoting Emotional Intelligence which stresses thinking outside of the box of our feelings.  For that I would like to thank Media High School’s English teacher Mr. Gordon Davis.

Mr. Davis asked me to join the debate team. Being on the team meant learning to think critically and also to argue without getting too emotional and never resorting to name calling or character assasination.

Me David invited me to join the debate team despite the fact that my learning disability dysgraphia also made him certain I would flunk out of college. He had faith in my brains and my ability to talk coherently  but despaired over my inability to spell or punctuate accurately. That was way back in the 1950s and before teachers knew about learning disabilities.

By the times  my sons were struggling with  spelling and punctuating in the 1980s , more was known about how the brain works and does not work. Both were diagnosed with dysgraphia.  That was when also I realized my brain was not designed to write as editors and teachers wish.  I could also see how many of my fore-bearers also struggled with dysgraphia.

So I am first of all grateful to Mr. Davis and all the English Teachers at the University of Delaware who fostered my critical thinking ability.

Finally, I am also grateful to IMB for developing and nurturing word processing with its spell and grammar check capacities. That did not solve all my problems, but enough of them to allow me to get published.



Don’t think you can afford a life coach? Like a life coach, EFTI’s poster coaches inspire, teach, motivate, and reinforce thinking about what matters.  To use, print up in color and post where it will be seen often.

Poster Coaches can also be used at family, staff meetings, in classes to motivate or spark discussions. Many are free.


Keep working to stay strong, I work hard to do the same. Like daily physical fitness keeps you strong, practicing some Emotional Fitness Training Exercises keeps you emotionally strong.

Remember’s sharing is caring and the easiest way to Practice Kindness (an easy Emotional Fitness Exercise) is to share this post if you found it helpful.  Thank you.


Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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