It’s been about 17 months since I first connected with the Emotional Culture Deck (aka ECD, the Deck or my Beloveds), Jeremy Dean the creator, and the ever-growing Elephant and Rider community. I remember every moment - my first glimpse of the web profile, the painstaking printing, laminating and cutting out of my first deck, and my planned campaign to convince Jeremy to let me do the training even though I wasn’t an Agile coach (lucky for Jeremy it wasn’t necessary!). At 17 months and counting, I am still officially in the honeymoon period of a pure and innocent love affair – one I hope lasts a long time.
I have used the ECD concept and cards in so many ways outside of their original purpose – which tells me the quality of their design is second to none. Their effectiveness is limited only by my ability to ask the right question that will open a conversation that is helpful - for my clients, colleagues, family or friends.
Like someone who is sickeningly in love, I can’t stop talking about the virtues of the ECD as it is always forefront of my mind. Even my colleagues have taken to describing me as the ECD evangelist as I wonder aloud at every opportunity “I wonder what we could do here with the ECD” – I can’t help myself. So let me count for you the ways:
1. I love that the Deck simply and pragmatically provides the how-to, increasing your emotional intelligence by starting with yourself. I love the self-awareness that blossoms the more you use it. Regular self-check-ins and check-ins with other people build your connection to your emotions and the emotions of people close to you, changing your relationships.
2. I love how the Deck provide words for people to describe their feelings, so they can hear themselves and be heard by others. As someone with limited emotional vocabulary, I find the act of looking through the cards is now a trust exercise. Even if I don’t know what I am feeling when I start, I know I’ll have a word or words after I have sifted through the pack. And this is important because…
3. I love how the deck help us to down-regulate the physiological response to our strong emotions by helping us to specifically identify what it is we are feeling. This helps us to think clearly about how we want to respond – which is important if you don’t want to alienate people with unexpected emotional outbursts. It is also the reason why my Beloveds have been re-named the “Arsehole cards” in my office, for their ability to make you acknowledge how you are feeling and why. While deeply uncomfortable at times (hence Arsehole cards), about 30 minutes later we are frequently amazed at the transformation that occurs just by naming.
4. I love how the deck connect the dots for me, aligning some of my favourite science with practical and experiential action. It’s like a dinner party in my head with a pretty prestigious guest list of explorers from directly related fields of enquiry –
Bruce Lipton, Candice Pert, Gabor Mate, Peter Levine, Susan David, Marc Brackett, Brene Brown, Pippa Grange and others. I now have some newcomers to add, Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neil - thanks to Jeremy for the introduction.
5. I love how people’s faces slowly reveal their surprise as they lean into their first experience with the deck. It’s like a first date, with some initial apprehension and nervous giggles, followed by an interesting conversation that builds in intimacy and depth, leading to a growing awakening that this might be something unique and worth repeating. The transformation I witness on the faces of people as they recognise this is different to anything they have done before; the honest willingness with which their feelings are shared; and the connections, first with themselves and then with others, is truly heart-warming.
6. I love how the deck makes connections, deepening any conversation effortlessly, leaving small talk in its wake. I want to know how people I care about feel – before ECD they would shrug and say, sad, or angry or happy. Now we can really dig down into such choices as welcome, alienated, loved, or disheartened, alone or connected in the blink of an eye, or at least the first sentence or two of a conversation. As a coach, using the deck is a gift because it gets into the heart of matters quickly, provoking questions that often lead to profound insights for the counterpart.
7. I love how I can pique the interest of a leader by sitting down with them and offer them the Deck, asking how they felt last week or want to feel next week. Often their interest is driven by the thought of using it with their teams and/or their families too. Playing the game puts the people you love front of mind as you are inspired by your own experience. A game that makes it easier to have real conversations needs to be used beyond the workplace and with the people who really matter to you.
8. I love how it sparks exciting new ideas in my brain when I think about how I could use it, from supporting oncology massage therapists with self-care, connecting teams with empathy and their shared humanity, to using the deck with people who are ill or in pain and measuring how specifically identifying regularly what they are feeling changes their physiological response, awareness of symptoms and/or their perception of pain.
The most common question I have answered after a workshop is – “where did you get these from, they would be great to use with my kids?” We are forever seeking a deeper and truer connection, especially with our loved ones.
Jeremy uses a Maya Angelou quote in the course materials - “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
I like that one, but I have my own favourite - “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” (also Maya). I can’t unknow the experiences I have had as a result of using the emotional culture deck. In my life, I have always done the best I can, but now I know better. So with the ECD in my pocket, I can do better, at work, in my relationships and for my family.