How does emotional literacy make a difference to everyday safety leadership?

Episode 068

Jul 3, 2024

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Understanding Emotional Literacy: A Key Life Skill

Emotional literacy is a powerful life skill that can transform our personal and professional lives.

Today's episode explores the significance of understanding and navigating emotions with Dan Newby, a guest and friend of the Safety Collaborators. Dan is a champion for emotional literacy and works with educators, leaders, coaches, and families worldwide.

He is the author of several books, including:

  • Hello Emotions
  • The Unopened Gift
  • 21 Days to Emotional Literacy
  • The Field Guide to Emotions
  • Dignity in Policing

and is also the founder of the School of Emotions.

He believes that emotional literacy is a life skill that can benefit each of us if we take the time to learn, and so do we.

His journey into emotional literacy began as a personal pursuit during a challenging period in his life.

Through understanding and developing his emotional awareness, he found solutions to many of his problems and later applied this knowledge professionally as a leader and coach.

The Journey of Emotional Awareness

Dan's journey into emotional literacy started with a personal crisis.

He realised the extent of his emotional ignorance and that by developing his emotional literacy, he could resolve many of his life issues and make better choices.

He later began to apply this professionally as a leader and a coach, helping others achieve similar transformations.

Dan shared that people usually make decisions driven by their emotions, even when they believe they are being rational.

By understanding emotions, naming them, and recognising their purpose, individuals can align their choices with their values and standards.

This integration clarifies and simplifies decision-making, reducing the internal conflict often described as a battle between the head and the heart.

The Impact of Emotional Literacy on Safety Leadership

Understanding emotions is crucial for safety leadership in high-hazard industries such as oil and gas, renewables, and construction. Emotions influence decisions, behaviours, and interactions in the workplace.

By developing emotional literacy, leaders can create safer environments, improve communication, and create a culture of psychological safety.

Dan explained that people typically use only 15 to 20 words to describe their emotions, but there are over 200 recognisable emotions. This limited vocabulary restricts our understanding and expression of emotions.

Expanding our emotional vocabulary and recognising the nuances of different emotions can help us better understand our experiences and improve our interactions with others.

Emotional Literacy vs. Emotional Intelligence: What's the Difference?

Thanks to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence (EQ) became widely recognised about 25 years ago. It refers to the capacity to understand and manage emotions.

Emotional literacy, a subset of EQ, involves naming, understanding, and using emotions effectively.

Just as literacy in language helps develop intellectual capacity, emotional literacy enhances emotional intelligence.

By understanding emotions, their stories, and their purposes, individuals can regulate their emotions, make better choices, and improve their emotional well-being.

Practical Steps to Enhance Your Emotional Literacy

Dan recommends simple practices to build emotional literacy:

1- Pause and Notice:

Set aside moments during the day to pause and ask yourself what emotion you are experiencing.

2- Name Your Emotions:

Identify and name the emotions you notice. This practice increases awareness and understanding of your emotional patterns.

3- Track Your Emotions:

Keep a chronological list of the emotions you experience throughout the week. Reviewing this list can reveal patterns and areas for improvement.

4- Explore Emotions:

Dive deeper into the emotions you identify. Understand their stories, purposes, and impacts on your behaviour and decisions.

Emotional literacy is a lifelong pursuit.

Continually expanding our understanding and vocabulary of emotions can enhance our emotional agility, resilience, and overall well-being.


Emotional literacy is a transformative skill that can significantly impact our personal and professional lives.

By understanding and managing our emotions, we can make better decisions, create safer workplaces, and improve our overall well-being.

Dan Newby's insights and practices provide a valuable framework for developing emotional literacy.

Whether in high-hazard industries or everyday life, cultivating emotional literacy can lead to greater clarity, ease, and effectiveness in all that we do.

To learn more, visit the School of Emotions website or connect with Dan on LinkedIn.
[links to both are in the resource section below].

Interested in developing emotional literacy for yourself and your team?

👇🏼 Click below to book your complimentary discovery call.

About the Show

Welcome to "In Conversation with the Safety Collaborators," the go-to podcast for anyone passionate about safety culture and leadership. Immerse yourself in insightful discussions where we explore the real-world challenges and triumphs of high-risk, high-hazard industries such as Oil & Gas, Renewables, Marine, Transport, Rail, and EPCM.

Join us as we engage in conversations with industry experts, seasoned leaders, and innovative thinkers who generously share their experiences and strategies for developing a culture of safety. Whether you're seeking leadership development, team dynamics, or ways to enhance your learning culture, our discussions are rich with practical advice and thought-provoking ideas that you can immediately apply in your work environment.

Each episode explores topics such as leadership, safety, emotional literacy, intercultural intelligence, psychological safety, human factors, communication, trust, the ROI of safety and more, offering valuable takeaways to apply in your work environment. We cover everything from on-site safety observations to bespoke coaching programmes, blending expert insights with engaging storytelling.

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