Emotions are an essential piece of our life. They not only tip the balance of decisions, but also influence our learning, daily performance, personal relationships and, of course, our mental and physical well-being. However, emotions are the great forgotten of education.
We teach children to do math, understand the universe and delve into biology, but we don’t teach them something as basic as assertively managing their emotions. As a result, when adults they become true emotional illiterates who have difficulties in recognizing and expressing their affective states, which often translates into psychological disorders. The RULER method tries to break that vicious circle.
What is the RULER method?
The RULER method is a scientifically based approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. This method supports school communities to better understand the value of emotions, the development of Emotional Intelligence, and the creation and maintenance of a positive school climate.
The main goal of the RULER method is to infuse the principles of emotional intelligence into the school system to improve the way students learn, teachers teach, and families guide their children. However, it can be applied at any time in life.
RULER is an acronym that encompasses the five skills of Emotional Intelligence:
Recognizing emotions in oneself and in others, not only through words but also through small changes in our own thoughts, energy level or even in the body, as well as facial expression, body language or someone else’s voice.
Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions. It is about understanding feelings and determining their origin, looking at how they influence our thoughts and decisions. This helps us make better predictions about our own thoughts and make more thoughtful decisions.
Labeling emotions with a nuanced vocabulary; that is, establishing connections between an emotional experience and the precise words to describe it. People with a more developed emotional vocabulary can differentiate between similar emotions but with different nuances, such as pleasure, happiness or euphoria.
Expressing emotions according to cultural norms and social context, so that we can generate the desired effect. This implies that we must know how and when to make our emotions transparent, depending on the time, place and the people around us.
Regulating emotions with useful strategies, to manage them properly instead of letting them take control. It implies being able to monitor, moderate and modify emotional reactions in a useful way to achieve our goals.
These skills help people of all ages to use their emotions wisely, opening up opportunities for them to be more successful at school, work, and life.
From the Mood Meter to the Meta-Moment, the 4 RULER tools
The RULER method is fundamentally based on 4 very effective tools:
1. Manifesto. It consists of creating and approving, among all, rules aimed at building and maintaining a positive emotional climate. Those norms should specify how people want to feel and how they can help each other to foster those feelings. However, it can also be a personal manifesto that governs the relationship with oneself.
2. Mood Meter. RULER’s Mood Meter improves self and social awareness. Created by psychologist James Russell, it’s a chart that measures two key attributes of moods: energy and pleasure. This simple matrix allows us to classify hundreds of moods into four key types. It also encourages the development of a larger emotional vocabulary to encourage emotional granularity and help people become aware of what they are feeling and the intensity of those states.
3. Meta-Moment. It provides a framework for responding to emotional situations with strategies that align with the best self and support healthy relationships and personal well-being. It is a pause to reflect when we are under strong emotional stress, instead of just reacting.
4. Blueprint. It is a tool that supports the development of empathy and conflict resolution skills, serving as a guide to reflect on the problem and restore affected relationships. It includes questions like: What happened? How I felt? What caused my feelings? How did I express and regulate my emotions? How could my actions have affected others? How could I answer differently? The interesting part of this tool is that we must first answer the questions from our perspective and then through that of an external observer.
How to apply the RULER method?
At the heart of the RULER method is a granular approach, since the idea is to broaden the understanding of our affective universe, distinguishing between different emotions and feelings.
For example, if we feel particularly bad we should:
1. (Recognizing) Recognize the underlying emotion as accurately as possible, whether we are overwhelmed, stressed or sad.
2. (Understanding) In a second moment we must ask ourselves why we feel this way. What circumstances have led us to that point? It can be about pressures, social expectations or our inability to manage a project.
3. (Labeling) At this point we can label all those other emotions that we are probably also feeling and that define our affective state. Accurately labeling emotions improves our self-awareness and helps us communicate what we are feeling more effectively, reducing misunderstandings.
4. (Expressing) It is about finding a way to express both, the basic emotion and all those others that accompany it, always in a healthy and respectful way with the others and with ourselves.
5. (Regulating) Regulating the emotions with useful strategies that allow us to accept even the most unpleasant ones and find an acceptable outlet for them.
Brackett, M. A. (2019) RULER: A Theory-Driven, Systemic Approach to Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning. Educational Psychologist; 54(3): 144-161.