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Many of you who have attended my Emotional Intelligence (EI) presentations and our workshops wanted to know more about the “Feelings Board” and the legend we created to tract our feelings. So let me begin first with a little history, especially why we created it in the first place, and then tell you how it functioned.

About six years into my practice, it became obvious that many of the challenges we dealt with day in and day out centered on emotions. Whether it was helping a patient elect major dentistry or staff leadership, feelings played a large part. As those in my presentations heard me describe, I did not grow up learning how to handle emotions in a constructive way, in fact, I learned to avoid them if at all possible. One of the first breakthroughs in the area of feelings (what we now know as Emotional Intelligence) came during a workshop with Ken Olson, PhD. Ken suggested that a healthy way to begin each day was to consciously decide and declare at least to yourself how you felt upon arrival at the office via a “Feelings Board.”

My team and I created such a board that hung just outside of my office where the team huddle was held each morning. Across the top of a large cork Feelings Board were the days of the week— Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Down the left side were the names of each team member—-including the doctors. At the bottom of the board was a legend with a series of colored flags.

Each morning upon arrival everyone was invited to pick one or more flags representing how they felt upon arrival and put those flags on the day of the week across from their name. No one was forced to do this, but most put up their flags. I was one of the most faithful in doing this—in large part because it made me more emotionally aware, and I had to consciously decide how I was choosing to feel upon arrival. It was one of my first steps at what is described in the EI jargon of today as “Self Awareness.”

Here’s the legend we used ~

Color of Flag Meaning
Yellow = Warm & Fuzzy, Feeling Great!
Green = 80% Great … 20% I’m struggling with.
Blue = Emotional & Need A Hug.
Black = Emotional & Do Not Need A Hug!
White = Give Me Space Today.
Red = Bard Parkers at 20 Paces!

It was ok to mix colors or to change them during the day. In fact, I remember quite early in this practice, a day occurred when a major dropped ball occurred in the return of a lab case for a woman who’d driven from out of town for an insertion appointment. I went back to the board and changed my yellow flag to three red flags. Needless to say, the team circled wide that afternoon!

A few years ago, Irene Oldfather, RDH, thought of the idea of adding some American Flags to the bottom of the board. If during the day someone did something special, you should go back and put an American Flag beside his or her name. It created some neat responses. As people passed the board during the day and saw that flag beside their name, they’d ask others “Did you put that flag up next to my name?” Even if they hadn’t, they would often say, “No but I’ve been meaning to compliment you on something.” Nice way to stimulate affirmations which we all need plenty of each week.

We encourage you to give the Feelings Board a try in your office if you, like us, want to acknowledge emotions as simply part of our day to day life. Appropriate transparency and acknowledgement of emotions are one of the hallmarks of highly functioning teams. We do encourage you to create your own legend as a team. That’s actually a fun exercise. Good luck on growing your emotional intelligence!