Business Book Brunch: Emotional Agility

Written by Bee Christie.

Review of June’s Business Book Brunch

Ozone Coffee Roasters was buzzing when I arrived, early, for my first Business Book Brunch (BBB) on Sunday 18 June. However, I wasn’t the only eager beaver to arrive early and ready bookto discuss our featured book, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David.

Like most network events, everyone around the table introduced themselves, and we had a range of members old and new, BBB virgins and seasoned professionals. We had the odd confession from people who hadn’t quite finished the book, which seems to be normal etiquette for the brunch session, so no pressure ladies! Our lively discussion was only interrupted by the generous portions of eggs benedict, smoked fish kedgeree, omelettes, etc., we had ordered to accompany our hot and cold drinks.

Susan David’s concept of emotional agility is about facing up to our emotions and using them to make decisions to lead a happier life. She draws on over 20 years of academic research and consulting, and writes about her own emotional experiences growing up in South Africa to overcome adversity.

The first step to emotionally agility is to acknowledge that our ‘emotions contain information, not directions’*. This is my favourite quote in the book and a theme that resonated strongly with most us. (In a podcast with Rob Bell, Susan calls it ‘data not direction’^, which I think is a much catchier phrase!) That is, our emotions aren’t telling us how to feel, think or act. Emotions are data to be analysed and interpreted to help us make decisions.

To adopt this first step we must face up to your emotions, which is something I’m not particularly good at. I’m what Susan David calls a ‘Bottler’**: I bottle up my negative emotions and pretend they don’t exist. So, instead of ignoring them I’ve been facing up to them. As I work away at home on my own on my new business start-up, I’ve been asking myself, “Why am I frustrated? Why am I anxious? What are these emotions telling me?”. I believe that by acknowledging my emotions and using them to make decisions I’ve been able to channel my energy into more productive tasks leaving the negativity behind.

This leads onto another theme from the book that we liked, which is learning to let things go, or ‘unstuck’ as Susan David calls it. As Kiwi women, we are great at writing lists. We receive great pleasure crossing things off as they are done – completed! However, persevering with something can be a waste of time, especially if it’s no longer relevant and serves no purpose. This doesn’t mean we’ve failed. It means we are now ‘unstuck’ and free to channel our energy into things more productive and satisfying.  

The final theme from the book I want to highlight is values because as New Zealanders living in London we often encounter values that differ to our own. Susan David writes that knowing our values helps us to consistently make the best decisions and, consequently, live happier lives. Frustration was a common emotion we discussed, particularly in the workplace, which is often the result of conflicting values. For example, where a Brit may say, “That’s not my job”, as Kiwis we are more likely to roll up our sleeves and get on with it. There’s not much we can do about this, unfortunately, but if we are emotional agile we can at least understand why we are feeling frustrated, see the broader context, let go and move on.

We talked about lots of other topics in the book, including emotional writing, mindfulness, contagious stress, and compassion for our younger self. But, I’m afraid I’ve exhausted my word count! If you’d like to know how these relate to emotional agility and, like me, you’re curious to find out what happens when you face up to your emotions, I highly recommend reading Susan David’s book.

Many girls had said during brunch that BBB was the highlight of their NZBWN event calendar and, as a book worm myself, I would have to agree. If you’d like to join us our next BBB is Saturday 19 August 10am-12pm at Ozone. We’re reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Look out for the invitation soon. If you’d like to get a head start on reading you can find it here:

Bee Christie

Working Bee Productions

Marketing and advertising support services including copywriting, copy editing and proofreading


*David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 35% - Loc 1413 of 4068.

^ Last assessed 25 June 2017.

**David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 15% - Loc 587 of 4068.

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