An Open-Hearted Approach to Emotional Intelligence


NINE WORKSHEETS. (For Use in Emotional Literacy Training Workshops.)

By Claude Steiner Ph.D.

(c) 1998 Claude M. Steiner PhD. 2901 Piedmont Avenue, Berkeley, 94705 USA

(510) 843 9667 FAX 848-9789  csteiner@igc.org    www.emotional-literacy.com



1. About Strokes

Strokes are units of interpersonal recognition.

Strokes Can be Good or Bad; Positive or Negative:

* Good, positive strokes (AKA: Warm Fuzzies) are wholly positive, heartfelt and truthful recognition transactions.

* Bad, negative strokes (AKA*: Cold Pricklies) are toxic recognition transactions.

                                1.) Overt put downs

                2.) Covert put downs .

                                            a. Comparisons.

                                             b. Insincere strokes (AKA: Plastic Fuzzies.)

* AKA: Also Known As

Strokes Can be Wanted or Unwanted:

Strokes which are positive in nature are not necessarily wanted by any one specific person.

Strokes Can be Physical, Verbal or Non-verbal (Action Strokes):

 * Physical strokes can be simple touch, hugs, kisses, caresses, back rubs, being held, holding hands, etc.

* Verbal strokes can be about a person's looks, clothing, intelligence, generosity, creativity, elegance, wisdom, dignity, leadership ability, tact, warmth, energy, taste, honesty or any attribute a person possesses.

* Action strokes are non-verbal forms of recognition like listening empathizing, or actively liking or loving someone

Strokes Have Power:

They have the power to soothe or agitate, to create good or bad feelings, to make people feel OK or Not OK about themselves, to heal physical and mental illness. Some strokes are more powerful than others depending on how much they are wanted , who is giving them and how strongly they are worded or delivered. Stroke starvation can lead to physical and mental and emotional illness. Depression is most often the result of stroke deficit. Stroke satisfaction "opens the heart."

Strokes Involve Risk:

The risk of giving or asking for strokes depends on how much they are wanted and the likelihood of rejection or how much the critical Parent opposes them. When risky, stroking takes courage.


2. The Stroke Economy and the Critical Parent

Q.: People need positive strokes. So why don't people exchange them freely?

A.: Because of the Stroke Economy rules enforced by the Critical Parent

The Critical Parent: (also known as the Pig Parent, Enemy, internalized oppressor, prison guard, harsh superego, low self esteem, electrode, negative self talk, cognitive traps, catastrophic expectations, stinking thinking, etc.)

The Critical Parent is a coherent, learned set of critical and controlling points of view which are often, but not always, heard as an internal, parental voice.

The basic message of the Critical Parent is:



You are bad (sinful, lazy, wicked, etc.)

You are ugly ( ugly face, ugly body, etc.)

You are crazy (mentally, emotionally, irrational, out of control, etc.)

You are stupid ( retarded, canít think straight, confused, etc.)

You are doomed (ill, hopeless, self destructive, etc.)

And you will not be loved

The Critical Parent's role in relation to strokes is to enforce the rules of the Stroke Economy. The Stroke Economy is a set of rules that regulates the exchange of human affection.

The Stroke Economy's Rules of the Critical Parent are:

Don't give strokes: If you have a stroke you want to give don't give it

Don't ask for strokes: If there is a stroke you want don't ask for it.

Don't accept strokes: Don't accept a stroke you want.

Don't reject strokes: Donít reject a stroke you donít want.

Don't give yourself strokes

When most people follow some or all of these rules, the eventual outcome is that there will be a dramatic decrease in the strokes exchanged between people . Any stroke is better than no strokes at all. People who are stroke starved become willing or even eager to accept negative, toxic strokes. The result is that as predicted by the Critical Parent we are not loved


3. Opening The Heart

Opening the Heart is an Exercise for the Free Exchange of Strokes. We begin Emotional Literacy Training here because the heart is the gateway to our emotions and it is here that we can begin to explore feelings in relative safety.

1. Making a Cooperative Agreement: No Power Plays, specifically:

Honesty. an agreement not to lie by omission or commission,

especially about what we want or how we feel.

B. No Rescues; an agreement not to:

a) do anything we don't want to do, or

b) do more than our share in any transactional exchange.

2. Dismantling the Stroke Economy by:

A. Giving Strokes:

a.) Overcoming Critical Parent prohibitions against giving strokes

b.) Strokes must be truthful, not manufactured or exaggerated

(Poetry is allowed, however.)

B. Asking for Strokes:

a. Overcoming Critical Parent prohibitions against asking for strokes.

b. When asking for strokes, depending of the risk we want to take, we can ask for a specific verbal or physical stroke from a specific person or for any kind of a stroke from any person.

C. Accepting/Rejecting Strokes

a. Overcoming Critical Parent prohibitions against taking strokes we want

b. Overcoming Critical Parent prohibitions against rejecting strokes we don't want

c. Errors we commit:

i. Rejecting positive strokes we want

ii. Accepting toxic strokes (negative strokes with a positive face, or plastic fuzzies.)

iii. Accepting positive strokes we don't want

D. Giving Oneself Strokes

Overcoming Critical Parent prohibitions against giving oneself strokes.

The practice of Opening the Heart has the effect of increasing the exchange of positive strokes, resulting in an expansion of positive feelings: Opening the Heart, between participants.



In Transactional Analysis we use three types of contracts:

Treatment or Teaching Contract: As in the case of any legal contract a treatment or teaching contract is mutual agreement between consenting adult individuals in which a certain service is performed by the therapist or teacher for the student or client for consideration. Contracts can be long term (as in curing depression) or short term (as in learning how to give or take strokes.)

Confidentiality Contract. We have two options:

Confidentiality Contract; Type I:

*Nothing transpiring in the meeting will be discussed outside of the meeting.

Confidentiality Contract; Type II:

*When discussing the events of the meeting outside of the meeting the person will take responsibility to make sure that the identities of the people discussed cannot be recognized.

*Anyone can impose a partial or total ban on being discussed outside of the meeting by just requesting it.

Cooperative Contract: A cooperative contract is a mutual agreement to abstain from power plays.

A power play is any maneuver designed to get another person to do (or stop from doing) something that she/he would not do of his/her free will. Power plays range from the gross, physical to the subtle, psychological.

Two types of subtle, psychological power plays are especially important in human relationships and should be especially avoided:

Lies: Bold-face lies or lies by omission; including

lies about what we want or donít want for ourselves and

lies about how we feel.

Rescues: A Rescue occurs when a person either:

does something he/she does not want to do or

he/she does more than her/his fair share in a situation.

Instead we will ask for what we want, while not doing what we donít want to do, and negotiate to a mutually satisfying, cooperative consensus.


5. Surveying the Emotional Landscape; Part 1

Surveying the Emotional Landscape is an exercise about emotional awareness, emotional honesty and empathy and about people's emotional interconnections.

Part I: An exercise that teaches to effectively show others how their actions affect our feelings and that shows how to accept that sort of information without defensiveness.

1. Making an Action/Feeling Statement:

The A/F transaction is a reciprocal exchange of information about how one person's action has affected another person's feelings.

When delivering an A/F statement we simply inform another person, as follows:

"When you (action) I felt (feeling.)"

When speaking of an action it is important to characterize it in strict descriptive, behavioral terms; what the person did. No judgments, accusations or theories.

When describing a feeling it is important to specify the feeling (angry, happy, hurt, etc.) and its intensity (furious, annoyed, irritated, etc.) Again, no judgments, accusations or theories.

2. When accepting an A/F statement we acknowledge that a certain action of ours caused a certain feeling in another person.

"I understand; when I (action,) you felt (feeling.)"

No defensiveness or attempts to explain or justify our actions.

With the action/feeling transaction we learn about the feelings we cause in people, the feelings they cause in us, and their intensity. We also learn to control our need to argue and be defensive when confronted with the consequences of our actions.


6. Surveying the Emotional Landscape Part 2

Part 2 of Surveying the Emotional Landscape, Validating Intuition, is an exercise in which we develop our intuitive skills and learn to be emotionally honest.

Validating Intuition, Empathic Perception or Paranoid Fantasy.

Intuition is a powerful tool for the acquisition of knowledge. Intuition can express itself as a hunch, an empathic perception or a paranoid fantasy. Intuitive knowledge, to be properly used must be checked out. Validating intuition is a reciprocal exchange of information about the accuracy of our intuitive perceptions.

1. When attempting to validate an intuition we ask the following kind of a question:

"I have a hunch about how you are feeling. Can I tell you about it ?

After permission is given:

"I have the hunch that you are feeling (explain)" or

"I have a paranoid fantasy that (explain.)"

2. When responding to an intuitive perception we endeavor to validate (instead of discounting) how much of it is correct, even if just a "grain of truth."

With this transactional exchange we learn to become aware of our intuitive perceptions, to word them and to respectfully question others about their validity. When faced with another person's perceptions we learn to honestly validate, instead of discounting their accuracy.


7. Taking Responsibility

Taking Responsibility concerns the emotional damage we cause each other and how to take sincere, open-hearted liability, apologize and make amends.

Rectification of Rescue, Persecution or Victim Behavior

Most of the emotional damage done in relationships is done while playing one of the three basic game roles: Rescuer, Persecutor or Victim. When we discover that we have been relating to others in one of these three roles it is important, as a way of rectifying the situation, to take responsibility and apologize:

RESCUE: "When I (action,) I Rescued you because: a. I was doing something I did not want to do" and/or b. "In my opinion, I was doing more than my fair share."

PERSECUTION: "When I (action,) I Persecuted you because I addressed you with anger which did not fairly belong to you."

VICTIM: "When I (action,) I acted as a Victim; I expected (or demanded) that you Rescue me."

"I apologize, I promise to do better next time, will you accept my apology?"

An apology to be complete has to be accepted. The injured person has to experience and give in to the desire to forgive. This is unlikely to happen unless:

the apology is delivered with the proper emotional tone of sadness, sorrow, shame or regret and devoid of anger, pride or self pity.

the apology clearly states the injurious actions committed and the injured person agrees that those were the actions requiring an apology, and

the apology assumes that forgiveness may not be forthcoming and accepts that outcome if it occurs.

Apology and Begging Forgiveness.

Apologies vary from minor, everyday apologies to major begging for forgiveness. On occasion we commit acts which are so injurious that even when such actions are forgotten and their effects swept under the rug, they leave indelible scars in their victims which can only be repaired through a major apology and offer of amends. If, after thoughtful soul searching, the apology is accepted and forgiveness is granted, there may be psychic healing possible. However it is important that the injured party be free not to forgive, to postpone or to set conditions for forgiveness and reconsideration.


8. Ten Basic Emotional Literacy Transactions

* This set of emotionally literate transactions is arranged in order of difficulty. "Asking for Permission" should be used every time an emotionally literate communication is initiated. The other ten transactions are to be used when appropriate.

0. Asking for Permission: Preparing for an emotionally literate communication by asking the recipient for permission to proceed and being willing to accept a postponment.


1. Giving Strokes: Making wholly positive, truthful, non-comparative statements of recognition.

2. Taking Strokes: Asking for, accepting and giving oneself strokes. Rejecting strokes we don't want.


3. Delivering an Action/Feeling Statement: "When you (action) I felt (feeling)" No judgments, accusations or theories. 4. 4. Accepting an Action/Feeling Statement: Non-defensive acceptance of the emotional information being given.


5. Revealing Intuitions, Empathic Perceptions or Paranoid Fantasies: Tentative presentation of an intuitive perception about another person's feelings actions or intentions .

6. Validation of an Intuition, Empathic Perception or Paranoid Fantasy: Searching, without defensiveness, for the validating truth, however small (grain of truth) which accounts for the above intuitive impression.


7. Rectifying Lies, Rescue, Persecution or Victim Behavior:

"When I (action,):

a. I lied or did not tell you the whole truth."

b. I Rescued you because, i) I did something I did not want to do or ii) I was, in my opinion, doing more than my share."

c. I Persecuted you because I addressed you with anger that did not fairly belong to you."

d. I acted as a Victim because I expected or demanded that you Rescue me.

"I apologize and will do better next time." "Do you accept my apology?"

8. Accepting/Rejecting Rectification: Non defensive acceptance of the emotional information being given, followed by acceptance or rejection of the apology. When rejected an apology may need to be rephrased, postponed or withdrawn.


9. Apology and Begging for Forgiveness: "I apologize for (action): it was wrong and I regret having hurt you. Will you forgive me?"

10. Accepting Apology and Granting or Denying Forgiveness:: Hearing the apology and after thoughtful soul-searching, either a) granting forgiveness or, b) postponing forgiveness, pending rephrasing or additional amends.



I. Place love at the center of your emotional life. Heart-centered emotional intelligence empowers everyone it touches.

II. Love yourself, others and truth in equal parts. Never sacrifice one to the other.

III. Stand up for how you feel and what you want. If you don't, it is not likely that anyone else will.

IV. Respect the ideas, feelings and wishes of others as much as you do your own. Respecting ideas does not mean that you have to submit to them.

V. Emotional Literacy requires that you not lie by omission or commission. Except where your safety or the safety of others is concerned, do not lie.

VI. Emotional Literacy requires that you do not power play others. Gently but firmly ask instead for what you want until you are satisfied.

VII. Do not allow yourself to be power played. Gently but firmly refuse to do anything you are not willing to do of your own free will.

IIX. Apologize and make amends for your mistakes. Nothing will make you grow faster.

IX. Do not accept false apologies. They are worth less than no apologies at all.

X. Follow these commandments according to your best judgment. After all, they are not written in stone.


(c) 1998 Claude M. Steiner PhD. 2901 Piedmont Avenue, Berkeley, 94705 USA

(510) 843 9667 FAX 848-9789  csteiner@igc.org    www.emotional-literacy.com