Emotional Agility Book Summary By Susan David

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Emotional Agility (2016) is a revolutionary book that provides the reader with theories and tools to help them understand and master their emotions.

Written by renowned psychologist and author, Susan David, it explores the importance of being emotionally agile for healthy life outcomes.

This book explains how when we can detach ourselves from our reactions to life's events around us, we can become more effective in dealing with our fears and anxieties.

With easy-to-follow exercises and practices included in each chapter, Emotional Agility is a must-read for anyone looking to take control of their own emotional well-being.

Emotional Agility Book

Book Name: Emotional Agility (Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life)

Author(s): Susan David

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 19 Minutes

Categories: Personal Development

Author Bio

Susan David is a renowned medical psychologist who works with major companies as a consultant.

An authority in her field, she currently runs the Institute of Coaching at the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.

She has also been featured in prestigious publications such as the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal for her impressive writings.

With her insightful book 'Emotional Agility', Susan David stands out among authors for helping people unlock their potential and become agile managing their emotions all across different stages of their lives.

Learn How To Understand And Counteract Negative Self-Talk For Improved Mental Health And Emotional Agility

Mental Health

Do you struggle with negative emotions that eat up your energy and productivity? If so, emotional agility is a must-have skill – it helps you to deal with your emotions as they arise instead of letting them accumulate and cause trouble.

The book “Emotional Agility” offers practical advice on how to develop this important skill.

It starts off by showing you how to recognize the distortions in the stories your mind creates, such as those self-deprecating thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never be able to handle the presentation tomorrow.” It then teaches you how to unhook yourself from these unhelpful patterns and negative emotions they create.

You will also be presented with helpful tips on why forcing a smile is not necessarily beneficial; how downplaying weaknesses can make you less self-confident; and why people who say they enjoy golf might just be fooling themselves!

Overall, this book provides valuable insight on becoming emotionally agile – an essential component for better relationships, work performance and even communication with yourself.

How To Unravel The Distorted Stories We Tell Ourselves And Become More Emotionally Agile

Human brains are amazing storytellers and can turn a wealth of sensory information into a single narrative.

Unfortunately, this makes us prone to getting hooked into making distorted stories based on our lived experiences.

For example, if you had parents that separated soon after you were born, it’s easy to form a story in your mind that blames yourself for the divorce, even though it’s likely not at all your fault.

Or if you grew up in a family of extroverts and find that you’re an introvert, it’s easy to tell yourself that no one will ever truly love you as much as they love their outgoing family members.

These distortions are harmful because they cause us to feel negative emotions and make us act out negatively with others.

For instance, when we encounter conflict with our boss at work but don’t address it directly, we can come home angry and take it out on our spouse who just happens to have forgotten to run the dishwasher.

The Best Way To Face Negative Emotions Is To Recognize And Observe Them

When it comes to negative emotions, pretending that we’re happy doesn’t get us anywhere in the long run.

A study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley actually confirmed this – thirty years after inspecting class photographs of Mills College graduates, they found that those who had genuine smiles (which activate both eye and mouth muscles) were generally far more successful in terms of their careers, marriages, and well-being than those with forced smiles.

However, not all is lost when it comes to negative emotions: far from it!

Our ability to recognize and observe our own emotions can prove to be incredibly beneficial.

For example, one of the author’s clients thought he had an anger problem; but, upon recognizing and acknowledging his own feelings, he began creating boundaries and having clearer conversations with his spouse – leading to a gradual improvement in their marriage.

Therefore, instead of trying to suppress our negative emotions and ‘grin and bear it,’ we may be better off facing them head-on – understanding that there is an upside that they offer us which could potentially change our lives for the better.

Facing The Monster Within: How To Master Your Emotions With Self-Compassion


Many of us have been there: we’re struggling with our emotions, feeling like a monster is trying to take us down, and our instinct is to run away.

But standing up and facing those feelings is the first step in dealing with those emotions, and self-compassion is key in doing this successfully.

Studies have shown that by going through an exercise of imagining yourself as the child you used to be and showing that imagined version of yourself kindness and compassion – you can practice doing the same for your present self.

In 2012, psychologist David Sbarra studied divorcees who showed themselves self-compassion and found they recovered faster than those who resorted to self-criticism or blame.

When attempting something intimidating like a job interview, it’s also important to show yourself understanding and compassion.

An examination conducted by Dr Kristin Neff in 2007 asked subjects to participate in mock interviews – the results were obvious; Self-compassionate candidates talked about their weaknesses openly without diminishing their sense of self-confidence, whereas less self-compassionate participants attempted to downplay their weaknesses but only ended up becoming less confident as they did so.

Discover The Power Of Mindfulness To Help You Better Handle Negative Emotions And Achieve Your Life Goals

When it comes to difficult situations and dealing with destructive emotions, one strategy found in the book Emotional Agility is to Step Out of your problem.

This can be done by externalizing your feelings and taking a different perspective on the issue.

To do this, you can try an exercise where you find an object such as a chair or pillow, and treat it as a stand-in for your problem.

Then go ahead and yell at it – get out all that anger, frustration, disappointment – whatever emotion you’re feeling!

While this exercise might be helpful in the moment, there’s an even better approach that allows for better management of your emotions: practicing Mindfulness.

With mindfulness you choose to pay purposeful attention to something, such as a sensation or emotion, without judgement.

And research has shown that products of brain scans taken before and after mindfulness training – those parts of the brain responsible for stress, memory, empathy and identity- have been positively altered from the practice.

So by purposefully remaining mindful of your emotions rather than allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by them, you can gain control over them instead.

How Social Contagion Impacts Our Decision-Making And How To Take Control Back

It can be tough to make decisions that truly reflect who we are and what we want out of life, rather than opting for something simply based on what society expects.

Tom Shadyac discovered this after achieving success in Hollywood, even though he wasn’t particularly happy with his life at the time.

This phenomenon is known as social contagion, when individuals follow the examples of those around them without really taking the time to decide if it’s something they actually want.

Making decisions based on an abstract blueprint doesn’t often lead to true satisfaction either.

That’s why it’s important to take the time to think carefully about what you really want from life.

You could even try writing a letter to your future self- imagining who you’ll be then, and expressing who you are now and what’s important to you.

Surprisingly enough, a 2013 study proved that such exercises helped participants stay away from illegal activities!

The Importance Of Responding Positively To Requests For Emotional Bonding In Lasting Relationships


If you want to be emotionally agile and Move On positively in your life, improving your emotional availability for emotional bonding is key.

That was the discovery of two psychologists, Driver and Gottmann, when they built an apartment-lab and asked couples to act out normally while under observation.

Ultimately, they found that couples who responded positively to requests for emotional bonding ended up staying together six years later.

In contrast, those who turned away or ignored their partners during the experiment ended up separating or divorcing shortly afterwards.

It all speaks to the importance of being attentive and open to emotional connection with a partner if we hope for it to last over the long run.

If you’re open to connecting regularly with your partner through meaningful interactions, then chances are you’ll both stay happy in the relationship for a longer time.

Living At The Edge Of Our Potential: The Benefits Of Emotional Agility

If you want to stay at the top of your game, then it’s important to make sure that you’re constantly challenged and stimulated.

This means that you should be pushing yourself to learn new skills and take on new projects, but without going overboard or trying to do too much at once.

It’s easy to slip into autopilot when it comes to routine tasks – going through the motions can quickly become dull and unfulfilling.

To counteract this, look for small challenges in day-to-day tasks such as walking mindfully or learning a language or a musical instrument.

When taking on bigger projects, however, it’s important that you evaluate how much of a challenge it is for you and make sure that you don’t suddenly overstep your potential.

You should strive to find some middle ground between excitement from pushing up against the limits of what you can do and creating a safe space where you can feel secure and comfortable.

This balance (which is known as living at the edge of your potential) maximizes growth while avoiding burnout or unhappiness.

Finding Courage And Emotional Agility To Get Unstuck In Life

Emotional Agility

When we’re not emotionally agile, we naturally get stuck.

We end up in uncomfortable and unproductive situations that can be paralyzing.

To break through these cycles, we have to make an active decision to take the necessary steps to free ourselves.

Take the example of a friend of the author in her book Emotional Agility.

She worked four days a week and was a mother of three, but she felt incredibly trapped due to her difficulty balancing between both worlds.

She felt she had to take a phone call for work on her day at home, but didn’t want her children’s voices making it difficult during the call, so she hid herself away in her closet.

It was only then that Erin realized she had to move beyond this threshold of discomfort and talk with her boss about how she could improve her situation.

With courage, honesty and clarity about how her conflicting responsibilities were making life very difficult for her, she was able to explain why it was important for her to keep some time off sacrosanct for family matters.

Her courageous action freed up more time in both settings and reduced anxieties within them all.

Wrap Up

The main takeaway from the book Emotional Agility is that in order to reach a higher level of fulfillment in life, it is necessary to have emotional agility.

This means, being able to step back and put some distance between yourself and your emotional patterns.

Doing so helps you gain better insight into how your emotions affect your life, and ultimately allows for more constructive solutions for any issues you experience.

To help increase emotional agility, take the time for meaningful conversations instead of sticking with merely small talk.

Don’t be afraid to go deep, as everyone will ultimately benefit from it in the end.

Ultimately, if you want greater meaning in life and reach a higher level of fulfillment, developing emotional agility is key.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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