Developing Emotional Intelligence

machinery of cognitionIt’s Emotional Intelligence (EI) that grabs the headlines but, as will be clear already from the neuroscience section in this course, there are many unconscious, automatic processes that are affecting how we think and act. As Daniel Kahnemann says:

“We documented systematic errors in the thinking of normal people, and we traced these errors to the design of the machinery of cognition rather than to the corruption of thought by emotion.”

Therefore, many of the suggestions below go beyond increasing EI and are valuable in understanding unconscious processes and triggers generally. I have decided not to categorize the suggestions according to the 4 EI quadrants since most of them will have an impact in all quadrants.

As you read through the suggestions, I would recommend that you make notes and perhaps capture ideas and possible actions on your action map. Think of situations when you can apply the principles. Create checklists and develop routines for emotionally-intelligent habits. Don’t let this be a list that you skim and forget.

There are 3 activities which are the foundation of developing EI:

  • the 3Rs – your Replay, Review and Refine sessions enable you to learn more about the unconscious processes that are operating in your brain by helping you to find connections between events, thought processes, feelings and behaviours. Don’t seek to justify, seek to understand and Refine. When you are reviewing your emotions, name them. Admitting that you are being driven by say, greed or envy, can have a powerful effect.
  • be a conscious self-observer; as you feel your emotions rising, press pause so that you can:
    • identify the trigger(s)
    • track your thought processes
    • intervene and take conscious control of your actions
  • A good habit to develop is to periodically pause during the day, not because of some event but just to take a moment to review your current state. So many times I have paused and realised that my brow is furrowed and my shoulders and stomach are tense. Such stressful poses are not conducive to productivity – or health. Furthermore, it is so easy to get caught up being ‘busy’ that sometimes we can lose sight of what we are trying to achieve. Pausing for a moment may save you hours of wasted time.
  • talk – speak with others about your thoughts and feelings – and theirs’ too. Talking opens up new perspectives and angles; things are usually not quite as simple or 2-dimensional as they seem.

In addition, you should:

  • plan in advance for challenging situations or when you sense that your emotions are rising. A technique that I mention a number of times during the programs is, IF, THEN – IF this happens, THEN I will do xxx. By deciding on your response in advance, when you are free from emotion, you can think more clearly.
  • take responsibility. If you are prone to anger, don’t seek to justify it with phrases such as: “I have a short fuse”. Own it and do something about it!
  • accept that others are wired differently and separate the behaviour from the person. Being angry does not make someone an angry person generally. That was then, this is now. Different situation, different neural connections, different person. 
  • observe the body language of others and look for indications of heightened emotions
  • accept that emotions may be difficult to control, for you and other, and, where necessary, remove yourself from a situation
  • break negative loops – splash water, count backwards from 1000 in 37s; just interrupt the thoughts that are being driven by your emotion
  • breathe more slowly

The most important factor in developing EI is your mindset:

  • do you see the benefits?
  • are you prepared to invest the effort required?
  • can you set aside your concerns about what others think?

If the answer is ‘Yes’ to each of these questions, then you can certainly develop your EI.

The Knowing-Doing Gap

Since this is a course to bring about positive change, it is not enough to know something, you need to act on what you know. 

So, before you click on complete – can you recall the 3 activities, listed above, that are the foundation of developing EI? What other techniques and principles can you remember from above (without looking back!)?

And crucially, what, specifically, are you going to do about developing your EI? Which relationships or situations or ways of thinking are you going to target for change?

Can you write a checklist or set a reminder in you calendar to make sure that you press pause and take conscious control?