13. EMOTIONS AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotions and emotional intelligence are two subjects which are naturally linked and are vitally important for our well-being and our psychological progress. The various forms of intelligence, some of which we will briefly discuss, enable us to understand by using cognitive competence. But we also need our emotions, for instance, to help us decide. seldom are our decisions taken on purely rational grounds.
Emotional states and Styles
The smallest, most fleeting moment of emotion is an emotional state. Whether they are triggered by real world experiences or mental thoughts, emotional states tend to dissipate, each giving way to the next. An Emotional Style is, on the other hand, a more permanent feature, a consistent way of responding to the experiences of our lives.
There are six dimensions of Emotional Style. These are:
resilience – the ability to recover from adversity;
outlook – whether it is normally positive or negative, similar to mindset;
social intuition – the ability to grasp what is socially appropriate; self-awareness;
sensitivity to the context of the situation;
and the ability to pay the right amount of attention (focus).
All of these six dimensions can be rated between two extremes (see Richard Davidson – in ‘The emotional life of your brain’). This defines your Emotional Style. This can be changed if you are prepared to take a serious look at yourself. But it still needs to remain in keeping with you as a person.
Perhaps the best way of looking at this is to know if, in respect of any the six dimensions, you are close to an extreme, and then to ask yourself if you are happy with this situation. You may need help when doing this.
Knowing your Emotional Style allows you to react in the most suitable way in a particular situation. To have a balanced Emotional Style is probably an optimal composition. You can appreciate that this can often be difficult to find by realising how easy one extreme can be seen in a totally different light. Take resilience, for example. If your ability to recover from stressful situations is almost always immediate then you might be regarded as very insensitive. Or if you have a high degree of self-awareness you may be over-conscious of your behaviour and end up being ineffective.
It is the human disposition to respond emotionally to other people. We find ourselves experiencing certain emotions more than others. This tends to form a pattern. With training we are better able to choose our response to preserve more continuity in our personal exchanges. Sometimes this requires refocusing, leaving our original feelings for what they were, just a hindrance.
People have many different forms of intelligence. The most well-known and easily measured is IQ, a cognitive (intrinsically academic) intelligence. This is an assessment of information, skills and structures employed. It is used to predict, among other things, future job performance. Closely linked to this is WM (working memory), the ability to actively process and retrieve information.
There are also the concepts of spiritual intelligence (SQ – the use of intuition and the management of values e.g. the need for success, freedom, power etc. and personal intelligence (PI – the ability to accept feedback and to recognise the broad spectrum of one’s inner motives and feelings).
However, perhaps the most important form of intelligence is EQ, or emotional intelligence, which was coined and explored by Daniel Goleman. It can best be described as the management of emotions, such as frustration, disappointment, excitement and confidence.
Whilst IQ is the most reliable indicator of aptitude, EQ will often determine how successful a person will ultimately be in a job (or in many other things). This is particularly true of the higher echelons of employment where the ability to manage relationships is vital. Whilst EQ can be learned, that is you are not born with it as such, if you have a lot to learn then it is going to be difficult. Essential in this process is the ability to judge the emotional states of the other person or people and being able to respond as the situation requires, for just as long as is necessary, all this within the context of maintaining an overall desired direction. This must be coupled with heightened awareness of any kinks in the cable which may be apparent as an exchange progresses. The more experience you have and the more feedback you have been fortunate to receive, the easier and the more enjoyable the demonstration of EQ will become. Those highly skilled in EQ can afford to take more risk in search of higher personal returns (think of important negotiations) because their ability to keep an interaction on course is so well developed.
Understanding that people cannot be separated from their emotions (unless there is a mental deficiency) is a starting point. Realising that using emotions in an appropriate fashion is a skill is next. We have seen that everybody has an Emotional Style which can be measured but not easily changed. But we will not get much further unless we practice.
In order to give yourself more insight into your Emotional Style you could look at how you think you are positioned against the six criteria of Richard Davidson, mentioned above. It would also be useful if you analysed a number of your personal transactions on a regular basis to see why they went well or perhaps why they didn’t. What did you say that seemed to produce a breakthrough or led to an awkward silence? Try to pick different types and different people. Then draw some conclusions to help form of your focus for the coming period.