Many believe EQ is a "you've got it or you don't" trait like height or eye colour but that view is false. Emotional intelligence is teachable like any other skill and buildable like any other strength. However, it comes with the same limitations and caveats, individuals start from different levels and it takes effort, it requires changing thought patterns and being outside of your comfort zone.
Below I outline my approach which works consistently. It is simple - but that doesn't mean easy. Like physical fitness, it takes consistent effort over time.
If you want to build a senior leadership culture that is more emotionally clear, calm and connected. Reduce friction, frustration and the energy required to lead others contact me and let’s set up a time for a quick conversation to discuss the approach.
Emotional intelligence is the ability in a given key moment to identify instances of emotion in context and be able to intervene for a better outcome. Be able to apply higher level thinking, rather than be trapped in childlike reactions to stimulus.
I’ve developed and teach a three step process; 1, Notice, 2, Know, 3, Act to help people grow in this space
Step 1: Notice - Understand the mechanics of emotion
First step is to notice. How can you possibly change a behaviour if you don't notice - in the moment - that your about to repeat it?
There are many competing demands of your conscious attention and a very narrow window through which you see the world. Like a television news feed, it is limited, constantly changing and relies on editorial choices and algorithms that are deep in your brain and beyond your conscious awareness or direct influence.
Therefore Step 1, is to find ways to have the stuff we need to notice be more likely to arise in consciousness – to make it to the news feed. Applied to improving Emotional Intelligence requires noticing our emotional response in a given moment, sooner, more easily and in a more nuanced way.
For example, noticing behaviour traits that arise when we're angry, frustrated, or feel under stress or time pressure? You might see;
Focus on noticing these behaviours – allow them onto your inner news feed. A little awareness of these behaviours, some coaching around what to look for, and before you know it you will be spotting non-optimal minds states arising earlier and be in a better position to do something about it.
Step 2: Know what it means and what to do
After you notice what is going on, there is still more work to do. We still cannot change if a useful solution doesn't arise in our mind in time.
If I notice myself slipping into an unproductive habit, behaviour or mindset and cannot think how or what to do about it, then I have little choice but to follow through.
Our conscious news feed is limited, you notice yourself getting angry - so what - if you don't know what you could do in this moment to help.
More insidiously anger, fear and stress reduce your ability to think creatively, to think 'big picture' to think ahead, it reduces your restraint and your empathy. All of which are 'centre-of-the-target' Emotional Intelligence skills that would have come in very handy right there and then.
The very skills that would help the most, are themselves compromised.
So, you need the preparation, do the work and have the most productive strategy ready to go and ready to arise in consciousness in that key moment. Without it you’re out of options.
You need to “Notice” then you need to “Know” what to do.
The ‘Knowing” piece in emotional intelligence skills growth requires building language and nuance - the words [Lisa Barret-Feldman]. Having helpful knowledge about how emotions are constructed in the brain/body helps separate, dilute and partition different experiences and makes them more manageable. Your brain constructs emotion in each instance, which creates the opportunity for you to rebuild it differently - if you know what you're trying to do (again, coaching helps here).
Step 3: Act - Behave differently to the way you feel.
“I know the right and still do the wrong.”
As my gym instructor says "you're here to get better, not stay the same, so you've got to go a little further than you think you can." this is true for EQ as well. In my language with clients this means “behave differently to the way you feel.”
Growth requires us to 1, Notice, 2, Know what it means, and now step three 3, Act
BUT - you're not going to feel like it! and there's the rub.
How do you feel when you're stressed or angry and someone helpfully suggest you "just calm down!"? What about when you’re down and someone says “cheer up!” grrrr.
Emotions are, among other things, signals of value or importance. Emotional moments (the good and the bad) are the ones your body/brain thinks matter the most. Which is why we tend to remember highly emotionally relevant events.
This is your body saying, "this matters", "this is potentially a matter of life and death", the chemicals, the thoughts, all combine to create a feeling of justification, or at least pervasiveness of the feeling. Your anger feels legitimate and justified - you 'ought to feel it' - which makes behaviour change difficult. It is very tough moment of change – but it is the moment that counts.
This step requires that you find a way to "Behave differently to the way your feel" - in the moment - when it matters.
Expanding your emotional repertoire, range and skill requires going out of your comfort zone and in this context, your comfort zone is to be a passenger to the emotion your brain builds in each moment. To build different emotions requires DOing differently in those moments.
My clients hear me say “Action precedes feeling.”
Behave in advance of how you feel and your feeling will catch-up. Don’t ‘feel like’ going to the gym? Go and by the time you’ve finished you’ll feel great that you did.
Don’t “feel like” having that difficult conversation? Have the conversation and you’ll be glad that you did.
Growth requires pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. Growth in emotional intelligence means moving ourselves beyond how we feel in the moment.
EQ is probably the most important intelligence of all. I don't need to be academically strong to be happy. I don't need to be all that fit to be happy (although it helps enormously), but without emotional intelligence I am a passenger at the whim of my senses and the world around me. My emotional state is like a weathervane, blowing me whatever way the stimulus pushes me.
Emotional Intelligence allows you to be a clear, determined and strong leader whilst remaining emotionally generous and compassionate. It prevents people from being caught up in small minded silliness and attend to what matters.
I hope the above steps help you think it through a little and make a difference. EQ is teachable and it is well worth the effort.