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Emotional Intelligence

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The Five Competencies of Emotion Intelligence

With the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence in 1995, the business world got an answer to a question that had been plaguing it for decades: “Why did some people of a high IQ struggle at managing teams while other leaders of lower IQ excel at it”? Goleman asserted that the traditional measurement of IQ (intelligence quotient) was not enough to determine a good leader. Schools and universities concentrated on developing the cognitive and analytical part of the brain, while the teaching of how the emotional side of the brain worked was ignored. Goleman defined this “emotional intelligence” of a human being as a set of competencies that distinguish how one manages feelings and interacts with others. These emotional intelligence competencies are divided into two categories: personal and social. Personal competencies are how we manage our self and our own feelings, and social competencies are how we manage our inter-personal relationships. There are three basic personal competencies: knowing one’s emotions, managing emotions, and motivating one’s self. The two basic social competencies are recognizing emotions in others and handling relationships. Mastering these competencies, in addition to having sufficient IQ intelligence, makes for a truly effective leader. Thankfully for all of us, Goleman asserts that emotional intelligence can be obtained by understanding what the five competencies are and then developing one’s skills in using them.

Knowing one’s self, or self-awareness, is the foundation of emotional intelligence and the first competency. How can we fully understand how someone else feels if we do not understand how we feel? Self-aware people know what makes them happy, sad, satisfied, or dissatisfied. Goleman defines self-awareness as “being aware of both our mood and our thoughts about that mood”. The key to self-awareness is the ability to be in touch with one’s emotions while they are happening. It is easy to look back and say “I was in a bad mood” or “that really made me angry”. However, the duration of that emotional event can be changed just by being cognizant of it happening, while it is happening. If a person knows that rush-hour traffic is a trigger for anger, they are already on the road to controlling that anger when someone cuts in front of them. This type of emotion recognition is a rational process.

There is also a more intuitive side to self-awareness that Goleman defines as “gut feelings”. These “feelings” are an almost automatic response by the brain to a situation as it unfolds. This instantaneous alert mechanism is the processing by the brain of past experiences вЂ" both good and bad. Of course one’s gut feelings are not always correct, but it is important not to ignore what the brain is trying to tell us; gut feelings have a way of being accurate. Another part of self-awareness is knowing one’s strengths and limits. Are you a morning or evening person, more comfortable in small or large groups, visual or descriptive, multi-tasker or project focused? Just the self-knowledge of a person’s individual tendencies is the first tool of emotional intelligence.

The second competency of emotional intelligence is managing one’s emotions, or self-regulation. Managing emotions means making conscious choices about how we act after recognizing our emotions. We manage our emotions so they do not manage us; mastery of this concept allows the individual to control their emotions instead of falling victim to them. Nowhere does Goleman write about limiting or suppressing emotions. To do this would be to ignore the human condition. It would also imply that certain emotions have good connotations and others have bad. Managing emotions is not about eliminating them, it is more about minimizing the negative effects each emotion has on our behavior. Sadness is a natural part of the grieving process when some one passes away and therefore “good” for a time. However, sadness turns “bad” when the duration of time leads to ongoing depression. Few workers would want to follow a passionless leader. However, if that same passion blinds the decision making process to the point of failure, than passion obviously went from good to bad. As excess anger can be one of the most destructive of all emotions, Goleman spends a good deal of time speaking to it. He quotes Benjamin Franklin: “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one”. He speaks to the folly of trying to prevent anger and focuses on techniques to diffuse it before it becomes personally or career damaging.

Anger in a business setting can cause one to act inappropriately or unwisely by blowing an incident out of proportion and possibly irrevocably damaging a career. Learning that at any moment we have the ability to consciously control our anger is empowering but not that easy to accomplish. Goleman asserts the body’s chemical reaction to stressful situations, relating back to our ancient ancestors, is the reason for this difficulty. The introduction of hormones into the body is not a gradual elevation, but a quick release relating back to our basic fight or flight response to environmental dangers. Every day, hormones are incrementally released into the body with each passing taxing stressful episode until a level is reached that triggers anger. He offers two weapons against anger outbursts. The first is method is to recognize, as early as possible, what is triggering the anger. This disruption of the anger process by the interjection of thought is usually sufficient to regain control. The best chance of success by this method is to identify anger as early as possible before the mix of emotions gets too complex to isolate the trigger. The other method to control anger is to cool down by creating a distraction. This technique involves mentally going to one’s “happy place”, whether that is the beach, the mountains, or Disneyland. You can also physically create a distraction by taking a walk, going on a drive, or working out to disrupt the anger process. Of course, it needs to be something the affected person enjoys doing, and no thought can be given to the events that were trigging the anger. These intentional acts to disrupt the anger process are the keystones of self-regulations. Once a person is able to act deliberately instead of reactively, he is ready to take the next emotional intelligence step, directing the

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