Get a grip on that!

Get a grip on that!

I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. When I first sat down to write about it, I just couldn’t wrap my head around what to write. The book covers so much ground! I still am not sure what I would like to write about here, but let me just follow my chain of thoughts and we will hopefully get somewhere. 

People in the business world are generally familiar with the concept of ‘Emotional Intelligence’. Daniel Goleman had popularised it around the time I was born. The concept itself seemed fairly intuitive to me: good interpersonal skills. But as it turned out, there is so much more! 

Intelligence, at least in my experience, has been hyped up a lot. As a kid, I remember the craze to figure one’s IQ (and brag about it if it was adequately high). As someone who wasn’t thrilled about solving math questions, I remember resonating with the theory of multiple intelligence by Howard Gardner back in school. Emotional intelligence, according to Goleman, probably matters more in determining how well we do in life than IQ. You can think of emotional intelligence as an enabler or a “master aptitude” that interacts with all the other abilities: either accentuating them or interfering with them. 

The book started with an explanation of the structure of the human brain. According to it, there was an ’emotional’ brain long before a rational one, and during an emergency (or what your brain considers one), the emotional mind is primed to take over the reins from the rational. This can save your life, but more often than not leads you to take actions in the heat of the moment that you later regret. 

So then driving your emotions, rather than being driven by it is important. We cannot control the emotions we feel, but we can learn how we respond to them. The first step to this is knowing your emotions- being self-aware and recognising a feeling as it happens (and our thoughts about it). This is essential step in your journey of being the master of your emotions and the captain of your life. After you are cognisant of your emotions, managing emotions and handling feelings so they are appropriate comes next. This allows for self-motivation as well as self-control- both important factors for success in any context.

Another ability that builds on self-awareness is recognising emotions in others. “Empathy is the fundamental people skill and the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings”. The next stage is the fine art of relationships: managing emotions in others. You can think of it as a pyramid where one level builds on the other:

'Levels' of emotional intelligence

As I mentioned earlier, emotional intelligence affects many other parts of our lives: be it personal or work, following or leading, relationship with ourselves or with others:

In Relationships

Most couples have moments from time to time when a complaint about something a partner has done is voiced as an attack against the person rather than the action. The level of emotional competency in the two partners- being able to calm down (and calm their partner), empathy, and listening well—can make it more likely that a couple will settle their disagreements effectively rather than escalating it.

In the Workplace

Many managers are too willing to criticise but frugal with praise. Furthermore, the art of criticism doesn’t come naturally to all and is usually voiced (inadvertently) as a personal attack rather than complaints that can be acted upon. “An artful critique focuses on what a person has done and can do rather than reading a mark of character into a job poorly done.”

While leading others

In my limited experience and study of leadership, I believe emotional intelligence is a core enabler of leadership. Leadership is the art of persuading people to work towards a common goal. The mark of a powerful leader is the ability to move an audience of thousands, not impose their views.

On Mental Health

It’s intuitive that better skill in managing upsetting feelings (a competency of emotional intelligence) —anger, anxiety, depression, pessimism, and loneliness — can be effective in preventing ‘distressing’ situations from turning into a ‘crisis’ for individuals.

To the uninitiated, the good news is that it’s never too late to build up your repertoire of emotional ability. Emotional learning is lifelong.