“What exactly is emotional intelligence? Learn how you can use the 5 skills of emotional intelligence for yourself in everyday life.”
Many of us struggle to find meaning in our personal and professional lives. Life seems to be a personal challenge for everyone sooner or later. We might ask ourselves, what is really important? Is the work I do meaningful? Am I the kind of person I really want to be? Am I the kind of leader or parent I want to be?
Many people feel lost or are constantly driven by their daily challenges. They want more space for perspective but don’t know how to achieve it.
What can we do?
What is a possible solution?
In short: Develop emotional intelligence by switching from “autopilot to conscious”.
Switching off the autopilot
When we are more aware, we can find the “space between stimulus and reaction” (Viktor Frankl) in which we can decide. To get off autopilot, we practice mindfulness, which is defined as “being present”.
Once we are more present, we can be aware of what is happening in our mind, body and environment – creating greater self-awareness, which is the foundation for all other EQ skills.
Neuroscience supports the claim that mindfulness builds EQ. Recent research suggests that the practice of mindfulness meditation leads to positive structural and functional changes in areas of the brain related to attention control, emotion management and self-awareness.
In summary, we better understand how the brain works and use mindfulness methods to train our EQ skills, leading to better leadership, personal performance and well-being.
Methods to switch off autopilot:
- Attention training
- Three breaths
- Open Awareness
- Mindful listening
What is emotional intelligence?
EQ is a term developed by two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, and popularised by Dan Goleman in his 1996 book of the same name. EQ is defined as the ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions.
Peter Salavoy and John Mayer (1996) define EQ as follows:
The ability to observe one’s own feelings and emotions and the feelings and emotions of others, to distinguish between them, and to use this information to guide one’s thoughts and actions.
Daniel Goleman created a helpful structure by classifying EQ into 5 categories:
- Self-awareness: recognising internal states and preferences, resources and intuitions. It is the basic competence that leads to the development of the other EQ competences.
- Self-regulation: Managing internal states and preferences, resources and intuitions. It is about transforming compulsion and autopilot into conscious choice.
- Motivation: Emotional tendencies that control or facilitate the achievement of goals.
- Empathy: Awareness of the emotions and concerns of others. Choosing to listen and connect with others by seeing similarities, sharing pain and frustration, and offering kindness.
- Social skills: Mindfulness in working with others, especially in leadership roles.
The first three categories look at inner-personal skills (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation), whereas the last two categories (empathy, leadership) look at interpersonal skills.
In the following, I present each competence and list exercises and methods to try out.
- Developing self-awareness is about developing clarity in and about oneself. We develop a high resolution awareness of our emotions.
- We need emotions to inform our minds in order to then make decisions.
- Emotions are physiological reactions; emotions are expressed as changes in our bodies.
- These physiological reactions often happen before our mind fully recognises what is happening. Our body sends us valuable information about our emotional state, but we are not always “tuned in”.
- By bringing our mindfulness to our body, we become aware of our emotions and increase our emotional self-awareness.
- A liberating shift can take place: We can move from existential (“I am my emotions”) to physiological (“I experience emotions”).
Methods for better self-awareness:
- Body scan
- Head, gut, heart check-in
- Self-discovery diary
- Mindful listening
- Mindful eating
- Self-regulation is about moving from compulsion to conscious choice.
- When we feel attacked, our amygdala can kick in, the part of the brain responsible for our emotion management. Mindfulness can help us restore balance.
- A helpful method of self-regulation is SBNRR, which involves emotional regulation mechanisms. SBNRR stands for Stop, Breath, Note, Reflect, and Response.
- Stop + Breath + Notice begins with body awareness, which we develop through self-awareness. We become aware of emotion as a physiological response in our body.
- Reflect: Then we go one step further and notice our emotions and label them (English: “labelling”). We reflect on ourselves and the other person and take control of our mind (keyword: amygdala hijack).
- Self-regulation is not about avoiding, denying, suppressing or not feeling emotions. It is about learning to manage our emotions so that we can withstand challenging situations with greater confidence in our ability to skillfully manage ourselves.
- Attentively attending to our emotions with curiosity and kindness gives us an alternative to our habit of wanting pleasant emotions and ignoring and suppressing unpleasant ones.
- Acceptance is a powerful form of emotional management that is often only available to us some time after an emotional trigger.
- One form of acceptance, self-compassion, has been shown to lead to greater well-being and motivate self-improvement.
Methods for developing healthy self-regulation:
- SBNRR: Stop, Breath, Note, Reflect, and Response
- Mindful Conversation
- Self-compassion meditation
- Self-compassion journal
- Acceptance micro-practice
Motivation is inextricably linked to “three simple steps”:
- Alignment: We align our work with our values. Such work gives us meaning and we can experience flow (state of peak performance).
- Imagination: Our brain predicts everything (unconsciously) and thus we continuously act out patterns and habits of the past. In other words, we tell ourselves the same stories about how our lives will be and then live out those stories. However, we can change these stories.
- Resilience: The ability to overcome obstacles along the way. It can be trained through:
- Inner calm through mindfulness methods.
- Emotional resilience: Success and failure are emotional experiences. We can become aware of them (keyword: self-awareness) and manage them (keyword: self-regulation).
- Mental resilience: How we explain failure to ourselves has a profound impact on our lives. There is an optimistic and a pessimistic style: when faced with a setback, an optimist figures out how to do better next time; a pessimist assumes there is nothing they can do and gives up. Mindfulness supports awareness and perspective on our thoughts / patterns / biases so that we have more clarity about which style we follow.
Methods to increase our motivation:
- Identifying our values
- Imagination Diary
- Resilience meditation to strengthen resilience
- Empathy is beneficial in our relationships and teams.
- Empathy is the ability to experience and understand what others are feeling while maintaining a clear distinction about one’s own feelings and those of others.
- It is easier to experience and understand the emotions and feelings of others when we increase our self-awareness. This is because self-awareness helps us to perceive our feelings in the body (physical process) and gives us an understanding of why we have the emotion to the corresponding feeling (mental process).
- It is therefore counter-intuitive that greater self-awareness of one’s feelings and emotions leads to greater empathy. However, the link between self-awareness and empathy is supported by studies showing the overlap between the associated brain regions linked to these skills.
- Empathy has nothing to do with consent. It is possible to make difficult decisions and be empathic at the same time.
- Empathy can be increased or decreased depending on the situation and therefore depends on perceived fairness and group membership.
- We can increase empathy by developing mental habits of seeing similarities and offering kindness. Invite these thoughts to pop up in your mind often enough and it will become a mental habit.
Methods to increase our empathy:
- Just Like Me & Loving-Kindness Meditation
- Impact is NOT Intention
- Empathic listening
- Leadership is fertile ground for applying EQ skills. Mindful leadership is particularly characterised by two skills: (1) Communicating with insights and (2) Leading with compassion.
- Communicating with insights: Difficult conversations are a good opportunity to develop and apply all EQ areas. The often hidden elements give us deeper insight into our conversations on three levels: (1) content (a.k.a. “facts”), (2) feelings, and (3) identity.
- Leading with compassion: Practising compassion gives us the courage to respond to suffering and is of benefit to self and others.
- Building on empathy, and compassion goes one step further. Compassion is paying attention to the experiences of others, wanting to help, and sensing what would be of benefit.
- Research shows that compassion leads to greater well-being for oneself and less stress in difficult social situations.
- Compassion is not about being “soft” or “permissive”. It enables us to be engaged and motivated to help, with a spirit of kindness and curiosity.
- Leadership is influence. We all have the ability to influence others, and therefore the ability to lead. Whether we have a formal leadership role or not, we can all consider how we want to influence others around us.
- Leadership Commitment helps leaders crystallize their learning and commitment as leaders and set a direction.
Methods to increase leadership and our social skills:
- Engaging in difficult conversation (based on the book of the same name: Difficult Conversations)
- Compassion Reflection
- Leadership Commitment
7 Tips on How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence
- Find out who you are
- Learn to deal with feelings
- Put yourself in the shoes of others (empathy) through your own feelings
- Communicate your feelings
- Allow feedback without judgement
- Protect yourself from deconstructive criticism
- Be open to other people
This summary is based on my training as a Search Inside Yourself Trainer. If you have any questions, feel free to write to me: dh [at] dannyholtschke [dot] com