by Daniel Goleman
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Emotional Intelligence – by Daniel Goleman
‘Why it can matter more than IQ: The groundbreaking book that redefines what it means to be smart’
Emotional Intelligence is a guide to making sense of the senselessness. Daniel Goleman worked as a psychologist first then as a journalist for the NYT, and has been tracking the progress of our understanding of the realm of irrationality. From this position, he’s been seeing two growing trends: one portraying a growing calamity in our shared emotional life, the other offering some helpful remedies. This book is all about the latter – offering ideas about how we can understand ourselves better, manage our own emotions, and use empathy to better understand the feelings and emotions of the people around us.
The book will show you why EQ indeed trumps IQ in the modern world. There are 5 elements to emotional intelligence:
2. Managing Emotions
3. Motivating Oneself
4. Recognizing Emotions in Others
5. Handling Relationships
Summary of Emotional Intelligence
ARISTOTLE: “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry at the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right amount of time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy”
In Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes how he picked up the newspaper and found the following stories:
- A 9yo went on a rampage at school, pouring paint on desks, computers, printers, and vandalising the teachers cars. The reason: a third-grade classmate called him a “baby” and he wanted to impress them
- 8 youths are wounded – there was an accidental bump n a crowd at a Manhattan rap club, which turned into shoving, which turned into a brawl, which turned into someone pulling out a handgun and shooting it into the crowd
- A report that of murder victims under the age of 12, 57% were by parents or stepparents who were just “trying to discipline” their child and took it too far. This might be for reasons such as blocking the TV, crying, soiling their diapers, or saying “no” to requests
- A German youth is on trial for murdering 5 Turkish women by setting fire to their house while they slept. He was part of a Neo-Nazi group – he failed in his job, turned to drinking, and blamed all of his hard luck and failures in life on foreigners
Each day’s news comes to us rife with such reports of disintegration of civility and safety, an onslaught of mean-spirited impulse running amok. The news reflects back to us a creeping sense of emotions out of control (in our own lives and in those around us). In the few decades we’re seeing a steady uptick in emotional ineptitude, desperation, recklessness… coinciding with a surge in rage and despair.
This book is a guide to making sense of the senselessness. Goleman worked as a psychologist first then as a journalist for the NYT, and has been tracking the progress of our understanding of the realm of irrationality. From this position, he’s been seeing two growing trends: one portraying a growing calamity in our shared emotional life, the other offering some helpful remedies. This book is all about the latter – offering ideas about how we can understand ourselves better, manage our own emotions, and use empathy to better understand the feelings and emotions of the people around us
The Emotional Brain
Each emotion offers a distinctive readiness to act. Each points us in a different direction that has worked well to handle the recurring challenges of human life. As these eternal situations were repeated and repeated over evolutionary history, the survival value of our emotional repertoire was arrested to by its becoming imprinted in our nerves as innate automatic tendencies of the human heart.
In terms of biological design for the basic neural circuitry of emotion, what we are born with is what worked best for the last 50,000 generations, not the last 500 generations – and certainly not the last 5. The slow deliberate forces of evolution that have shaped our emotions have so over millions of years. Despite having witnessed the sharp rise of human civilization, have left little imprint on our biological templates for emotional life.
In evolutionary terms, the survival value of the direct route (of the amygdala) would have been great. Allowing a quick-response option that shaves a few critical milliseconds in reaction time to dangers. Those milliseconds could have saved the lives of our proto-mammal ancestors in such numbers that this arrangement is now featured in every mammalian brain, including yours and mine. This primitive minor brain system offers a very rapid way to turn on emotions. A quick and dirty process that is fast, but not precise, it might be good for a squirrel. It leads to erring on the side of safety, springing away at the first sign of an oncoming enemy, or springing towards the hint of something edible. But in human emotional life, that imprecision can have disastrous consequences for our relationships, since it means, figuratively speaking, we can spring at or away from the wrong thing – a person.
Whilst the amygdala is at work in priming an anxious, impulsive reaction, another part of the emotional brain allows for a more fitting, correct response. The damper switch for the amygdala is at the other end of the major circuit in the neocortex, in the prefrontal lobes behind the forehead. The prefrontal cortex seems to be at work when someone is fearful or enraged, but stifles or controls the feeling to deal more effectively to deal with the situation at hand. Ordinarily, the prefrontal areas govern our emotional reactions from the start, it allows for discernment in emotional response.
5 Aspects of Emotional Intelligence
1. Self Awareness
Emotional Intelligence shows the crucial difference between being caught up in feelings, stuck in the emotional brain, and taking a step back to become aware that you are being swept up in emotional reactions. Socrates said “know thyself”, so developing a keener understanding of our own nature (self awareness) is the first and most important step on the way to Emotional Intelligence.
At its best, self observation allows just such an equanaminous awareness of passionate or turbulent feelings. At a minimum it manifests itself simply as a slight stepping-back from experience, a parallel stream of consciousness that is ‘meta’. However above or beside the main flow, aware of what is happening rather than being immersed in it. It is the difference between being murderously enraged at someone and having the reflective thought ‘this is anger that I’m feeling’.
People tend to fall into different distinctive styles for attending to and dealing with their emotions:
- These people often feel swamped by their emotions and helpless to escape them
- Their moods have taken charge
- They are mercurial and not aware of their feelings, so that they are lost in them rather than having some perspective
- As a result, they do little to try to escape bad moods, feeling that they have no control over their emotional life
- They often feel overwhelmed and emotionally out of control
- While these people are often clear about what they are feeling, they also tend to be accepting of their moods, so they don’t try to change them
- There seems to be two branches of the accepting type: those who are usually in good moods and so have little motivation to change them, OR people who – desptie their clartity about their moods – are susceptible to bad ones but accept them with a laissez-faire attitude, doing nothing to change them despite their distres
- Aware of their moods while they are having them
- These people understandably have some sophistication about their emotional lives
- Their clartity about emotions underlies their personality traits: they are autonomus and aware of their own boundaries, are in good physical health, tend to have a positive outlook on life
- When they get into a bad mood, they don’t ruminate and obsess about it, and are able to get out of it sooner
- In short, their mindfulness helps them manage their emotions
You can probably all think of someone close to you as a personification of these three types – a parent, a friend, a co-worker, or some TV character. Try to work out which type of person you are, and obviously start to make shifts from engulfed to accepting to self aware.
The second aspect to Emotional Intelligence is:
2. Managing Emotions
A sense of self-mastery, of being able to withstand the emotional storms that Fortune brings rather than being ‘passions slave’, has been praised as a virtue forever. The goal is balance, not emotional suppression: every feeling has value and significance. A life without passion would be a dull wasteland of neutrality, cut off and isolated from the richness of life itself. What is wanted it appropriate emotion, feeling proportionate to circumstance.
The anatomy of rage
Say someone in another car cuts dangerously close to you on the freeway. Your reflective thought is “that son of a bitch”. It matters immensely for the trajectory of rage whether the thought is followed by more thoughts of outrage and revenge – “you could have hit me. That bastard – I can’t let him get away with that”. Your body mobilizes to fight – not run, leaving you trembling, beads of sweat on the forehead. You want to kill the guy
Then should a car honk you, you are apt to explode in rage at that person too.
Contrast that sequence of building rage with a more charitable line of thought toward the driver who cut you off – “maybe he didn’t see me, or maybe he had some good reason for driving so carelessly – such as a medical emergency”
That line of possibility tempers anger with mercy. Or at least an open mind, short-circuiting the build-up of rage. The train of angry thoughts that stokes anger is also the potentially the key to diffuse anger: undermining the convictions that are fuelling the anger in the first place.
Soothing Anxiety : What, me worry?
‘ oh no.. The muffler sounds bad.. What if I have to take it to the shop?… I can’t afford it…. I’d have to draw money from Jamie’s tuition… What if I can’t afford that?…. That bad school report last week….. What if his grades go down and can’t go to college?…..
And so the worrying mind spins on in an endless loop of low grade melodrama. One set of concerns leading on to the next and back again. There is of course no hitch when worry works, by mulling over a problem, employing constructive reflection that can look like worrying a solution can appear
Indeed reaction that underlies worry is the vigilance for potential anger, which has been essential for survival over the course of evolution. When fear triggers the emotional brain, part of the resulting anxiety fixates attention on the threat at hand, forcing the mind to obsess about how to handle it and ignore everything else for the time-being. Worry is in essence, a rehearsal of what might go wrong and how to deal with it. The task of worrying is to come up with positive solutions for life’s perils, by anticipating dangers before they arise The difficulty is with chronic repetitive worries, The kind that recycle on and on and never get any nearer a positive solution.
A close analysis of chronic worry suggests that it has all the attributes of a low-grade emotional hijacking. The worries seem to come from nowhere, are uncontrollable, generate a steady hum of anxiety, are impervious to reason and lock the worrier into a single inflexible of the worrisome topic. When this same cycle of worry intensifies and persists, it shades over the line into full-blown neural hijackings – the anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessions and panic attacks.
Worriers also need to actively challenge the worrisome thoughts; failing this the worry spiral will keep coming back. So the next step is to take a critical stance towards their assumptions:
- Is it very probably that the dreaded event will occur?
- Is it necessarily the case that there is only one or no alternative to letting it happen
The third aspect to Emotional Intelligence is finding how to:
3. Motivate Oneself
What seems to set apart those at the very top of competitive pursuits from others of rough equal ability is the degree to which, beginning early in life they can pursue an arduous practice routine for years and years.
Goleman illustrates the famous marshmallow test that shows the long lasting benefits of delaying gratification.
Those who had resisted temptation at 4, where now as adolescents, more socially competent, personally effective, self assertive and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized under pressure, embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up in the face of difficulties. They were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable
Maintain Hope and Optimism
Emotional Intelligence shows another study where college students were posed the hypothetical situation:
‘Although you set your goal of getting a B, when your first exam score of 30% of your final grade was returned – you got a D. It is now one week after, what do you do?
Hope made all the difference. The response with students of high levels of hoope was to work harder and think of a range of things they might try to bolster their final grade. Students with moderate levels of hope thought of several ways they might up their grade, but had less determination to pursue them.
Modern researchers does more than offer a bit of solace amid affliction, it plays a surprising potent role in life, offering advantage in realms as diverse as high school achievement and bearing up in onerous jobs. Hope in a technical sense is more than the sunny view that everything will turn out alright, but more specifically ‘believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish goals, whatever they may be’. People tend to differ in the general degree to which they have hope in this sense, some typically think of themselves as able to find ways to solve problems.
While others simply do not see themselves as having the energy, ability or means to establish their goals. From the perspective of emotional intelligence, having hope means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety. A defeatist aptitude or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.
4. Recognizing Emotions in Others
Empathy builds on self-awareness, the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings. People’s emotions are rarely put into words, far more often they are expressed through other cues. The key to intuiting another’s feelings is in the ability to read non-verbal channels – their tone of voice, gesture, facial expression and the like. Just as the mode of the rational mind is words, the mode of emotions is nonverbal. When a person’s words disagree with what is conveyed via his tone of voice, gesture or non verbal channel, the emotional truth is in how he says something rather than what he says.
The final aspect for Emotional Intelligence involves:
5. Handling relationships
Handling emotions in someone is the fine art of relationships. It requires the ripeness of two other emotional skills, self management and empathy.
With this base, the people skills ripen. These are the social competencies that make for effectiveness in dealing with others. Deficits here lead to ineptness in the social world or repeated interpersonal disasters. These social abilities allow one to shape an encounter, to mobilize and inspire others, to thrive in intimate relationships, to persuade and influence and to put others at ease.
We send emotional signals in every encounter, and those signals affect those we are with. The more clever we are socially, the better we control the signals we send. Emotional intelligence includes managing this exchange ‘popular and charming’ are terms we use for people whom we like to be with because their emotional skills make us feel good. People who are able to help others soothe their feelings have an especially valued social commodity.
They are the souls others turn to when in greatest emotional need. We are all part of each other’s tool kit for emotional charge, for better or for worse.
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