What about your emotional intelligence?
The commercials on television today talk endlessly about treatments for low this and low that, but unfortunately, we don’t hear much about low Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Here are some symptoms: You know you’re brilliant, yet you find yourself reacting with impatience and anger with others who just don’t get it. You’ve noticed that others don’t seem to get your humor or your jokes or don’t seem so interested in your great stories. Maybe your feedback to a teammate failed to come across the way you had intended. If as a leader at work, at home or in your community you have any of these symptoms, you’re possibly suffering from low Emotional Intelligence.
For most people, EQ limits a person’s career and influence more than IQ. So what are we talking about here? What indicates good emotional intelligence? It’s really about being aware of and responding effectively to emotions—our own and those of others.
In many ways, good EQ is similar to the common courtesies that were emphasized more in previous generations. After all, the old saw about “counting to ten” when we felt anger was about as scientific as you can get. We now know that the emotional part of the brain (the Amygdala - /əˈmigdələ/) reacts four times faster than our cognitive quarterback in the pre-frontal cortex. In simpler terms, learning to slow down our response to emotional situations can keep us out of trouble.
The Amygdala is part of the limbic system and is the source of our natural protective response for flight or fight. For many who train regularly for combat – military, law enforcement, athletes—tapping into this source of high energy for a crisis response helps performance. But away from the job, that same response can get you in trouble—hence the term “Amygdala Hijack.” But to some degree, all of us use and misuse this natural instinct to fight or flee—to dominate or withdraw.
So, the key to good emotional intelligence is awareness. Until we become aware of our emotions and predict where they will take us, we’re clueless as to how to manage them; and that’s what we really want to do. Likewise, an awareness of the emotions of others helps us manage our response to facilitate the most effective interaction. Let’s walk through the four steps of emotional intelligence and you will get it quickly.
Recognize your own emotions. Awareness usually requires practice. You’re in a meeting and Bob says something that you know is absolutely wrong— “how could anyone be that stupid,” you think. Your first instinct is to call him out and show him how wrong he is. But you’ve been down that road before and know that will only embarrass Bob and ultimately make you look small. Besides, you may not even know all the facts that are behind his opinion. Fortunately, you recognize that you’re angry and you’ve learned to coach yourself to hold back on your response. You slow it down and engage your cognitive quarterback to come up with a plan B.