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Here is an article I started writing back in May of 2001. I found it when cleaning out an old folder. It was written for a business audience, but most of the ideas are pretty universal. It is also kind of interesting from a "history of Steve" standpoint. I'd say it is about 90% complete. I may finish someday. Who knows!
BTW this was written before I realized there was a difference between a person's innate level of emotional intelligence and their level of emotional health or emotional skills later in life. So what that means is that I was talking about high and low EQ in this writing. It is much better to think of high EQ as well-developed emotional intelligence, not "high" emotional intelligence because a person could have high "EI" but low "EQ" as I use it here. You can read more about the idea of innate emotional intelligence in the page on definitions of EI
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|Using and developing your
In this article I offer you a few thoughts on developing and using your natural emotional intelligence (EI). My suggestions are based on the steps I have taken in my own life
What I have learned about emotions and emotional intelligence has come through independent study and years of hard work on my own emotional development. I began this work because of the stark contrast between my success in the business world, which allowed me to retire at the age of thirty five, and what I call my "Sadim" touch when it came to romantic relationships. Sadim, you will notice, is Midas spelled backwards.
Because I wanted to, let's say, "unlearn my competency" at turning a golden relationship into a pile of rust, I began a path of personal growth after my second divorce in 1994, a financially and emotionally painful experience. I firmly believe what I have learned about emotions since then could have prevented most, if not all of the $50,000 which was wasted on what was really just an emotional battle. I also believe the principles I now advocate can save companies millions of dollars in lawsuits, as well bring them significantly increased revenues through improved customer satisfaction and loyalty. (for additional benefits of developing EI, see http:eqiorg/...
I bring up my own life because I believe emotional work is a very personal matter and I would feel a little false and irresponsible if I made it sound like something which can be taught as easily as one might teach finance or accounting. At the same time, I do believe there are general principles which are universally helpful, and I will share a few of those here.
I also believe that if one is going to talk seriously about emotional intelligence one needs to talk about feelings. While some will say "feelings should be left at home," I say this is impossible to do and counter-productive to attempt. Our feelings impact our decisions about where we shop, where we eat and where we do business. Our feelings impact what we say to others about our experience.
Our feelings impact how we treat our clients, coworkers and customers. The best customer service training in the world is only wasted money if your employees are filled with resentment, insecurity, defensiveness and pessimism -- regardless of where those feelings originated.
Here, then, are some specific ways to raise your "EQ," based on my own personal journey. By the way, I make a distinction between "EQ" and emotional intelligence. I view emotional intelligence as an innate potential we are born with, each to different degrees. "EQ", on the other hand, reflects how well this potential has been developed, or in some cases, how much it has been damaged. While I do not speak in terms of "raising" one's emotional intelligence, I do believe it can be developed, much as we develop our muscles. I also believe one can raise their "EQ" by learning constructive skills and unlearning destructive habits and then training themselves to use these new skills until they become the new habits. I believe this because I see my own progress and see myself handling things differently and feeling much differently than I did a few years ago. (For more on the definition and history of emotional intelligence see http://eqi.org/...)
While it is hard to break the
process I have gone through was into discrete steps, for
me the most important first stage was to begin
specifically identifying my feelings. To do this I
started building a list of "feeling words"
based on a list of 40 or so words I saw in a book given
to me by a high school counselor.
|Feeling words are words which fit
into three word sentences beginning with "I
feel...." For example:
On my website I have a list of
hundreds of such feeling words. (http://eqi.org/fw.htm)
Benefits of Expressing Emotions
Most of us have been taught that feelings are too personal to share with others, especially at work. But we can't really hide our feelings, they come through in our tone of voice, our facial expressions, our choice of words and our actions. I suggest that there are several benefits to clearly and directly express our feelings.
From a health standpoint it seems to be generally accepted that it is healthier to express feelings than to try to keep them inside. In the USA in particular a whole alternative health care industry has seemed to emerge primarily to address the affects of unexpressed and unresolved feelings and emotions. This industry includes such things as massage therapists, homeopaths, yoga and meditation classes, even aromatherapy. To me, these all seem to be addressing the symptoms of an emotionally unhealthy society rather than addressing the causes of the negative feelings.
A healthier approach might be to specifically identify our negative emotions, then try to identify the sources of them and try to make real changes in our lives and workplaces. This way we might be able to prevent the number and intensity of negative feelings from arising in the first place.
Another benefit to expressing our feelings with feeling words is that it communication more efficient. In other words, much can be communicated with a few well-chosen feeling words.
believe we undervalue feelings in society in general, and
especially in the business world. One thing the surge in
interest in the term "emotional intelligence"
has clearly done is to elevate the value of emotions in
people's eyes. (For a list of reasons our emotions are
important to our survival see http://eqi.org/emotions.htm
Also, when we can accurately
identify our feelings it has been suggested that we may
actually be helping the brain form connections between
the cognitive center and the emotional center. If this is
true, these increased connections would likely help
facilitate and possibly speed up the processing of
For example, if someone is telling you a story which obviously caused them a great deal of frustration, you might say "That must have been really frustrating." Then they feel understood and there really is not much need for them to continue the story. Often, they will simply say something like, "Yeah, it sure was!" At that point, besides feeling understood, they will feel more connected with you.
|Validation and Invalidation
Another important stage in raising my own EQ (2011 Note - Now I would say in "re-directing my emotional intelligence") was to learn to stop invalidating people's feelings. By invalidating someone's feelings I mean telling them, or implying, that their shouldn't feel the way they do, or that their feelings are wrong, or that they should feel another way. Since I first became aware of the concept, I have noticed that people invalidate each other's feelings on a regular basis. They mock them, judge them, minimize them, dismiss them, etc. On my website I have an entire section devoted to invalidation, since I believe it is so damaging. (http://eqi.org/invalid.htm)
The alternative to invalidation is, logically enough, validation. I have found that when I validate someone's feelings most problems seem to disappear and most conflicts seem to resolve themselves. There was a popular book which said that men tend to want to fix things for women when women just want to be listened to. This book helped me see the importance of listening without offering advice or suggests and without "sending a solution," as Thomas Gordon called it.
|Validation and Listening
Learning to validate someone's feelings is a skill which can absolutely be developed as part of an overall high EQ approach to listening. Frankly, most people are lousy listeners. Often, they completely miss the underlying emotions. They interrupt, they talk about themselves, they judge, invalidate and debate.
One of the more useful things to remember about listening is that feelings are not debatable.
If someone does tell you how they
feel, either directly with feeling words, or indirectly,
it is extremely low EQ to debate with them about their
own feelings. For more on how to improve your listening
skills in an emotionally intelligent way, see http://eqi.org/listen.htm
|Listening and Feeling
Another benefit in using feeling words is that if we can accurately identify the emotions involved in a particular "drama," people telling us long, drawn out stories feel understood much more quickly and can get "back to work" much sooner.
Once someone feels understood on an
emotional level there is not much need to say more, for
much of the time the reason we are supplying all the
details of a story is specifically so we can convey the
emotional content of it. Without using feelings words,
though, this process can be cumbersome to say the least.
|A higher stage of raising our
level of EQ is to take responsibility for our feelings.
This was a stage I have had considerable difficulty with.
When I first started identifying my feelings I realized
that I felt many negative feelings and I tried to hold my
partner of week (I only slightly exaggerate) responsible
for them. For example, I realized I felt unappreciated
and unsupported and I told her that. But I said it in a
way that she felt blamed and manipulated. She then backed
away more from me and I started feeling less and less
important to her, and of course told her as much, again
in a blaming, accusing way, which only made things worse.
Since then I have learned it is much more productive to try to meet my own emotional needs as much as possible rather than blaming others for not meeting them. If I were to envision the most ideal scenario I would say it might be where one person could express his true feelings and the other person could voluntarily decide whether they want to do something to help that person with their unmet emotional needs. In a work setting this is all a bit tricky, but it is probably worth thinking about. For example, if Jane tells her manager she feels unsupported and unappreciated, the manager could decided to take some action to help her feel more supported and appreciated. But if the manager can't or won't do anything, I believe it is Jane's responsibility to manager her own feelings rather than feel resentful or victimized because her manager did nothing, or perhaps did not do enough. If Jane chooses to stay in that job, I see it as her choice and she is responsible for her feelings since she has more power to control them than the manager does.
This is a an important point, and one which is lost on most people -- certainly it was lost on me until the past few years of my life. We always have power to change our way of looking at something and by doing so, change our feelings.
Managing your own negative feelings
Probably the most important thing a manager can do is to work on managing his own negative feelings. Because a manager has more power than his subordinates, his emotions will tend to set the emotional tone of the workplace. Imagine if you and your coworkers are sharing a laugh and your boss walks in with a disapproving look.
If I come to work feeling stressed, controlling, rigid, afraid,
Most conflicts are centered on
hidden emotions. The longer they stay hidden, the longer
it will take to resolve the conflict. Even though a
particular conflict might seem to be resolved, if the
feelings are not resolved, another conflict will arise
soon enough. Generally people talk about what happened to
lead to the conflict. I believe it is more important,
though, to talk about how each person felt and is feeling
during the resolution process. If you are interested in
an emotion centered conflict resolution model, visit http://eqi.org/cr.htm
Either with such tools or without, it is not difficult to find sensitive people who are good at identifying and describing their feelings. Whether they are good at managing their feelings is not the most important thing. In fact, maybe you want those who are especially sensitive, and especially poor at managing their feelings to be your emotional experts in some cases. Such people will easily get angered, and rather than dismissing them as "hotheads," a company could learn a lot from them. What these kind of people find annoying is very likely to trouble others at some level. Identifying what triggers their negative feelings would surely improve customer relations for everyone. I've heard something about a canary being used in mines to detect gas before humans can detect it. So these "hotheads" can be utilized as something like emotional canaries.
One simple example is those
automated attendants. How many of us have felt frustrated
by them? Well, I can promise you I have sworn at them
many a time! To make them more user friendly, you could
call in an emotional expert and have them try out the
system before you frustrate a large number of your
customers. I suggest that you want to find someone who is
not only sensitive, but impatient, cynical, skeptical,
judgmental, animated, expressive and opinionated for a
job like this. They may well be the ones who will give
you the most valuable information. Then you can find an
emotionally intelligent person to work with them to help
improve the system.