By John Schorling
Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to understand and manage our own emotions, as well as to recognize and influence the emotions of those around us. EI has been shown to be a powerful predictor of work performance, and can also be important other settings. There are a number of models of EI. Perhaps the best known is that developed by Daniel Goleman which contains four domains: self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management (https://hbr.org/2017/02/emotional-intelligence-has-12-elements-which-do-you-need-to-work-on).
Emotional intelligence is based in self-awareness, in being aware of emotions as they arise. Mindfulness is key to doing this: when we are mindful, we are paying attention to our present moment experience, including recognizing emotions. We can cultivate this capacity during meditation by noticing emotions as well as thoughts, and bodily sensations as they occur, becoming familiar with observing them. Our usual mode is to be caught up in them and mindfulness allows us to take a step back and just observe them instead. We can notice thoughts as they arise, we can notice bodily sensations, and we can notice emotions when they are present. We might even name them, saying to ourselves “this is sadness” or “this is happiness”. The more we practice this, the easier it becomes, and the better able we may be to notice the connections between emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations.
Once we are aware of our emotions, we can move to the second domain of EI, self-management. One aspect of self-management is emotional self-control. When we notice a strong emotion, we can pause, choosing our response. The acronym STOP is helpful in remembering to do this. The S refers to Stopping, just pausing for a moment. The T stands for Taking a few breaths, to calm and center ourselves. The O is for Observing, noticing the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that are present. Finally, the P refers to Proceeding with awareness, choosing how to respond instead of just reacting, keeping in mind what our goal is for the situation. For example, if we are speaking with a customer service representative and feel frustration at not getting what we need, we can avoid reacting and saying something negative to the representative that might make achieving our goal of getting what we need even harder.
In his model of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman lists several competencies in addition to emotional self-control under the domain of self-management. One is adaptability, or being flexible. Mindfulness can help us notice the tendency to be inflexible, to feel things should be a certain way. These “shoulds” often arise from our own beliefs about the right way of doing things. They are usually based on our life experiences, and may drive our behavior without our even realizing it. They are judgments, and a core aspect of mindfulness is cultivating nonjudgmental awareness. When we notice these strong beliefs, we might suspend judgment and respond with curiosity instead, inquiring into why we feel so strongly and whether another approach might be possible, or even better.
Another self-management competency is having a positive outlook. When we pause to choose our responses, we can choose to be positive. We might practice assuming positive intent, considering that others might have positive rather than negative motivations for their behavior ( e.g. instead of being lazy, the person who is slow to help us in the store may be tired and overworked from not having enough help and is doing their best). We can also choose to practice gratitude, saying thank you and acknowledging the efforts of others.
Fostering emotional intelligence can be important both personally and professionally. Mindfulness can improve both the self-awareness and self-regulation components of EI. In the next Mindful Musing, we will explore the relationship between mindfulness and the EI domain of social awareness and relationship management.
Filed Under: Monthly Musings