Summary of the book Emotional Intelligence: With this book, Daniel Goleman aims to tackle the challenge of gaining mastery over ourselves, of making our emotions allies and of no longer being a slave to them. Wanting to preserve our health, he shows how negative emotions are dangerous, and how we can modify the course of our life by freeing ourselves from foreseeable difficulties and by learning other behaviors from an early age. For that purpose, some experimental schools teach children the psychological and social skills necessary for the direction of their life by stimulating emotional intelligence — it is up to us to apply the method to ourselves!
By Daniel Goleman, 1999, 421 pages.
Note: This review was written by Elisabeth Chervonaz-Humez
6 excellent reasons to develop your emotional intelligence:
- Greater emotional intelligence will help you become a better communicator.
- It will help reduce your level of anxiety and stress;
- To be able to defuse conflict with greater efficiency.
- Will help improve your relationships.
- To be able to sympathize with others.
- To effectively overcome the challenges of life.
- Emotional intelligence increases your leadership skills.
Review and Summary of “Emotional Intelligence”:
“Anyone can become angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time; and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
The consequences of human impulses fill the pages of our daily newspapers (murders, mistreatment, looting, etc.). There may be times when each of us lose control of our emotions; react with anger or violence, depression, or regret.
We had a plethora of self-help books available to us, but none of them were scientifically based. Thanks to advances in neurological imaging, we can now begin to understand how our brains work.
Daniel Goleman believes that what he calls “emotional intelligence” is at the origin of the capacities of self-control; which one can instill in children so that they can use their intellectual potential; whatever it is, whatever their intelligence quotient (IQ).
He then suggests that we follow him through a journey that begins with an assessment of the latest discoveries on brain architecture to continue on with a description of the emotional quotient, the control of our impulses, the ability to forge empathetic relationships with others. Then, leaving the personal field, Daniel Goleman takes us into the corporate world where the success of our career depends on the quality of our relationships.
Part 1: The Emotional Brain
A. What Are Emotions Used For?
When we have to face life-threatening situations, or perform extremely important tasks, our body responds directly through our emotions. When we are ruled by our emotions, intelligence is obscured.
The first laws and moral codes (like the Ten Commandments) perhaps respond to the need to channel, tame emotions and passions.
The etymology of the word “emotion” from the Latin “motere”, which means “to move” and of the prefix “é” which means an outward movement, clearly shows that emotions incite us to act.
Each emotion causes us physiological reactions, which allow us to act in an appropriate manner; without intelligence being able to take part in:
- Anger makes blood rush to the hands so that they can strike or grab a weapon. Adrenaline needed for vigorous movement is also released.
- Fear directs the blood to the motor muscles (to flee) and thus makes us turn pale by depriving our face of blood flow. The body is paralyzed for a moment, just long enough to make a vital decision: to run or to hide.
- Happiness activates the brain’s center, which inhibits negative feelings and calms the areas of the brain that create anxiety. A feeling of calm is felt, making it possible to quickly recover from fatigue or annoyance. All the actions are carried out with enthusiasm, effortlessly, and in a variety of ways.
- Love, tenderness, sexual satisfaction generate a state of calm and contentment; soothing any fear or anger, and leaving room for complicity.
- Surprise invariably leads to a raised eyebrow which, by increasing the visual field; allows to gather a maximum of information and thus to prepare a more appropriate course of action.
- Disgust makes a sort of facial grimace; the nose curls up a bit, perhaps to allow the nostrils to close in presence of a toxic substance.
- Sadness is beneficial because it prompts us to often remain secluded; at home, safe, and to take the time to plan for the future.
“If you don’t have empathy and effective personal relationships, no matter how smart you are, you won’t get far.” Quote from Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
The rational mind and the emotional mind complement each other.
The first allows humans to consciously be thoughtful and balanced, and the second forces us to behave impulsively and sometimes illogically.
These functions and behaviors follow directly from the history of the development of Life, since its appearance on Earth: The brainstem appeared first, developing around the spinal cord, taking care of respiration, the functioning of organs and basic movements. After several million years of evolution, the neocortex made its appearance. This is what is called the “thinking brain”. It developed from the olfactory bulb.
This important development encloses the upper part of the peripheral brainstem, hence its name “limbic system” (from the Latin word “limbus”: edge). From this point forward, we become acquainted with emotions such as desire, fury, love, dread. The development of the limbic system provides us with the capacity for learning and memorization. A hundred million years ago, several layers of brain cells were added and significantly increased the size of our brains, creating the incredibly developed neocortex of Homo Sapiens.
We can then feel sensations about ideas, symbols, imagination and turn to art. The increase in the mass of the neocortex leads to an exponential increase in the number of connections between neurons. Emotional life becomes more and more complex, allowing us for the first time to react to our own emotions in a varied and nuanced way.
The neocortex having developed from the emotional areas and sharing with them many circuits, it is easy to understand why the rest of the brain is thus subjected to the centers of emotion.
You will soon find a PDF of the book Emotional Intelligence…we’re working on it.
B. When Emotions Take Power: Anatomy of a Coup
Near the base of the limbic system is a small almond-shaped cluster, which gave it its name: amygdala. The hippocampus and the amygdala are the essential parts of the primitive “olfactory brain” from which the cortex and neocortex were formed. The removal of the amygdala, accidental or not, removes all ability to give emotional content to what we are experiencing; this is called “emotional blindness.” The people who are deprived of it have neither sorrow…nor joy.
The latest research proves that the amygdala determines our actions even before our neocortex has had time to make a thoughtful decision. The relationships between these two areas are at the heart of emotional intelligence.
In the presence of a feared or loathed event; the amygdala reacts instantly and transmits the alert to all other parts of the brain. In response to a visual or auditory stimulus, the thalamus is the first to perform treatment. Then, in a second step, it sends the information to the neocortex (brain area of vision, or of hearing) which will be able to interpret the information and decide what to do. Thirdly, it transmits, if necessary, part of the information to the amygdala, therefore, to the control center of our emotions.
However, the main discovery was to find that the thalamus also transmits information directly to the amygdala at the same time as it transmits it to the neocortex and that the path is twice as short between the thalamus and the amygdala. In other words, the amygdala receives the information before it is interpreted! This explains why we sometimes react without understanding the meaning of our actions. The amygdala sends orders to our body even before the neocortex has determined whether the order is correct. It’s like a parallel circuit, faster!
Other research has also shown that we react to something long before our brain has interpreted it.
The hippocampus records the raw data, and the amygdala retains the emotional flavor of events during strong emotions. This is why we always remember a lot of details from the day of the first romantic encounter, or what we were doing when the news of the death of a loved one was announced and details that might appear insignificant and that we would never retain in a usual context. The stimulation of the amygdala has the effect of imprinting emotional moments with unusual force.
In children, the amygdala is mature long before the rest of the brain; as it is closer to its final shape from birth; while the neocortex will continue to grow even after late adolescence. The first important emotions of the very first years of life are therefore imprinted in the amygdala; at a time when we are still unable to analyze these experiences in words.
When these memories come back as a result of an external stimulus; they trigger emotions that originate at the very beginning of our life, when everything was new and amazing; and when we still lacked the tools for analysis and perspective. We then understand better why we often lack judgment when we are under the influence of strong emotions.
“Our passions have their own wisdom: they guide our thinking and the choice of our values and ensure our survival.” Quote from Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
In fact, the amygdala triggers impulsive and anguished reactions, but on the other side of the circuit leading to the neocortex is a center in the prefrontal lobes that tempers them. It intervenes when we are afraid or angry. The information processed by the neocortex causes a reaction, which is then coordinated by the prefrontal lobes, which plan and organize our actions.
If an emotional reaction is necessary, the prefrontal lobes handle it with discernment and by choosing from the whole range of possibilities: to attack or to flee (like animals that have only these two possibilities) or also to appease, to persuade, to gain sympathy, to feel guilty, to moan, to disregard, etc. The prefrontal cortex acts like a parent moderating an impulsive child (the amygdala) by politely asking them to respond otherwise.
The existence of these connections between the limbic brain and the prefrontal lobes can cause, in case of strong emotion, a kind of neuronal paralysis by sabotaging the ability of the prefrontal lobe to maintain active memory, as when we are upset and that this prevents us from learning properly.
Researchers have shown that, contrary to what one might think, feelings are essential for rational decisions and reasoning. When the limbic system, the neocortex, the amygdala, and the prefrontal lobes are synergistic, intellectual capacity is improved. This is why we are going to try to better understand how to use our emotional intelligence.
Part Two: The Nature of Emotional Intelligence
C. The Stupidity of Intelligence
Empathy, self-motivation, persistence, impulse control, patience, and good humor are characteristics of emotional intelligence that are much more important for success than any successful IQ test.
Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, inspired Project Spectrum, which, on an experimental basis, educates children to develop their emotional intelligence and thereby nurture the children’s natural gifts. He likes to repeat that “a lot of people with an IQ of 160 work for others with an IQ as low as 100.”
To better understand how such education can work, we need to learn to know and feel our intelligent emotions.
Peter Salovey, Yale psychologist, has defined the five emotions that form the basis of emotional intelligence:
- Knowledge of emotions: Self-awareness is the keystone of self-understanding, and of intuition. Those who are masters of it lead better lives.
- Control over your emotions: The ability to adapt your feelings to each situation; to pacify your mind, to free yourself from anxieties, sadness, or anger. Those with this ability cope incomparably better in life’s setbacks.
- Self-motivation: Learning to channel our emotions to focus, control, and self-motivate allows us to be fulfilled and do remarkable things.
- The perception of the emotions of others: Empathy is the basis of all social relations, understanding others opens the doors to the most successful human relationships and contacts.
- Mastery of human relations: This involves knowing how to maintain good relations with others and knowing how to manage their emotions. The people who possess them know how to make themselves popular, direct, and effectively manage their relationships with others.
The plasticity of the brain is such that we can compensate for our deficiencies in any of these five emotions through learning, a set of habits or reactions.
IQ and emotional intelligence do not oppose each other but complement each other and build us.
D. Know Yourself
As the Japanese tale goes, a belligerent samurai asked a Zen master to explain heaven and hell to him. The monk turns him away with contempt. The samurai, feeling insulted, drew his sword and threatened to kill the monk. The monk then said: “This is what hell is”. Surprised by the truth of these words, the samurai calmed down, sheathed his sword, and thanked him for enlightening him. The monk added “and there is heaven!”
“Self-awareness” refers to the constant attention paid to one’s inner state.
The capacity for self-reflection is important to develop. It’s the difference between getting angry and thinking “I’m getting angry” while you’re angry. Neocortical circuits monitor emotions, and this is the first step in mastering them. Recognizing that you are in a bad mood is already wanting to stop being so!
As parents, we too have our part in educating our children’s emotional intelligence. When our child hurts a friend, the order to “stop immediately!” has the effect of preventing him or her from continuing, but our child’s anger does not abate. So, we can explain to them that we understand their anger and ask them if they still feel it.
To learn more about the brain, I invite you to discover my article on the 12 laws of the brain. From physical exercise to the constant quest for learning, 12 Laws to Develop Your Brain Skills Throughout Your Lifetime.
We can distinguish three categories of people according to their relationship with their emotions:
- Those who are aware of themselves: They are often subtle in their emotional life and independent; in good psychological health and have a positive outlook on life.
- People who let themselves be overwhelmed by their emotions: They are often fickle and cannot remove themselves from events. They don’t do much to let go of their bad mood and think they don’t have control over their emotional life
- Those who accept their mood: People who are generally in a good mood, who therefore do not see the point in changing, and people who have mood swings and who accept them. People with depression are often in this category, resigned to their despair.
The ability to get rid of a bad mood lies in awareness of it; this is the second basic form of emotional intelligence.
E. A Slave of Passions
We cannot live without emotion. Daniel Goleman advocates their balance, commensurate with their value and meaning. An appropriate emotion, proportionate to the circumstances, preserves us from boredom (times when emotions are too weakened) and from anxiety, fury or even depression (when they become extreme, persistent, and pathological).
Life is full of ups and downs. The art of well-being is that they must offset each other. Just as thoughts effect our brains every second, emotions are constantly buzzing through us. The anatomy of the brain, as we have seen, cannot protect us from outbursts, but we can limit their duration. The example of a person who has just cut you off in traffic is telling. What do you say to yourself? “What an a……! He could have caused an accident! He’s not going to get away with it!” Or “Maybe he has good reasons for driving like this, for example a medical emergency.”
In the first case, your body prepares for battle, your heart speeds up, and if, on top of that, the car behind you honks at you, then you are ready to vent all your anger. With the second thought, your attitude is more forgiving; it softens the anger and defuses the mounting fury. Benjamin Franklin said it well, “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.”
Fury is undoubtedly the most rebellious emotion. It provides energy, even euphoria, unlike sadness. The more we ruminate on the cause of our fury; the more we reimagine good reasons, and then we stir up our fury even more. Reconsidering the situation in a more positive light is one of the surest ways to calm ourselves down.
Anger feeds on itself.
The amygdala releases catecholamine with each outburst of anger, which dissipates in about twenty minutes. A thought that arises when this escalation process is well advanced triggers a surge of anger far more violent than the one that fueled the mechanism in its early stages.
At this stage, the individual no longer forgives and can no longer be reasoned. This great excitement fosters an illusion of power and invulnerability, which can inspire and facilitate aggression. During this lapse of time, any other thought or perception that forms causes the level of excitement in the body to rise.
An experiment was performed in which an assistant insulted and provoked volunteers who were being tested. When subjects were offered the opportunity to take revenge on the assistant by giving a reference for the assistant’s potential job opportunity, they did so with anger mixed with jubilation.
“Anger feeds on anger: the emotional brain becomes feverish. At that moment, the fury, freed from the shackles of reason, quickly degenerates into violence.” Quote from Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
A variation was produced: An accomplice enters just after the provocations, asking the provocateur to leave for whatever reason. She even remains indifferent to the sarcastic remark that the assistant makes to her and, once the assistant is gone, she explains that the provocateur is extremely tense because of their approaching exams. When the angry subjects are then given the opportunity for revenge, they do not do so, and, on the contrary, express compassion towards the assistant.
Soothing information therefore allows a reassessment of the events at the origin of the anger and offers the opportunity to de-escalate it.
Distraction is an extremely effective way to change your mood. It is therefore preferable to take a long walk, physical exercise being an excellent calming agent. Or, a relaxation session, a few deep breaths, a moment of muscular relaxation allow the body to go from a state of excitement to a state of less excitement. Anger appeasement, however, will only happen if the aggressive train of thought stops.
This is why we can move away from each other momentarily, thinking about something else, reading, watching television or going to the movies, because these latter activities can easily allow us to change our ideas! Another strategy for controlling irritability is to try to be self-aware, catch cynical or hostile thoughts on the fly, and write them down, so it is easier to identify them precisely and challenge them or reassess them.
One of the popular beliefs that it is better to let anger run wild collapses when, on the contrary, this attitude gets the emotional brain more excited, and the person ends up being angrier than before.
Anxiety-provoking thoughts are legion, and only make us “go in circles.” The following typical example is very telling: “Hey, the engine is making noise…If I have to take my car to the mechanic, it will cost me big…I’m going to have to take what I put aside for my daughter’s school…
I risk not having enough to get her enrolled…And her grades dropped the last report card…What will happen if her grades start to drop and she can’t get into this school?…I believe that the engine is ruined…” And there you have it, the circle is complete, each concern returns to another, which returns after a few others…to the first one…
Fear in the presence of a potential danger results in vigilant behavior, and causes anxiety, very normal in prehistoric times because it allows one to focus on the means to cope with it. Worrying helps to find a positive way to remedy the cause of the worry. However, when the cycle intensifies and continues, anxiety appears with its natural extensions: phobias, obsessions and compulsions, panic attacks.
Anxious people imagine things by jumping from one concern to another, in words and not in pictures.
Insomniacs are also affected because in fact the problem is not with somatic excitement, but with inappropriate thoughts. Chronically anxious people are unable to follow the simple advice to stop fretting, or to not worry, to take life in stride. However, simple solutions can help them control their emotions. Recognize the very first physical signs of rising anxiety: rapid pulse, sweating, tremors. A simple relaxation exercise can then be performed (an exercise that is practiced daily, to master it when the need arises).
Immediately, the next step can be set in motion: Criticism of oneself and of one’s anxiety (assessment of the risk of the dreaded event occurring, ways of dealing with any eventuality, the usefulness of constantly rehashing these worried thoughts).
Sadness is the emotion we try to get rid of the most. However, it is sometimes positive. In fact, the attention is fixed on the lost object. It forces you to think about the meaning of sadness, loss, and finally, to make new plans that will allow life to continue. Grieving is useful, actual depression is not. Whether or not depression persists depends largely on an individual’s inclination to ruminate.
The strategy to put in place is twofold: On the one hand, to challenge the ruminated thoughts and replace them with more positive ones, on the other hand, to establish an entertaining program. Aerobics is one of the most effective ways to treat mild depression and negative mood. One of the effective ways to lift your spirits is to reward yourself with a little success; to achieve something that you forced yourself to do. Contact and helping others is also one of the most effective means against melancholy!
Repression or optimistic rejection
People who dampen negative emotions become such experts that they are no longer even aware of their negativity! Many people go out of their way to ignore emotions like anger or anxiety (one in six people). Not to show your emotions in order to be an example of stoicism for your children or to remain impassive in the face of a painful situation.
Troublesome perceptions are weakened by increased activity in the left prefrontal lobe (while the right is the center of negativity). People regulate themselves through a peace of mind, perhaps at the cost of a weakened perception of their self-awareness.
F. Master Skill
“Active memory” is the ability to keep any information related to the current task in mind. However, in some situations, we may experience some paralysis (such as during an exam where we lose our abilities, or a show where stage fright overwhelms us).
Conversely, when enthusiasm and confidence are mobilized to achieve a goal, motivation is limitless, and the results speak for themselves. The front runner in any activity is distinguished from the others, at an equal level, by an unbounded capacity for relentless perseverance and tenacity (a notion that we also find in Anthony Robbins with the CANI: Constant And Never-ending Improvement).
A state of hypomania (a state of mild elation) is most enjoyable for writers and creative people. A good way to help someone overcome a difficulty is to make them laugh — good humor frees up thought, and therefore, imagination.
People who are confident usually set higher goals for themselves, and work harder and harder towards achieving them; and therefore ultimately do achieve their goals! These people know how to motivate themselves and be convinced that things will work out when they experience a setback, for they are convinced that they have the means to achieve their goals and the flexibility to discover other avenues of success.
The optimist thinks that failure always comes from something that can be changed, so that next time it turns into success.
Pessimists blame themselves for their failures and blame it on their own “character”, which cannot be changed. Of course, we all have a rather optimistic or pessimistic temperament; but it is possible to learn to change attitudes through experience and learning.
“Fluidity” is the pinnacle of emotions put at the service of performance or learning. These are the times when you give your best; when time has no control over what you do and when you go beyond your own limits. It is a wonderful feeling that we have all once experienced.
Discipline allows us to experience it more often by concentration, discipline, a focus on what we want to achieve, which then allows us to get rid of everything that is not the task to be accomplished in order to achieve it effortlessly. Attention is both relaxed and very focused. We are slightly euphoric. Cortical activity in the brain is reduced and energy expenditure is minimal (while intense concentration increases energy expenditure).
G. The Roots of Empathy
Empathy is the ability to feel what others are feeling, to put yourself in their shoes. Those who feel it the most are those who perceive their own emotions the most. Empathy therefore leads to care for others and, in this sense, its opposite is antipathy.
Most emotions are not expressed in words, but in the tone of a voice, gestures, a facial expression. Of course, that’s a plus for romantic relationships. Children who know best how to decipher their non-verbal signs do better academically; although they have an IQ test result identical to others who do not recognize this way of communicating.
One way to understand the other is to understand the emotion in the way they say things, rather than in the words themselves. At least 90% of affective messages are through non-verbal communication. From the very first hours of life, even babies feel bad hearing another baby cry. Babies suffer out of empathy before they even realize that they exist independently of others. At the age of one, they understand that this suffering is not theirs; but want to do something for the other, without knowing what to do.
Children feel more empathy when their parents explain to them how others feel as a result of their bad actions, for example. They help their children to put themselves in each other’s shoes and to feel the emotions of another person.
However, when a parent does not show the child any empathy about such an emotion that the latter feels; and in a lasting way, the child ends up not even feeling this emotion. Of course, this is not irremediable, and subsequent psychotherapy can partly repair this handicap; but such time wasted, and emotions not experienced!
Anatomically, the right part of the frontal lobes, damaged in some patients, leads to an inability to understand an emotional message through the tone of a voice, limited to the strict meaning of each word of the sentence (for example: no difference in perception between a real “thank you” and the same words spoken angrily).
In the total absence of empathy, individuals become lechers and sociopaths. Indeed, this absence leads to reasoning centered on the person himself, ignoring the other. A rapist may well think this way: “Women dream of being raped. If she resists, it’s because she’s playing difficult.” Pedophiles say to themselves, “I’m not hurting her, I’m teaching her love.
This is my way of showing her my affection.
An abusive parent will say to himself after having beaten his child that “this is a good lesson.” A pedophile could even say to himself “if the child does not want a sexual act with me, he can always stop”, he sees the other only through his own filter of perverse fantasy, and at no time does he put himself in the child’s shoes. The child has no feelings of her own for the pedophile.
Psychopaths will say anything as long as it leads to what they want from their victims. Psychopaths often feel no fear for themselves (neither that of the sentence nor that of the physical pain of certain punishments; in the United States for example), so they cannot feel what their victims are feeling and have no empathy.
H. The Art of Getting Along Well with Others
A certain inner calm makes it possible to open up to others and to be receptive to them. To help others, and manage their emotions, we need two basic strengths: self-control and empathy.
Emotions, as many studies show, are contagious. People who know how to help others and soothe their worries are people everyone turns to in difficult times. During a transfer of mood from one individual to another, the emotional contagion moves from more to less expressive.
Emotional coordination is felt when an interaction occurs between two or more people. The gestures of the individuals while they speak are reflected, both change their position at the same time. Synchrony is sometimes seen between teachers and students; they appreciate each other, and they feel happy, enthusiastic, and interested.
The harmonization experienced by a mother and her baby is transformed into coordination of moods between adults.
We find this type of communication in the following capacities:
- The skill to organize groups: The primary ability of leaders
- The ability to negotiate solutions: Talent of mediators
- The ability to build personal relationships: The skill to empathize and communicate. Good teammates have this talent, and we can count on their seriousness.
- The capacity for social analysis: The ability to understand the motivations of others, their feelings. This is one of the abilities of a good therapist or novelist.
It is understandable that these skills are an integral part of charm, charisma, or social success. It’s a pleasure to hang out with the people who possess them.
Children or unpopular people seek to impose themselves on the group, while others take the time to observe the group in order to understand what is going on there before approaching it, then to accept the rules of it before they go make suggestions if necessary.
The ultimate “step” in mastering social skills is what Daniel Goleman calls “emotional genius.” A person capable of handling the fury of the other, that is to say, able to distract them from their anger, to feel empathy and to espouse their point of view in order to make them change it has that mastery that we all would like, I imagine, to have.
Part Three: Applied Emotional Intelligence
I. Intimate Enemies
Emotional intelligence can also cover the area of marriage…to avoid divorce. Without wanting to be too caricature, Daniel Goleman paints a picture in which the man complains about his wife’s unreasonable demands, while she sees only indifference in her husband’s attitude towards what she says. However, this male-female “split” does not appear at birth. It stems from the way children are raised; parents more easily talk about emotions to a girl (apart from anger) than to a boy.
From the age of 10, girls play together in small groups and try to base their relationships on cooperation and role-playing. Boys play in larger groups, where competition is often king. If a game has to stop because a child is hurt, the girls immediately turn to the one in pain, talk to her and console her, while the boys leave the injured person alone, almost blaming him for having interrupted the game.
It should therefore come as no surprise if ten years later, women demand to have talks in order to exchange with their husbands, whereas for them, complicity is the way to achieve something concrete together.
The secret of marital communication is to complain and not to blame.
Here is the difference by a concrete example between these two concepts: “When you forget to take my clothes to the dry cleaners, I have the impression that you are not thinking of me.” Or “To be so selfish and inconsiderate! It just goes to show that I really can’t count on you to do things right, since you forget to go to the laundry mat!”
The first example is based on the emotion that an event, an action, generates within the person, and then, the partner can, through empathy, put him/herself in the other’s shoes and a healthy discussion can take place. The second sentence, being accusatory, judges the other without trial, without appeal and hurts them. Several identical small sentences, regularly given only lead to a more or less long-term separation! The accused spouse has only two options: to be on the defensive or to retaliate. The response is moot, especially if it is also carried out in the form of blame…
“In a sense, we have two brains: one that thinks and one that feels. It is the interaction between these two knowledge systems that builds our inner life.” Quote from Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
Painful thoughts become automatic and reinforce the feelings of victimization of one or the other partner. As a result, even kindness will be ignored or minimized; giving free rein to the spiral of blame or ruminations of grievances that one has against the other.
A simple thought like “maybe he/she is in a bad mood – I wonder if he/she has a problem at his/her job…” makes it possible not to see the other as irredeemable, but as a rough patch that you can get over.
Physiologically, overwhelm by anger consists of an increased heart rate. It begins when the heart reaches 100 beats per minute (instead of 72 for women, and 82 for men on average at rest), a threshold that is easily accessible during bouts of anger or crying. Hormones are then secreted by the body to maintain a state of alarm for a certain time. The heart then speeds up another 10, 20 or even 30 beats per minute.
The muscles tighten, and sometimes even breathing problems appear. Emotions have then completely taken over, and the best way is not for men to withdraw into silence, or for women to relentlessly criticize their partner, but to take note that a problem exists. The man can then suggest that he will listen to his wife more calmly and hear what she has to say. The woman can then be careful not to attack or criticize her husband personally but limit herself to talking to him about his behavior and how it makes her emotionally. It would be good if she broadened her ideas, and above all, reassured her husband about her love.
The man and the woman forming an “ideal” couple, and whose union is lasting; never stray from a subject of disagreement and exchange their different points of view from the start, whatever they may be. Each shows the other that they are listening to other. The tension is then reduced, and a constructive discussion can flourish.
Since not all of us are masters of it, we can pay attention to our heart rate.
As soon as it rises 10 beats above our usual rate, it is advisable to inform the other person that they are aware of the dispute, to assure him/her that he/she will listen to him/her in five minutes, the time to separate in order to get back to a normal heart rate, and to resume the discussion more calmly, making sure to clearly define the subject of the discussion and not to deviate from it. This “procedure” can be discussed calmly, perhaps even at the start of a relationship; to agree on how the couple will behave in the event of disagreement, with respect for each other.
Daniel Goleman then proposes, in order to determine the subject and to be limited to it, the XYZ method, which consists in communicating by the following formulation: “When you did X, I felt Y, and I would have preferred that you do Z.” It is explicit communication, which excludes harshness and eliminates any defensive attitude from the other person.
Respect and love for the other person are the best tools to disarm any conflict, everyone has the right to recognize their responsibility, or even to apologize, in order to show the other that they have considered the feelings that they express, even if you do not agree (for example: “I can see that you are upset.”). Legitimation calms the spouse who sees that he/she has been understood, even if the disagreement remains, both then know what the other feels and, with respect, can now preserve the partnership.
J. Management: A Matter of the Heart
In 80% of plane crashes, the fatal error could have been avoided by greater harmony between the team and through listening to each other.
Indeed, when we are upset, our attention is lost, and we have difficulty making decisions: “stress makes people stupid.”
Daniel Goleman tells us that “to lead is not to dominate, it is to know how to persuade others to work to achieve a common goal.”
The first quality in a job is knowing how to convey the information that employees need to move forward, including telling them whether or not they are going in the right direction at each step, so that the last one is a success. Here again, as in the couple, the exposure of grievances in the form of constructive criticism, the possibility for everyone to express their ideas creates an atmosphere conducive to efficient work that is done in good spirits.
A terse expression like “You are screwing up” in a sarcastic tone is utterly moot in terms of the pure realization of a project, but even more, gives the person no opportunity to respond since the criticism is general and without any proposal for improvement. It generates a loss of motivation and doubt in the employee to whom this sentence is addressed.
Constructive criticism should be stated and worded as follows:
- description of what the person has already accomplished
- description of what they can still accomplish
- statement in the form of advice so that the employee can hear suggestions for improvement
- in a optimistic tone
- clarification of the explanation of what was done wrong and what needs to be done to correct it or to not reproduce it
- stated with empathy in order to feel the impact of what one says about the other, without prejudice.
In business, emotional intelligence also requires the intolerance of intolerance.
K. Mind and Medicine
When we are sick, we suddenly feel weak, vulnerable, and often helpless. We only want to see ourselves reassured, consoled by the doctors and the nursing staff, whereas these people carry out their work from a “scientific” point of view, often neglecting the emotional aspect that each sentence or each word can resonate within someone.
The medical “body” should take into account both the emotional component and the purely physical component.
Researchers have found that the nervous system is linked to the immune system. Each emotion generates specific hormones that have a significant effect on immune cells.
One of the examples given by Daniel Goleman concerns, for example, an operation. If a person says they do not want the operation, some surgeons cancel the operation because they know that in this case people react extremely badly. They bleed more, are infected more often later and are more prone to complications, not to mention that the recovery time is increased. The reason is simple: panic and anxiety increase blood pressure which then leads to increased bleeding from the veins, which is one of the most annoying complications during an operation.
“Knowing how to maintain good relationships with others is in large part knowing how to manage their emotions.” Quote from Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
In addition, all studies show that repetitive outbursts of anger put much strain on the heart by increasing cardiac rate and blood pressure. With repetition, even mild damage to the arteries can result; micro-cracks in the coronary artery in particular, which over several years can lead to a serious heart problem. For example, at Stanford, they teach tolerance to people who have already had a heart attack; which reduces the risk of a second attack by 44%.
Stress and immune function
Several studies show that stress could decrease and alter immune functions, which would allow the acceleration of metastases, the increase of the vulnerability to viral attacks, and the triggering of asthma attacks, among others, not to mention all the implications in disorders of the digestive system.
It is therefore necessary and essential, especially in the case of serious illnesses; to also treat the stressed or depressed state of patients.
Communication and the expression of emotions are necessary, and one study again found that women survived twice as long after treatment for advanced breast cancer, if they participated in discussion meetings where they could express their emotions, their fears and, quite simply, freely discussing their illness.
As one patient rightly pointed out: “Compassion is more than comfort, it is good medicine.”
Part 4: Possibilities
L. The Melting Pot of Family
A good education in emotional intelligence is the main role of parents. However, some parents do not pay attention to the child’s feelings and ignore them by finding them insignificant; or they let it go and promise rewards, or punishments. Others are also always dissatisfied with their children, disregarding them; and criticizing them constantly and not respecting what they feel, and even, get angry when the child tries to justify him/herself…”Don’t talk back at me!”
Another attitude consists in taking advantage of the annoyance felt by the child to teach him/her how to control it, by listening to him/her, and asking him/her the “right” questions: “are you angry because…? “; “Instead of fighting, why don’t you have fun on your end? “; “How do you feel now?” Children then relax, become less brutal, and more attentive and, at the same time; become better students because they are more attentive.
When a child asks for help with solving a puzzle or any other game, the fact that the adult comes to help him/her with real pleasure or comes under duress, or even does not come at all, will shape the child’s way of thinking. In the first case, he/she will know that in the event of a problem, he/she is not alone, and can count on others, and will be more inclined to ask, later, for help from his/her teachers or colleagues. In the second case, the child will often become suspicious and aggressive. Lack of attention is certainly more devastating than abuse.
M. Trauma and Emotional Re-learning
Following an assault, even if the person is only a witness, it results for some in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), leading to nightmares and dreams that sometimes even give a feeling of imminent death. The terrifying memories become super-sensitive triggers that are ready to go off at the slightest sign that the conditions are back again and can reproduce the event that caused the trauma. The amygdala is imprinted deeply and long-term.
One of the important differences in how people react to PTSD is a function of it. They will get rid of it more easily if they have not had the impression of total helplessness: uncontrollable.
One of the techniques used to heal PTSD is to relive the trauma in a safe setting, that is to say, a less stressful context, and then, to imagine a “magical”, happy ending because it gives the brain a feeling of control. Art is another technique: The process of drawing triggers in the brain a feeling of control over the trauma and the possibility to contain it.
It is therefore very important to begin healing by establishing a feeling of security, by relaxation, and all the means to calm the emotional circuits in order to prepare for relearning. Then, you must reformulate the unfolding of what happened, in order to see, little by little, its complete uniqueness, with details, with additional information, and through describing what the person felt and still feels as you narrate what happened. Repeating this step allows you to distance yourself from it, and it is an important lesson received by the brain, because the words become gradually more fluid.
N. Temperament and Destiny
From birth, we all know that we favor one of the following four temperaments: shyness, boldness, optimism, or melancholy. Of course, with all the nuances associated with each one.
Yet we all know of extremely timid people who have become great actors…birth isn’t everything. Emotional intelligence education shapes our emotions and can alter them drastically.
Geneticists tell us that genes do not determine everything. The environment (especially during childhood) can enhance and shape the way in which character is expressed.
Daniel Goleman is also the author of a rather thick book about destructive emotions, on which I also wrote an article.
Part Five: The Basics of Emotional Intelligence
N. The Price of Ignorance
We observe with dismay the heinous crimes committed by minors for trivial reasons: mother killed because she refused to let a child watch television, friend who made fun of what would be a killer… Daniel Goleman finds that we care more about teaching our children to read than controlling their emotions so that they are still alive tomorrow…
Aggressive children (future adults) assume that others are hostile and overlook the real facts. Actions follow immediately what they perceive as threats.
One possibility for school is role-play: In small groups, they decipher each other’s emotions, calling for empathy, but above all, they change the way of seeing the other, and their attitude which is not necessarily threatening. And so, little by little, education changes the perception felt by children when faced with harmless acts.
Depression, eating disorders, isolation and dropping out of school, alcoholism and drug addiction can also be alleviated through emotional education.
O. Emotional Education
The Nueva Learning Center in San Francisco is a school that has integrated the teaching of emotional intelligence into its curriculum.
When students take roll call in the morning, they do not respond with a “Present!”, but with a number that corresponds to a mood: “1” means depressed; and “10” means that morale is at its highest.
Then, during the morning, the teacher will be able to come back to the rejection, desires, arguments, fights and all the other events that may have taken place in and outside the school, in order to put them in perspective, to talk about sensible behavior to adopt and above all, help the children themselves find solutions to their problems and those of their peers.
They learn through different games and projects to collaborate to succeed with the problem at hand (because it cannot be done solo), learn to mediate conflicts between children themselves, and dare to talk about their problems to teachers and other students because they know that they will listen to them and find solutions with them, without prior judgment.
In New Haven schools, children are taught, from kindergarten, a technique to control impulses in 6 steps:
1. Take a break, calm down and think before you act
2. State the problem and explain how you feel
3. Give yourself a positive goal
4. Imagine a large number of solutions
5. Think about the possible consequences
6. Take action with the best plan
Children must follow the 6 steps as soon as they feel angry, sad, upset to learn to control themselves every day and to reach adulthood much more experienced.
This method is a variant of the model called SOCS for Situation Options Consequences Solutions: you expose a situation, and you express the feelings it stirs; then, you research the different options that present themselves and the consequences that each entails, and finally, you choose the appropriate solution.
Daniel Goleman dreams that learning emotional intelligence can finally save lives both by reducing the number of deaths and assaults, and by enhancing what people experience emotionally.
Conclusion on the book Emotional Intelligence
Daniel Goleman, Doctor of Psychology, who taught at Harvard, was affected by daily accidents reported in the newspapers; special kinds of accidents because they are all the consequence of uncontrollable impulses. He wants, through emotional intelligence, to be able to save future lives.
The writing is riddled with statistics, study reports and examples that support every aspect of the discussion. In this article, we have deliberately chosen to ignore these details in order to get to the point of the application of emotional intelligence, for more levity, and above all, to give us the possibility of focusing on the solutions proposed by the author.
Daniel Goleman gives us avenues for reflection rather than a method to be applied from A to Z. The book Emotional Intelligence deals just as well with the physiological effects of the appearance of an emotion; as with the internal dialogues that each one has with oneself and solutions that some researchers find. Daniel Goleman offers us the results of certain experiments in order to offer us ideas to implement.
Strong points of emotional intelligence:
- A list of directions to follow through the presentation of a number of ideas for concrete ways to better control your emotions.
- Real solutions and examples for knowing how to communicate in a more constructive way with our children, our partner, or our relatives.
- The full range of emotions is covered as well as that of the different behaviors that destroy lives at various levels, which allows everyone to find in the book Emotional Intelligence at least one concrete case that can help us or help our loved ones…or help us help them.
- The appendices and annexes provide a very rich add-on to take the method further.
Weak points of Emotional Intelligence:
- Some of the principles presented are only at an experimental stage and it is sometimes difficult to generalize isolated cases.
- The examples are sometimes simplified in order to get to the point of what Daniel Goleman wants to tell us; but simplification does not always allow a method to be applied.
- The many repetitions sometimes gives the impression that the book Emotional Intelligence could have been more direct in getting to the point.
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