HELPING ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
206-299-23605208 Carlton Street  Bethesda, MD  20816

News & Blog

Coaching: By Design or By Default?

May 15, 2018

I’d rather listen to this than read it.

A number of years ago, I began to see a pattern in myself that I could no longer overlook.  Whenever I coached an older female client, I experienced an internal dialogue that was critical of them. YIKES! That’s a big f-ing deal!  

The foundation of my work as a coach is in seeing the hero in every client. My internal disparagements were infecting me and my client relationships and souring our results. Oh, I could always justify or explain away my criticism. “She’s being a victim.”  “She’s just wanting attention.” But when I looked at my default patterns and the results they created, it was clear. I was the problem.

Default Patterns

We all have patterns. Patterns of thinking, feeling, and wanting that reflect experiences from our past and how we’ve been shaped by them. Not metaphorically or figuratively shaped, but literally, neurobiologically shaped. Our brains, our minds and our bodies have been shaped by the events of our lives and the meaning we’ve made from them. And if we are not aware of it, we bring that pattern of being into our present moment experiences with our clients.

The perniciousness of these patterns is that they tend to be invisible to us. They are our “default settings.” They lie outside our conscious awareness. And because our patterns are largely hidden, we will tend to cling to, explain and defend them, even when they don’t serve us or our clients.

We will experience a given moment and believe that our internal reactions are reasonable and responsive to the unique situation at hand. And yet with help from reflection and self-examination, we can see that we’ve had many moments just like this one, with different people, in different circumstances, that yielded similar results. And we are the common denominator.

The Power of Reflection

One way we can detect these hidden default patterns is through self-reflection. In reflection, we can become aware of how our unconscious self can take over, applying a lens colored by the past, to the present moment. Reflection helps us see trends in relationships, behaviors, performance and outcomes that we wouldn’t see otherwise.

For years when running CEO roundtables, I regularly asked members to present their lifeline, a chronological explanation of the pivotal moments in their lives. Routinely, as roundtable members narrated their lifeline, some obvious patterns would emerge that had been hidden previously. (e.g. Changing companies every seven years like an itch, engaging in partnerships that failed for similar reasons each time, cycling through employees whom they adored in the beginning and despised by the end.)

After much reflection and self-inquiry, I realized that the pattern in my coaching relationships with older women was based upon my relationship with my mom, which has been a roller coaster for most of my life. (We are now in a stable, positive place, I’m thrilled to report. Aging has helped us both. :))

Since I’ve become aware of this default pattern and its origin, I can now spot it more quickly, before it becomes behavioral in my coaching. I can actively challenge my reflexive thinking and feeling, and instead, design my thinking, feeling and behavior to support my client and my coaching. If I sense that pattern kicking in, I say to myself, “That’s my pattern.”  And then I design a thought and a way of being that honors both me and my client. (Says easy, does hard.)

Pattern Detection

As coaches, we are always on the lookout for our own patterns. Because our nonconscious patterns show up in our coaching. Whether we want them to or not. And whether we know it or not. Just like mine did.

We have a responsibility to our clients, ourselves and our coaching to learn as much as possible about our default patterns so that our coaching is responsive to our client’s present moment and not a reflex from our past that we can’t see.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know where I’m going with this. IMO, there is no better way of shining a light on our default patterns (and how they are likely to show up in our coaching) than experiencing the EQ Profile.  

The EQ Profile reveals our default patterns of thinking, feeling and wanting that get in the way of being present in our coaching. From my own EQ Profile, I became aware of my desire to self-soothe by acting quickly in the face of a challenge. Before I became aware of this pattern, I would non-consciously coach my clients toward taking action when they were challenged, maybe even before they were ready. I was unconsciously projecting my own self-soothing strategy onto my client. Not good! And the only way I became aware of that pattern is from my EQ Profile.

By Design or By Default

We can coach by design or by default. We can avoid taking what can be a confronting look at ourselves, and continue to coach from patterns we are oblivious to. Or we can proactively and deeply reflect on our lives from different perspectives using a variety of tools and techniques, become aware of our patterns, and design more intentional choices in our coaching that get our clients better results.  

The choice we are making by doing the work of introspection is the same choice we are asking our clients to make. To examine the hard-to-see aspects of ourselves so that we can create ourselves. We can express our true self in all of our uniqueness instead of following the imprint made upon us by others from our past. We can coach from the space of design versus default. We can be the example for our clients of living a life by design and not by default.

 

Do you know your default patterns? Do you know how they show up in your coaching?

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

P.S. Our 2018 training calendar is now set. Check out the entire course catalog or click on the link below for our two new Team Training courses launching soon.

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Assessment Tools|Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

When Talent Isn’t Enough for a Team

May 10, 2018

This week, while Alison Whitmire takes a week off from her blog, we welcome a guest blogger: our own Corrie Weikle*, Learning in Action’s Director of Training.



There were five minutes left on the clock. My ice hockey team was down 2-1 to move on to the national championship. It was the classic “Not enough time left, and my team is down by one point to get to the big game” story. You’ve heard it before. 

The bench where my team sat was a depressing place to be.

Having little emotional literacy at that point in my life, I’d say we were a bunch of doubt-filled, negative Nancy, glass half-empty miserable people. The stakes were high, stress was soaring, and we were consumed by our own risk-driven internal experiences.

If you’ve happened to take the EQ Profile and you recall the dimensions, you’d say my teammates and I were primarily negatively-oriented, and likely over-accessing many of our distressing feelings.  


The Breakdown in My Blind Spot 


Everything we had worked so hard for was on the line, and our ability to perform at our best was traded for sloppy mistakes and anxiety-induced inconsistent teamwork.

As a team captain, I was leading from a place of fear, risk, and disconnection. I couldn’t see beyond my own lens that I was applying to the situation.

I was focusing on a minuscule amount of all available information and accepting it as a truth. I didn’t have knowledge or skills in reading my teammates, and so I had zero awareness of the internal experience that they brought to this conflict with me. Above all, I didn’t think I had a choice in how to react to the situation or to my team members.  

 

 

I share this story because it is not unlike many of the workplace teams we work with and coach today.

A workplace team with tremendous talent, trying to accomplish big things in the world, and full of blind spots, can be derailed by the inability to successfully move through conflict and stress. A championship might not be on the line, but stakes are high for any business. The common denominator of sports teams and workplace teams? Micro, and sometimes macro, conflicts are the norm when it comes to working with other people, including the most talented of people.  

 

A Question of Cultivation

 

As coaches, we know there is no question that emotional intelligence is essential for overall team effectiveness. That story has been researched and told many times.

Instead of focusing on the team as a whole, I ask this question: How can emotional literacy and deep awareness of our own internal experience allow us to become a better teammate, coach, or leader?

And what is underneath that awareness? How does self-awareness of our default patterns cultivate connection and allow us to work in team environments more effectively?

These are a few possibilities I’ve learned from applying the lens of the EQ Profile to team conflict and stressors:

  • Seeking to understand our own internal experience means seeking a vocabulary to communicate our internal experience with those we are in relationship with. When others don’t understand us, it can be frustrating. Sharing a common vocabulary allows us to connect, communicate and focus on how we see the world with those we interact with.

I’ve heard countless stories from you, our coaches, about how the team you are working with repeatedly experiences shades of the same conflicts. When each team member gains the language to discuss the lens they see the world through, the results can be a game-changer.

With awareness, the team cultivates a new vocabulary to communicate their internal experience. Instead of focusing on the conflict itself, the conversation focuses on which teammates see risk vs. possibility in the situation. The team focuses on how anxiety or fear might be showing up for some, while others are feeling triggered with frustration.

Through communicating the lens we are applying, we move effectively through conflict and stay in relationship with our teammates.

  • Our lens and focus determine how we give and take feedback. Effective feedback cycles require trust. Giving and taking feedback is imperative for team success.

But what if our internal experience blind spots become behavioral? That can keep us from receiving the authentic feedback we need to be successful. Or what if our own focus on the contributions of others to the problem is keeping us from seeing our own role in it? This might propel us to provide feedback  to our team that appears shameless or unaware, as if our own stuff doesn’t stink.

Learning a deep understanding of our default patterns and where we are likely to focus under stress, helps us understand where we might be getting in our own way when it comes to giving and taking feedback.The bedrock of team effectiveness is trust. Awareness of our lens and focus cultivates opportunities to build trust, instead of unconsciously breaking that trust.

 

  • The more we understand our own world lens and default patterns, the more we can get curious and authentically connect with the other. Understanding ourselves means understanding how we were shaped in relationship at a very young age.

Self-awareness for me has been a challenging and rewarding exercise in empathy compassion, both for myself and for those I work with closely.

It took me many years to fully understand and internalize the relationship between self-awareness and empathy. The questions that drive this awareness for me now are “Why is it difficult for me to empathize in this situation? And what does that say about the lens I’m applying to the situation?”

The deeper our understanding of the nuances and drivers of our own internal experience, the more we can get curious and be intentional in empathizing and connecting with others in their internal experience.

Imagine a team leader who can shift the energy and conflict dynamic because they are able to feel their own distressing feelings, and then be with their teammates who are experiencing their own unique distressing feelings, too.

To finish the hockey game story, we lost the game. As I think back (with a lens of self-awareness, of course), it was a heart-wrenching loss. Not because we didn’t make it to the national championship, but because our own blind spots and lack of awareness kept us from working effectively together. We missed the opportunity to move through the challenges presented by the game. We got in our own way. Our talent wasn’t enough.

This story is a sliver of my overall athletic experiences in which I got in my own way because of my lack of self-awareness. If I had these awarenesses, I would have been on a completely different playing field. I would have been able to engage with my team in a connected, leader-driven way, instead of the disconnection, negative-orientation, and lack of compassion I brought instead.  

This experience was the catalyst that drove me to question how my lens determines and contributes to the outcomes of the teams I work with and for.

 

Has your lens and focus impacted your ability to work on a team effectively? Do you see this with the teams you coach? Has the lens of the EQ Profile helped you to engage differently with the teams you coach?

 

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

*Corrie Weikle is Director of Training at Learning in Action, where she manages the training programs and courses, develops educational resources, as well as assists in business development.

 

P.S. Our 2018 training calendar is now set. Check out the entire course catalog or click on the link below for our two new Team Training courses launching soon.

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Assessment Tools|Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

Moving from “If” to “How”

May 2, 2018



It was 2:00 am, pitch black but for the twinkling headlamps of my fellow climbers on Mt. Rainier. Crampons on my boots, ice axe in my hand, inexorably tethered to a climbing team of four. I’m scrambling up the aptly named, Disappointment Cleaver, despair creeping into my consciousness. This is where I learned the meaning of “how” commitment.

Though I’d trained hard and felt great on the climb the day before, I was laboring mightily in the higher altitude. (Guide, RMI owner and mountaineer, Peter Whittaker, told me later I wasn’t breathing properly. Ugh!) While we charged past other rope teams, I felt as if I was barely hanging on, I’d never been so completely spent. (What made me think this was a good way to celebrate my 50th birthday?!)

No Matter What

Then, I recalled what the famous mountaineer and our guide, Ed Viesturs had told me the night before our initial ascent. I’d asked him how many times he’d turned back from a peak due to circumstances within his control. His answer: Never. He had never given up on a summit because he was too tired or too hungry or too cold or too scared. Never in 30 years of climbing the world’s highest peaks. Ed’s formidable fortitude inspired me to dig deeper than I could have imagined possible on that ridge, and so I kept placing one boot after the other. I would get up that mountain, no matter what.

“No matter what” thinking generates a powerful mindset shift from “if” to “how.” Nothing about the circumstances change, and instead, we change. When our mindset shifts from “if” to “how,” the possibility of impossibility, the option for failure, is eliminated from consideration. And instead we search for the way we can. 

“If”

The “if” mindset is like testing a hypothesis. Hypothesis: I can summit Mt. Rainier. True or false. (It is as if either outcome has an equal likelihood.) Because an “if” mindset allows for a “false” outcome. With a “how” mindset, every way considered assumes success.

The difference between “if” and “how” is a matter of commitment. 

In our over-scheduled, always-accessible, multi-optional lives, we experience “if” commitment all the time. We experience an “if I can,” “if it’s convenient,” “I’ll try,” kind of commitment to goals, people, communities, work, volunteerism and ourselves. I’ll go to that board meeting, “if I can.” I’ll help my friends move, “if they are really organized.” I’ll stop by that get together, “if I have time.” “I’ll try” to hit my fitness goal – no harm in trying. 

These are hedging strategies. With “if” commitments, we keep our options open, we avoid actually failing, we don’t disappoint, we don’t get hurt. The “if” commitment is comfortable, convenient.

And while “if” commitments feel easier, what we don’t realize in the moment is how exhausting they can be over time. We are constantly re-trading our decisions. Should I or shouldn’t I? Who will be upset with me if I don’t? How much effort is enough? Is this good enough? An “if” commitment is a partial, “toe in the water” kind of commitment, and leaves some of the most resourceful parts of ourselves behind.

Now How?

A “how” commitment is energy-efficient. A single decision is made once. Like an on/off switch. All the energy is put into the effort of moving forward on the goal, the relationship, the event, the organization. We are “all in.”

How do we make “how” commitments without becoming over-committed? One possibility: Transform “if” commitments either into a defined “how” commitment or no commitment at all. A defined “how” commitment would involve deciding specifically what we definitely will do, then anything more is gravy. How many times per week will we work out, no matter what? How many nights will we be home for dinner at a specific time, no matter what? How many times per month will we call/visit family, no matter what?

Creating defined “how” commitments or eliminating commitments altogether can be difficult in the beginning because it requires intention, clarity and courageous conversation with the parties involved. Instead of constantly kicking that can down the road and wearing down ourself and our relationships with our “iffy” commitments, we can be following through on our “how” commitments with an efficiency and clarity that dramatically reduces mental, emotional and physical drag and enhances the quality of our life and relationships. We can feel lighter and more aligned with what’s truly important to us.

BTW, I summited Mt. Rainier around 6:30 am that morning, minus a few teammates who started the trek. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. And it was life-changing for me because it proved the power of “how.”

What does commitment mean to you? How do you treat commitment with your clients? How do you respond when they don’t follow through on commitments? How do you hold yourself to your own commitments?

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

P.S. Our 2018 training calendar is now set. Check out the entire course catalog or click on the link below for our two new Team Training courses launching soon.

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Attitude|Emotional Intelligence

Sadness: The Gift We Resist

April 25, 2018

I’d rather listen than read this.

My father passed away recently and we held the memorial service for him last weekend. While an unconscionable amount of drama preceded it, the service itself and our time together was precious and sweet and everything I could have hoped for. I was able to share my profound sadness with my family and friends and join with them in theirs.

The permanence, realness and finality of the loss of my father made so many unimportant things fall away. I had more meaningful, heartfelt, teary-eyed conversations with my family and friends than I have,  maybe ever. The whole experience was such a gift.

The Information in Sadness

Every emotion contains information for us that no other dimension of our experience possesses.

The information within sadness is that of loss. Our sadness tells us that we’ve experienced a loss of someone or something important to us (or someone close to us has). This description makes unpacking loss seem much simpler than it is. Loss is not easily untangled, teased out and identified. That is part of why experiencing loss can feel so overwhelming.

My dad was the single most important person in my life, for most of my life. When he passed, I lost more than just my father. I lost someone who believed in me, accepted me and loved me without condition. I lost the head of our family, the one who convened us, looked out for us and knitted us all together. I lost my advisor, mentor, and emotional sponsor. I lost the person who humbly embodied so many of the qualities to which I aspire.  I lost my hero.

The Gift of Sadness

The gift of sadness, should we allow ourselves to accept it, is sensitivity, intimacy and connection. When we allow ourselves to experience sadness, we connect with our deepest self. We connect with our heart and who or what is dear to us. And when we share our sadness with others, we invite them to feel us and to feel with us.  

And when we allow ourselves to feel our own sadness, we can be with and connect with others in theirs. Sadness is like an emotional bridge that joins us with others, connecting our hearts.

At my father’s service, anyone who wanted to, was invited to share whatever was in their hearts. I was drawn to tears by the tears of my family as they spoke about my dad and who he was to them. I felt connected with them in our shared sadness. And when I spoke, I was able to feel more of my own feelings by seeing them reflected in the eyes of my family and friends. Such is the gift of sadness when shared.  

Sadness connects, self with self and self with others.

Sadness: The Gift We Resist

A good friend of mine lost his mother recently and shared that he still hadn’t cried. He explained, “I don’t like connecting with that pain.”

Sadness is painful. No doubt. And at times denying, avoiding or dismissing that pain can be what we need. To cope. To get through. To give ourselves a break.  

But when denying our sadness becomes something more than temporary, it can extract a great cost. This was illustrated in an exchange I had at a training a few years ago.

My dad was sick at the time, and his doctor (not knowing the measure of the man he was dealing with), didn’t expect him to live, and called in hospice. (This was the first of several times over the following three years in which he was given weeks or days to live.) I left my father’s bedside to conduct a training.

At the training, I was getting to know one of the coaches attending. I shared with her that my dad was in hospice. She laughed. (That’s right. She laughed.) I looked at her, speechless and puzzled. Seeing my expression, she explained, “My father was in hospice a year ago, and he died. Six months later, my mother was in hospice, and she died. And now, my sister has cancer. You have to laugh.”

What I thought at the time was, “No, you have to laugh. I want to cry.”

I can’t imagine the overwhelming loss this coach must have been experiencing. Perhaps to access all of the sadness within that loss would have been incapacitating. Perhaps she was coping with all that loss as best she could by denying the sadness of it. And by denying her own sadness, she could not be with me in mine. And, though unintentional, she invalidated my sadness.

When we can not, or do not, allow ourselves to access our own sadness, we can not be with others in theirs. Hence, the risk of not accessing our own sadness is insensitivity, invalidation and disconnection. Insensitivity to the pain of others, invalidation of the sadness of others, resulting in disconnection from others.    

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Sadness is an emotional muscle that when exercised is more easily recruited. Once we’ve experienced loss and the accompanying sadness, it can be much easier to access. As we age, we tend to access sadness more easily because we’ve had more life experience, and experienced more loss.

Some people too easily access too much sadness. People who access high levels of sadness:

  • May have experienced great loss and not have not found a way to process, accept and/or reframe their experience.
  • May be emotionally and/or physically fatigued and not attending to their own well-being and self care.
  • May (consciously or unconsciously) believe that sadness is a more ‘acceptable’ emotion than other distressing emotions, and so substitute an acceptable emotion (such as sadness) for an “unacceptable” one (such as anger). (Note: The EQ Profile reveals that sadness is the most easily accessed of all of the distressing emotions.)
  • May find that sadness is more comfortable to access, particularly if they fear disconnection from the boundary-setting of anger. (That’s another way anger can be bundled under sadness.)
  • May be suffering from depression. (Which is a wholly different subject.)

People who have high access to sadness (that falls short of depression) may benefit from reflecting on their sadness and what’s underneath it, using the bullets above as a guide.

Confusing Coping with Strength, Sadness as Weakness

When someone has experienced significant loss and doesn’t appear sad, it’s often said that they are “being really strong.” I get irked by that.  People who experience loss and tearlessly power through it are coping. Let’s call it what it is. Coping. And that’s OK. Coping is good. Coping is necessary. Sometimes. But is it strength?

If someone experiences significant loss and is visibly in mourning, are they then weak? I don’t think so.

While non-feeling, as reflected in coping, has its place, it ultimately serves to disconnect us from ourselves and others. Only by connecting with our emotions can we connect with others in theirs.

Yes, the distressing emotions (anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, shame) are distressing. Sadness is painful. And feeling our feelings, while we are having them and expressing them in safe and appropriate ways, is a key aspect of being emotionally healthy and emotionally intelligent.


How do you come to understand your sadness? How do you unpack your loss? How has your own sadness connected you with someone else?


Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

P.S. Our 2018 training calendar is now set. Check out the entire course catalog or click on the link below for our two new Team Training courses launching soon.

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Assessment Tools|Emotion: Sadness|Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence? And What’s Missing?

April 17, 2018

I have a love/hate relationship of sorts with Emotional Intelligence. In 1995, my boss at the time suggested I read the recently released book by Daniel Goleman as part of my development.  She didn’t mean it in a casual “this is a book you might enjoy” kind of way, but more of a “if you don’t figure this out, you’ll never be successful” kind of way. Hmmm.

One of the reasons I purchased Learning in Action a few years ago was because there seemed to be no end to the depth of the space we call Emotional Intelligence.  It’s a rich, complex topic with so many angles into it.

This post is a bit on the dry side.  And iIt’s intended to help you and your coaching clients better understand the origin of Emotional Intelligence, how it has been defined, the limitations of some of those definitions and how the definition we use really matters if what we are wanting is to be more successful in life and in business. 

A Brief History of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined differently by different people. In fact, authors Gerald Matthews, Moshe Zeidner and Richard D. Roberts wrote in their 2004 book on the topic, “EI may be the most protean of all known psychological constructs.” David Caruso, Research Affiliate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, called EI a conceptual inkblot.

Controversy over the definition, construction and measurement of EI is embedded in its history.

While some of the ideas and concepts underpinning EI have been around since as early as 1920, the term emotional intelligence is more recent.

  • 1964 – Michael Beldoch used the term emotional intelligence in a research paper
  • 1966 – B. Leuner wrote a paper entitled Emotional Intelligence and Emancipation
  • 1983 – Developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, published Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences which included both interpersonal intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence .
  • 1985 – Wayne Payne wrote a doctoral thesis, A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence
  • 1989 – Child psychologist, Stanley Greenspan, put forward a model to describe EI
  • 1990 – Social psychologists, Peter Salovey and John Mayer, published their article, Emotional Intelligence
  • 1995 – Science journalist, Daniel Goleman, published the book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ

In 1995, after more than 30 years of research and publication in the scientific and academic community, the term emotional intelligence was still virtually unheard of. When Daniel Goleman published his book on EI that same year, it quickly became a bestseller, and the concept of emotional intelligence was popularized, seemingly overnight.  

In the 20-plus years since the publication of Goleman’s book, hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written on EI and related topics. And a great deal of controversy has sprung up, about both the definition and the measurement of EI. (We’ll tackle the controversy about measurement in a future post.)

Controversy about the Definition of EI

Not only do researchers and scholars differ on the definition of EI, these same researchers and scholars regularly amend their own definitions. It’s clearly an indication of the growing interest in, and scrutiny of, the topic.

Following are some of the definitions of EI that have been offered over the years and later amendments:

  • 1990 – Peter Salovey and John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”
  • 1995 – Daniel Goleman – emotional intelligence – “knowing one’s emotions,” “managing emotions,” “motivating oneself,” “recognizing emotions in others” and “handling relationships.”
  • 1996 – Reuven Bar-On – emotional intelligence is: “an array of non-cognitive (emotional and social) capabilities, competencies and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”
  • 1997 –  Six Seconds Team – emotional intelligence is: “the capacities to create optimal results in your relationships with yourself and others.”
  • 1998 – Daniel Goleman – emotional intelligence is: “self-awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skill.”
  • 2002 – Peter Salovey and John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “The ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to reflectively regulate emotions in ways that promote emotional and intellectual growth.”
  • 2004 – John Mayer – emotional intelligence is: “the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions.”
  • 2009 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves – emotional intelligence is: “your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behaviour and relationships.”
  • 2018 – Six Seconds Team – emotional intelligence is “the capacity to blend thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions.”

While the details of these definitions differ, what most all of these definitions have in common is the sense-making of emotions, one’s own and those of others, to achieve an ideal outcome in relationship.  

We, at Learning in Action, align with much of that general definition. However, we see it as incomplete.

What’s Missing in Definitions of EI

For the last 20-plus years, the colloquial use of the term emotional intelligence has been shorthand for “good with people.” The most emotional intelligent person in a heated room would be the one who was most able to stay present, calm and focused on the topic at hand, while staying connected with both themselves and others. If you buy into this shorthand, even a little, clearly, there’s more going on than  simply being able to make sense of one’s own emotions and those of others.

From our perspective, several core capacities that are elemental to emotional intelligence are missing from the above definitions. For example, navigating challenging interpersonal terrain requires:

  • Not simply relying upon the emotional dimension of our experience, but also relying on our thoughts and our wants/desires
  • Not simply the recognition and understanding of emotions, but also the recognition and understanding of thoughts and desires/intentions of both ourself and others
  • Not simply giving in or acquiescing to others, but also staying connected with ourself
  • Not simply recognizing and understanding the emotions of others, but actually caring about and sharing in them
  • Not simply allowing the patterns of past relationships to blind us to the present, but seeing and accepting ourselves, others and the world as it is and as we are.

Without these essential internal capacities, emotional intelligence simply isn’t possible.

Learning in Action’s Definition of Emotional Intelligence

Our definition of EI is inspired and informed by the field of interpersonal neurobiology. Thus, our approach to defining and measuring EI is based upon science, but not constrained by it.  

We define emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize, understand and rely equally on all dimensions of our internal experience (our thoughts, wants and feelings, not simply our emotions) and the internal experience of others, to accept and be present in the moment with who and what is, and to stay connected with and separate from others in order to navigate wisely the challenges of interpersonal relationships.

The theoretical underpinnings of our approach to EI recognize the ways in which we are all shaped by the relationships and experiences in our lives, not only metaphorically, but neurobiologically. How we are shaped impacts how we see, think, feel and experience ourselves, others and the world around us.  

The end result of that shaping becomes our default experience – our patterns of thinking, feeling, wanting and focusing – that become the non-conscious backdrop to our lives and relationships. Only by becoming aware of how we’ve been shaped in ways we can’t see, are we able to become emotionally intelligent. (That is the awareness created by the EQ Profile).

We believe that emotional intelligence is an inside job. While we don’t diminish the importance of developing social skill, without the core capacities of emotional intelligence, it’s akin to “putting lipstick on a pig.”

The inner capacities that make up emotional intelligence can be developed once we are aware of them. 

Creating Awareness

Our core purpose at Learning in Action is to create greater awareness that leads to more choice and better relationships. Only by being aware of our default experience can we know what we are bringing into any challenging interpersonal situation.

Once we are aware of our non-conscious defaults – our patterns of thinking, feeling and wanting that have been shaped over the course of a lifetime – then (and only then) can we exercise more choice over who and how we want to be in relationship, and to create the relationships that we are proud of.


What about you?  How do you define and measure emotional intelligence? Has it changed over time? How so, and why?

Join the conversation.

 

P.S. Our next EQ Profile Certification course begins May 11, 2018. Register now. Hope to see you there!

Read More  |  No Comments
Posted in: Emotional Intelligence|Learning in Action