Sunday, December 6, 2009

Restorative Reflections

Emotional intelligence is the skill of understanding others and ourselves. It is the education of the heart as well as the head. Sometimes referred to as ‘social emotional learning’, emotional intelligence is the skill of monitoring our own and others’ feelings and using this information to guide our thinking and actions.

What’s Involved?
Daniel Goleman, author of the book, ‘Emotional Intelligence’, outlines four key areas that are involved in developing emotional intelligence:

1. Self-awareness is the ability to read my own emotions and recognize how they impact others.
2. Self-management is the ability to control my emotions and impulses and to adapt to change or surprises that come my way.
3. Social awareness is the ability to sense, understand and react to others’ emotions. This happens when I see others having an emotional reaction and I take time to sense their experience and then, by thinking it over, come to understand their feelings and experience.
4. Relationship management is the ability to inspire or influence others while managing disagreements or conflict.

Emotional Intelligence

A Different Kind of Smart
Breaking It Down

Let us break these four areas down into the skills needed to be emotionally intelligent. First, I need to develop good communication skills. This involves learning how to listen carefully to myself and to others. This means setting aside any distractions for the moment and paying close attention to what the other person is saying and doing. I need to do the same with myself. This also means knowing and accepting that we are all different – each of us stands their point of view, not just making sure they understand mine.

This brings us to the second skill needed to build emotional intelligence – empathy. Empathy means I am able to listen and appreciate the other person’s experience and feelings. This means putting aside my own position, briefly, while I listen carefully to the other person. The skill of empathy involves the skill of self-awareness. This is my ability to know how I think and feel and to choose behaviours that are appropriate for the situation. This is also empathy for myself.

Once I have good communication, empathy and self-awareness, the next step is to develop good decision-making skills. Being able to think over all the parts of a situation, both my parts and the parts that affect the other person(s) is decision-making. Some people say that writing down all the parts of a problem and then listing the pros and cons is a good way to decide what direction to go.

When I have this skill I can graduate into the next and final step – problem solving. Simply put, problem solving is the ability to look at all the parts of a problem and all the different points of view and then, with everyone’s help, deciding which solution works best for everyone involved. Naturally, problem solving also involves the skill of compromise. This skill asks us to give up having our own way so that everyone can get along and find a solution that works for the largest number of people.

An Example

I once had a boss who came to work at 7:00 AM (we did not start until 8:00 AM) and began by barking orders at us as we arrived. Because he had already been there so long, he behaved as though we were all late for work. He expected us all to work through coffee breaks, lunch and to stay as late as he did; this was sometimes 7:00 PM. He was often angry and critical and the staff felt fearful and resentful. The boss never shared his own experiences, so it was impossible to understand who he was and what he wanted. This caused many employees to leave because the office environment was so tense and difficult.

This boss did not have emotional intelligence. If he had learned this important skill, he would have taken more time to be self-aware. He would have shared more with employees about who he was and what he valued. He would have listened more carefully and consistently to his employees. He would have identified ways he himself could make changes or adjustments. He would have asked for ideas from others. And, most importantly, he could have used his emotional intelligence to guide the organization in a more positive direction.

Getting Started

How can we identify ways to turn a situation around? Is there a situation in your work, at home or in the community that could use some emotional intelligence? Could you model this new skill and see what happens? We could say that emotional intelligence involves knowing yourself, choosing yourself and giving yourself. That means knowing what needs to change, figuring out how to put the changes into action and finally, putting these changes together with a higher purpose that is compatible with your values. When we do this our actions are consistent with our own values and others may sense this and feel inspired by our way of relating to others.

Can you do this? Can you see a way to begin using this set of skills in your own life? Here is a basic guideline for emotional intelligence from Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the ‘Four Agreements’. In straightforward language, Ruiz says our lives will have more meaning and more peace if we do these four things every day:

1. Be impeccable with your words. (No harsh speech)
2. Do not take anything personally. (It is not always about me)
3. Do not make assumptions. (Get the facts, do not make up stories)
4. Always do your best. (Give it your all, whatever you are doing)

The First Step

Take some time on your own in the next day or so. Give some thought to one situation you are dealing with right now. Think about whether or not you are using the principles of emotional intelligence. Add one new skill at a time. If you do not presently have that skill, take a course, pick up a book. If you want some help learning about emotional intelligence, there are numerous community based resources ready to help you.

You might want to learn this alone, with your spouse, or perhaps the whole family; even situations involving the workplace. Emotional intelligence is a tool for peace wherever you go.

Article provided by the Blue Cross EAP Report April 2008
Reprinted with permission from Mediation Services in Winnipeg, MB

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