EMOTIONAL INTELLIGNCE

Summary of JPS CycleSummary:  Emotional intelligence is about those feelings which are difficult to define and which are, mostly, subterranean. We have clear definitions and language for things we can see and touch. We have clear definitions and language for rational argument and mathematics.  We have clear definitions and language for good standard practices and procedures. But when we start talking about “emotions” or “emotional intelligence” we get into the area of fuzzy definitions and fuzzy language. Ask someone “how they feel’ and they will normally respond “fine thanks”, or they may detract from their honest feelings and tell us about an interesting event of the day. We don’t venture easily into a language and definition of emotions and feelings, or what is going on inside us. Our  responses are generally responses of the head rather than responses of the heart. And to speak of “emotional intelligence” sounds like a contradiction in terms since, if we let emotions and feelings in, rational intelligence could fly out the window. So what is this “emotional intelligence” as we express it in our behavior with others? Does it matter? If it does, how good are we at exercising “emotional intelligence”? Can we learn to exercise it better than we do? These are weighty questions for a brief two-page article. But let’s try.

 

What is emotional intelligence?

The Hay Group defines it as “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing (an appropriate response to) emotions within ourselves and others”[a]. Let’s unpack this definition – it’s a useful one – so that we understand what we are talking about. “Capacity for recognizing” is a potential we have within us to see something and then the “capacity to respond appropriately”. These two components are discussed separately since we can have the capacity to recognize (or see) but not have the capacity to respond appropriately. The one is about seeing or perceiving and the other is about some kind of skill. They are separate but related processes. If we fail to see and recognize something, or misperceive it – emotions, objects, circumstances – we can’t respond appropriately to what we have failed to see and recognize. We have to overcome our own blindness to the feelings, emotions and circumstances in others and in ourselves.  But responding appropriately is a huge jump from just seeing and recognizing. It is one thing to see and recognize a face, a cricket bat, a rose, someone catching a ball or driving a motor car, and quite another to respond appropriately. It is one thing to recognize the pain or sadness or fear or indifference in others or in ourselves and quite another to respond appropriately. It’s difficult territory. The capacity to recognize and the capacity to respond appropriately are two sets of interdependent capacities. We either have them or we have to learn them. Emotional intelligence requires both these capacities: to recognize the feelings and emotions going on and responding appropriately. This applies to all our behavior whether it’s the capacity to learn and strike a cricket ball or the capacity to solve a mathematical equation or the capacity to deal with human relationships. And it’s situational.  We may show a good “capacity” for recognizing and responding appropriately to feelings and emotions in one situation and very little capacity for recognizing and responding appropriately in other situations. Recognizing and responding to perceived indifference in one person we love will be very different to recognizing and responding to indifference in someone we dislike or distrust.

The expression emotions within ourselves needs particular attention. Jesus, who is a great source of inspiration to me, says, in Matthew 15:8, that we can have the wrong motives behind our “correct” behaviour – similarly we can have the wrong motives behind our “correct” emotional intelligence behaviour. We can honour others in recognizing their needs and feelings and respond appropriately, showing empathy in our words and in our outward behavior. But if our motives are undeclared self-interest, emotional intelligence becomes manipulating others with an outward show of empathy, recognition of feelings and emotions. We would not, then, be practicing emotional intelligence. We need to be aware of our own emotions and feelings – what we want, what is going to benefit us and make us feel good – so that it is factored honestly into emotional intelligence behavior. Congruency and integrity are an essential part of demonstrating emotional intelligence. Better to declare our self-interest and bring it into the open as part of our emotional intelligence than to cover it up with a mask of sensitivity and empathy for others.

 

Does it matter? If it does, how do we develop it in ourselves?

I am not going to elaborate around the question: Does it matter? The research evidence and experience of leaders in the field, both tell us that it does matter. Perhaps the most convincing evidence that it does matter comes from  neuroscience research which tells us that the amygdala processes a stream of positive and negative emotions in our brains. The amygdala is located around the centre of our brains and one author, Caroline Leaf[b], who has collated a great deal of research on the subject, demonstrates that almost all of our behavior is influenced, consciously but mostly unconsciously, by the amygdala. To say it doesn’t matter is denying a fact about practically all human behavior. Emotions and feelings are here to stay. Leaders are challenged to manage them not deny them. The JPS cycle (inserted diagram) takes them very seriously.

Daniel Goleman[c] is probably one of the best exponents of emotional intelligence so I will summarize some of his proposed key ‘behaviours’ associated with emotional intelligence.

  1. Self-awareness: ●This is being aware of our own feelings, emotions and motives. JPS would describe this as awareness of our own Readiness to say or do something. ● It requires being honest with ourselves and recognizing our own motives, feelings and emotions, whether positive or negative. ● It is also knowing the limitations of our own abilities or lack thereof and being honest about them. ●We will then acknowledge and apply our strengths and ‘manage our weaknesses’ with deliberate action.
  2. Self-Management: ●This will require us to develop and strengthen our talents and abilities to the highest possible level of excellence, ● We will seize opportunities to do the best we can with the talents we have been given. ● We will either work at our weaknesses or draw in others to supplement them when this is needed. ●Admitting, honestly, that we can’t do something and need help to do it, is a sign of emotionally intelligent leadership.
  3. Social awareness:This requires empathy: picking up the signs of hope, fear, excitement, enthusiasm, uncertainty etc. in others – all the many unspoken emotions and feelings which most of us tend to bury rather than express. ●This social awareness and interest carries over into the context of the organization or community in which we live or work. ●Emotionally intelligent leaders know about the political and other hidden forces at work in the organization – the unspoken values, beliefs and rules at play. ●They will engender sensitivity in the way people work with, and relate to, others in the organization. ● They will engender sensitivity to the needs, feelings and emotions of customers and those outside the organization. ●This awareness of feelings, needs and emotions in the external world will include awareness of the socio-political-legal constraints and what is motivating these constraints as they affect the organization. ●Above all, this social awareness shows itself in the way emotionally intelligent leaders listen to others and recognize what others say or is left unsaid and felt in others. ●They listen to the whole person and not just the words but to what is demonstrated in gestures and other observed behavior (e.g. a quick glance at one’s watch does not go unnoticed).
  4. Relationship management: The application of the JPS cycle is a disciplined relationship and rational approach to leadership in an organization. ● Emotionally intelligent leaders can touch the hearts of others to get them excited about the goals and values of the organization. ●They take Readiness in others and in themselves seriously and adapt their Plans for involvement ●They will not only adapt their Plans to involve others to their Readiness, but demonstrate this sensitivity and empathy in their face-to-face meetings and encounters as they roll out their Plans for involvement. ●They will deal with resistance to change at both a rational and relational level, responding appropriately to the real needs, emotions and feelings of others. ● When changes are made, they will integrate their  sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings of doubt and fears into the actions to be taken.● Because they value others’ needs, feelings and emotions, they will encourage others to do the same with those with whom they live/work. ●When dealing with conflict, the inevitable ingredient in most human relationships, they will draw out the different views with respect and sensitivity to make sure all ideas and feelings are respected before launching into action. ●They are team-players and, as is central to JPS, they realize that the best answers emerge from the motivation, feelings, emotions, ideas and information of all those who can influence the outcome. ●They, themselves, demonstrate teamwork both on and off-the-job, in the respect, cooperation, helpfulness and concern shown to others.

 

So what now?

We are all challenged, and invited, to ask those who know us and work or live with us, to score us on how they see us on these four dimensions of emotional intelligence. The greater the variety of those invited to do this assessment the better. Then, we can take a good look at what others see in us and start on, or keep going on, the long journey towards better emotional intelligence at work, in our homes and on the sports field. I believe JPS can help us to do this. There are probably other ways of raising awareness of our own emotional intelligence, but failing to raise this self-awareness, and to work at it continually, will take us on a journey to failure in our living and working with others.

 

[a] Mullins LJ, 2002, Managing Organization Behaviour, Prentice Hall, England.

[b] Leaf Caroline, 2015, Switch on your Brain, Baker Books.

[c] Goleman, D, 2003, The New Leaders, Time Warner Paperbacks, Pages 327 to 332 (summarized).

 

Hugo Misselhorn

October, 2018

 

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