Emotional Intelligence – left brain perspective from Andy

Much has been written about ‘emotional intelligence’ in the past two decades since Daniel Goleman made the phrase more well known through his book of the same name published in 1995. Also referred to as EI, or EQ which acknowledges it as a form of intelligence alongside IQ, Emotional Intelligence is widely recognised as a key factor, if not the main success factor in leadership as well as within the wider workplace. It is also very much at the heart of great relationships.

What is it? There have been various definitions. Goleman defined EQ as:

  • Knowing your emotions
  • Managing your own emotions.
  • Motivating yourself.
  • Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
  • Managing relationships

The Center for Applied Neuroscience (2002) defined EQ as: Self-awareness, Self-management, Self-motivation, Awareness of others, Influencing of Others, Decisiveness, Consistency and Relationship Management.

Another definition has been that EQ is a mix of: Resilience, Decisiveness , Motivation, Influence , Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Acceptance , Self-discipline, Empathy and Authenticity.

These definitions give us an inkling of what emotional intelligence may be or consist of. But they don’t tell us how to be more emotionally intelligent. Here at CTYP, we don’t get hung up on definitions – they are generally too academic and lack real world application and pragmatism. For us, EQ is really a journey. There is no doubt that authenticity is a key part and possibly the direction or even a destination for this journey. The question is, how on earth can you be authentic if you don’t know yourself and are not consciously aware?

The perspective and experience of emotional intelligence is very different from a left vs right brained perspective.

Emotional Intelligence – left brain perspective

Emotional intelligence is not new and isn’t something that has just been invented. It is almost as old as the hills, but not quite.

Like IQ, EQ has developed in humans (and mammals?) as we have evolved. It is in fact largely an older form of intelligence, closely linked, as you might expect to our limbic system which is sometimes referred to as the mammalian brain, as distinct from the more primitive reptilian brain or the neocortex of higher mammals. This limbic function is what characterises the pack instincts and nurturing/mothering instincts of mammals – something that is key to survival and is distinct from reptiles or insects.

In reality emotional intelligence is too sophisticated and not nearly well enough understood from a neuroscience perspective, to be tied down to simple mammalian functions – it is a more complex interplay between them and other functions of the brain including IQ.

It is fascinating to note that being vulnerable is a vital part of allowing yourself to be nurtured and closely connected member of the ‘pack. From an animal perspective, just consider (i) how a younger animal may behave in a submissive way, showing its underbelly or (ii) how research into orphaned rhesus monkeys or indeed abandoned children in some third-world orphanages shows how they can become very disturbed and even die as a result of  being abandoned and not given love and connection – something associated with ‘failure to thrive’ syndrome.

Vulnerability is a very important part of emotional intelligence – it is also much misunderstood and can bee seen as a controversial subject area.

We are not saying that you have to be vulnerable and submissive. What we are saying is that (i) flexibility and appropriateness of behaviour is a key and (ii) that our logical brain, IQ and ego can block us emotionally from being vulnerable and trusting enough to let others in. There are many reasons for this: fear of loss of control, our need for significance, fear of rejection and failure, anxiety over what others think of us, self-judgement…. it can be a very long list. It is has been established that fear and our fight-flight mechanism dulls our intelligence (IQ and EQ); it also blocks our intuition putting us into an over-simplified black and white mode of thinking and reacting. For more on the inner strength and authentic power of vulnerability read Di’s article, written from the female perspective. Vulnerability is equally important for men – without it many men avoid their emotions and can become withdrawn, pleasing, indecisive, controlling, macho or autocratic …. i.e. the opposite of most of the characteristics of emotional intelligence listed above.

The gap between stimulus and response

This leads us nicely on to the work of Stephen Covey and in particular his book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People®’. In this book, Covey talks about the gap between stimulus and response. It is in this gap that we can apply (and develop) our emotional intelligence. Most of us most of the time are on auto-pilot, which means that we tend to react, unconsciously to situations and people. It is like a knee-jerk reaction – stimulus leads to instant habitual response without conscious consideration. This is also what happens in the above mentioned fight-flight state.

It is not just about leaving a gap – it is about what resources, insight and intuition you bring to bear in that gap. There are really three aspects to this:

  1. Don’t simply fill the gap with unhelpful or random thoughts. This is where the principles of ‘being present’, being in the moment and the practises of meditation and mindfulness can be helpful i.e. to control our ‘monkey mind’
  2. Bring to bear your intuition, which you can hear better in the stillness of bring present.
  3. Apply emotional intelligence i.e. being aware of and managing your emotions and motivations, focussing too on those of others and optimising relationships.

Points 2 and 3 sound like rather a lot to achieve in the short gap between stimulus and response! It is certainly difficult to achieve without practise and awareness. Awareness is the key. The good news is that it does come naturally to most of us (to varying degrees).

Effective Habits

It is this awareness that allows you to develop what Covey recognised to be an 8th Effective Habit – the code for ‘unique personal significance’. In the book, Covey discusses the importance of the ‘whole person paradigm’, something that we are big fans of at CTYP in a very pragmatic way. Ken Wilber with his ‘integral’ approach is similar, although his is a very intellectual stance which arguably lacks easy access and pragmatic application. Most academics tend to poo-poo a holistic/whole person/integral approach because they can’t fully understand and analyse it. We believe and understand that it is where the awareness comes from to enable personal power, connecting to your potential and as Covey puts it – ‘Finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs’.

Learning to be yourself, speak up and speak your mind, from a well-considered and self-aware stand-point (as opposed to simply dogma) is invaluable when it comes to:

  • innovation and creativity
  • thinking outside the box
  • challenging the norm
  • avoiding the dangers of ‘groupthink’

Groupthink is the term given to a group situation where the desire for harmony, loyalty and/or conformity results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making.

Know your own mind

So what we are saying is that it is powerful and authentic to know your own mind, be able to speak your own mind, not overly worry what others think (if it means playing small) and yet at the same time be loving, vulnerable and maintain and grow great relationships. This is emotional intelligence in action!

Covey says that  “Interdependence is a higher value than independence“. From cradle to grave the developmental journey into emotional intelligence can be thought of as ‘growing up’. Most of us don’t finish the job and we remain egoic, at times truculent teenagers on an EQ level, struggling in a grown up body and world. Sometimes, we struggle to even manage independence and revert to dependency or absolve ourselves of personal responsibility.

dependence independence inter-dependence

With awareness comes choice. We can choose to accept ourselves, to love ourselves and to fearlessly embrace our potential as well as that of others. This level of personal awareness and responsibility leads on to the wonderful expression coined by Abraham Maslow  (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) – Self Actualisation. That is what connecting to your potential is all about.

Self-awareness self-acceptance to self-actualisation

Although we all have the capacity for good, if not great, emotional intelligence most of us have lost this innate ability surrendering, it in the complex world in which we live, to intellect (IQ) and ego. So we have to go back to school and learn these EQ skills. This is what we teach at Connect To Your Potential – to find out how read about our Breakthrough Experiences for: Individuals, Couples and Families or our solutions for Organisations and Corporates.

Emotional Intelligence is one of those less tangible subjects, harder to define and test that IQ. It is a bit like intuition or even spiritual intelligence (SQ). These three things are related and share a common aspect in that if a person is overly attached and ruled by IQ and the parts of the brain that influence logic and the intellectualisation of our fear (flight-flight) response – it blocks our access to our intuition, EQ and SQ. This happens a lot and is why EQ, SQ and intuition are often lacking and attributed to poor leadership and bad relationships.

Male and Female EQ

There’s no doubt that women tend to have more emotional intelligence than men, as they are more driven by the emotional parts of the brain and by the hormones that govern relationships and relating e.g. oxytocin