When placed in different situations in your dealings with other people, do you ever feel like you can understand their emotions? A person who is well aware of their own emotions can generally understand others better as well.
In many cases, EQ plays a huge part in figuring out whether you have an adequate skill set to be a leader or not. This comes as a shock to some people, as being an emotional person isn’t always considered a positive trait. However, there is evidence that a person with a high-level EQ can be a better leader. So how does the brain function when it comes to emotional intelligence, and what procedure to be followed in trying to achieve a high EQ?
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is mainly referred to as a person’s capabilities of understanding their own emotional behaviors and handling them. People who have high emotional intelligence are able to figure out how to control their emotions in different situations, along with understanding others’ emotions. They are, therefore, able to react to information better and make sure that their responses are well managed. This proves to be a great trait to have as it enables you to stay grounded even when things are going bad or when you are in a tough position.
By understanding and making better sense of your emotions, are you in a better place to be able to regulate them?
As human beings, we are able to do something that animals cannot do – to self-reflect. We can take a position outside of our own mind and self-communicate to explore what’s going on: ‘what am I thinking?’; ‘what is my intention in this meeting?’; ‘what do I want to achieve? And so on.
However, our internal dialogue isn’t always as positive as the one described here which comes from a place of positive intention and suggests a cognitive basis (i.e. thought through using prefrontal cortex (PFC) reasoning). Often though, our limbic system jumps ahead of our thinking processes (the amygdala reaction is faster than our PFC at responding – with the intention of keeping us safe from threat) and our emotions arise and generate the chemicals in the brain described earlier (usually cortisol and adrenaline for flight or fight purposes).
For example, I remember being in an job interview, experiencing high level anxiety, and I was unable to answer a simple question. The anxiety had caused an amygdala reaction and my brain was shunted into fight or flight response. My internal dialogue said, ‘think; you know this…’ Blank! ‘Try to remember…’ Nothing came.
In the event of an amygdala response, anxiety (or fear or anger or any of the other negative emotions) closes down our ability to access certain parts of the brain – pre frontal regions – those used for memory and imagination (so I couldn’t remember what I knew or even bluff my way out by making something up). Cortisol is released and the capacity for learning and memory are diminished. In times of sustained stress, cortisol is known to cause a lot of damage (described above), undermining capacity for resilience and impacting on mental health.
So, by understanding how our (negative) emotions can impact our behaviour and our health, our confidence, self-esteem and by knowing what happens when the amygdala response is triggered, we are better placed to regulate our emotions. Through my studies in neuroleadership (the neuroscience of leadership), I have learned a range of techniques that have helped me to moderate the impact of negativity. I shared one activity with Senior Executives forum called, “Clearing the Space” – this requires us to identify the feelings as they arise, to name the emotion (affect labelling) and to choose how we will deal with the emotion. In actual fact, by naming the emotion, the cortisol immediately dissipates and we feel calmer and more present as a result. The reason this happens is that ‘naming and choosing’ require cognitive brain functioning and decision making and so the PFC is called into action, we become more consciously aware and the amygdala can calm down.
Developing Your Emotional Intelligence
As you can see, the concept of emotional intelligence is directly linked to your brain. Just as you can learn different things, emotional intelligence is also something that you can develop over time. With the use of different parts of your brain, you can practice and incorporate certain things that will help you achieve a higher emotional quotient. Before you excel in understanding others’ emotions, figuring out your own is the first step to take.
As an executive neuroleadership coach I rarely offer advice due to the fact that we are all unique individuals and just because something works for me doesn’t mean that it will work for you. More importantly, the act of exploring and finding out what works for you (i.e. self-determined learning) is empowering and creates neural pathways that, if used again and again, can create new habits and under-mine old wiring (such as your habitual response to stressors). I have to add though, that getting rid of old habits is almost impossible but creating new habits in a conscious and deliberate way can change the structure of the brain (neuro-plasticity) and give you more possible options to choose from.
In our neuroleadership coaching classes, firstly, we start by identifying through our BrainO₂ evaluation, the natural cerebral mode of thinking of our client.
Our work and assessment systems take a completely different approach to other thinking styles assessments – our main focus: measurement of brain function and energy consumption in the brain.
Knowing your thinking style can help you make sense of how you rationalize, discover what energizes and fulfils you, and perhaps most importantly, how to achieve a higher quality of life simply by being yourself.
Within SuperHumain, we have identified that people adapt their natural thinking and working styles to fit expectations of others, normally created by external drivers: work and career development, negative emotions and stress results.
Normally the brain uses approximately 20% of the oxygen taken in through the lungs. This leaves about 80% for the rest of the body where it is utilized in the process of metabolism and in providing energy at the cellular level and overall.
We need to keep in mind as a Leader, people tend to be at their happiest and healthiest when they can function and be rewarded by doing something that comes natural to them.
Then, from this Human brain assessment report, we share a range of neuroleadership tools and techniques and encourage managers who are feeling the negative impact of stress on their working life to try out a few and see if any work for them. I’d invite them to explore what, specifically, is triggering the stress and suggest they practice activities like ‘clearing the space’, keeping a gratitude journal, and setting positive intentions as often as they can (i.e. meeting their need to have some control/autonomy).
What I have tried to disclose to you in this article is the construct of emotional intelligence (EI) broadly reflects the idea that individuals differ in their disposition/ability to adaptively generate, recognize, understand, and regulate the emotions of self and others.
One of the advantages of neuroleadership is that we have data that supports why this ‘soft’ skills work.
Some neuroscientists believe that the better we are at using this circuitry to understand ourselves the better we are at understanding others.
So are you ready to take the next move and become a better version of yourself?