Daniel Goleman has been enthusiastically spreading the word about EQ since his landmark book Emotional Intelligence was published in 1995. He continues to write prolifically on the subject including a business-focused book titled Primal Leadership, and his most recent works, Ecological Intelligence and the e-book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. Widely considered the first to be associated with the science of social and emotional intelligence, Dr. Goleman credits John Mayer and Peter Salovey as having “invented the whole field.” Since these researchers’ influential journal article was published over 20 years ago, numerous models and applications, like Six Seconds’, have been developed around the world. Goleman views this as “a sign of the vibrancy of the field”.
This vibrancy is evident in a recent conversation between Daniel Goleman and members of the Six Seconds’ EQ Network on LinkedIn. Over the last year, the EQ Network has quickly grown to 20,000 members. With group discussions covering a wide range of topics, from using EQ to align a senior leadership team, to inquires about the influence of EQ application on future generations, it is clear that people from across the globe are turning to EQ for the tools to face life’s challenges. Does Emotional Intelligence really have that kind of reach? The answer is yes, and Goleman tells us just how.
According to Six Seconds’ research, people with higher EQ are better able cope in stressful situations. Goleman explains this EQ advantage from a neurobiological perspective.
He describes the neurological response to stress, or a threat, as a pure survival mechanism designed to guide us through “a short-term emergency” which has evolved into “an ongoing hazard for performance.” This ongoing hazard is the neurological spiral of stress that has us trapped. Goleman explains that our, “attention narrows to focus on the cause of the stress, not the task at hand; our memory reshuffles to promote thoughts most relevant to what’s stressing us and we fall back on over learned habits. The brain’s executive centers – our neural circuitry for paying attention, comprehension and learning – are hijacked by our circuitry for handling stress.”
Thus, we’re stuck until we become aware of our own stress spiral. Those with more emotional awareness and stronger skills in managing feelings are able to turn this cycle around more quickly. From a neurological standpoint Goleman notes, “people who can manage their emotions well are able to recover more quickly from stress arousal.” Once we recognize that we’re on a destructive path, we can actively work to retrieve the brain’s executive centers from the stress spiral and begin to make better decisions. As Goleman describes it, our “attention becomes nimble and focused again, our mind flexible, and our bodies relaxed. And a state of relaxed alertness is optimal for performance.” Thus our stressful situation becomes more manageable and the bigger picture is once again visible.
Arati Suryawanshi, a university professor from India, shifts the conversation to this big picture with concerns of how emotional intelligence can help to develop ecological intelligence. Daniel Goleman sets out to diagnose the problem as follows: “This is the first geological epoch in which the activities of a single species are steadily degrading the global biogeochemical system. But our brains do not register this at the emotional level as a threat; our warning radar for danger is still attuned to earlier ages [in which we were dodging predators.] Our perceptual system has a blind spot for the global threats – they are too macro or micro. So we (apart from a small number of engaged activists) do not act as though this were an emergency.” The challenge is to take the logical awareness of the problem and increase the emotional intensity so we can take useful action.
So how can we bridge the gap between what we know and what we do? Goleman cites emotionally intelligent self-awareness as the first skill, allowing us to realize the “true ecological impacts of what we do.” In the Six Seconds Model, this is called Know Yourself. From understanding, we then need to utilize the emotion intentionally – what the Six Seconds Model calls, “Choose Yourself.” The self-awareness and self regulation will provide the “data for point-of-purchase eco-transparency websites which are creating a new market reality: information symmetry between shoppers and sellers on ecological impacts.” Goleman envisions a world in which emotionally intelligent and environmentally friendly consumers control the market and demand a positive change. This application for positive change is captured in the “Give Yourself” part of the Six Seconds Model.
Six Seconds’ Joshua Freedman points out that impulse control or consequential thinking is the crucial turning point for individuals in such a grand paradigm shift. By “blending head and heart into our evaluations” this competency activates a change in ourselves from reaction to intention. Thus, “letting emotion in as a guide, but not as the driver.” While the research suggests that “emotion trumps reason,” the 21stcentury challenges will require both head plus heart to forge the complex, long-term solutions to today’s problems. Capacities such as ecological literacy require delayed gratification and unfortunately the research is finding that emotions are driven more from a sense of urgency rather than importance. What will it take to make the switch in circumstances like environmental responsibility? How do we transfer that emotional energy of instant gratification and reaction to an intentional decision making state? Freedman suggests this is a process of shifting emotional intensity from “what I want now,” to “what we need in the future.” This can begin at a very young age.
Goleman sees that social emotional learning is key to teaching people to improve decision-making. He cites results from research done on children’s social and emotional learning as “an impressive argument for enhancing skills like impulse control.” These results show improvement in behavior and attendance, as well as a decrease in substance abuse and an increase in test scores. Most encouraging was the data referring to at-risk kids in which, “the improvements [tended] to be bigger in the schools — and with the children — that need it the most.”
Sanjoli Chimni, an investment banker from Chandigarh, takes this thought one step further and asks, “Is emotional intelligence possible when basic needs like food, clothing and shelter are not met?” Goleman argues that while food, clothing, shelter, and safety are priorities; Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) provide children with the resources to navigate life. “While SEL is mainly associated with school-based programs, remember that throughout human history these same skill sets have been passed from generation to generation in the midst of life, not in a pre-packaged format. Just as the best SEL programs are woven into the culture of a school, the same lessons can be imparted as part of the everyday interactions between any adult and a child,” Goleman says. Take any of the key tenants of an SEL model, like the Emotional Literacy or Consequential Thinking competencies from the Six Seconds model, and apply it to the life of a child in the developing world. This child would learn that emotions are not good or bad, but information designed to help them survive. In this example one can see the inherent benefit of Emotional Intelligence in helping children in poverty have the best life possible. Goleman mentions research that shows privileged children’s IQ advantage can be met with SEL learning of the underprivileged. Imagine then the progress that could me made in lives of their posterity having been given both the EQ and IQ advantage. He goes on to conclude that “anyway you can help disadvantaged children learn to enhance their emotional intelligence skills will, in the long run, help them have better lives.”
Whether in this broad development arena, in schools, or in a corporate setting, one key challenge is making the case for emotional intelligence. Cynthia Barlow, a professional leadership trainer from Toronto, understands the possibilities emotional intelligence holds, but wonders about taking the next step; convincing the decision makers to invest in and commit to EQ integration. Many organizations and their leaders are learning the importance of EQ as an aspect of professional development, but are still unsure of its ultimate value. Cynthia relates her experience as an EQ trainer in which a business client asked, “ Could we possibly not include the words ‘emotional intelligence’ in the title of the training?” Joshua Freedman sees this type of reaction as evidence that, as a culture “we’re still demonizing emotions as something destructive and chaotic” rather than recognizing all emotions as helpful information. The Six Seconds method to EQ training has skeptics like Cynthia’s client in mind. Freedman describes it as a “scientifically rigorous approach founded in neuroscience that uses metrics to measure organizational dimensions such as trust and team collaboration.” This method of teaching builds confidence in the concepts before “going deeper into the experiential” emotional aspect of the model. He summarizes this process as moving from “awareness toward commitment and into transformation” and goes further into the case for EQ Learning in his article, “What makes EQ Learning Work.” In order to begin this process Freedman concludes “we’ve got to get better at communicating the value of EQ in a cynical, fast-paced, financially focused environment. Six Seconds has worked to address this communication need, learn how in “The Business Case for EQ.”
Evident in the discussion was the relevance of EQ to a broad range circumstances from daily stress to saving the worldwide ecosystem and improving the lives of poverty stricken children. Six Seconds defines Emotional Intelligence as the capacity to blend thinking and feeling to make optimal decisions. Understanding that human interaction and reaction is present in all these decisions and inherent throughout each of these circumstances explains the potential to improve outcomes by applying EQ. As Daniel Goleman puts it, “the future of the planet, and the course of life for each one of us, depends in part on how we balance our impulses with considered response.”
Thank you to Daniel Goleman and the members of the LinkedIN EQ Network for joining the discussion, and to Michael Sjostedt of MoreThanSound.net for coordinating the opportunity. To learn more about Goleman’s recent work, please see The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (http://www.morethansound.net/store/cat_37.html)
About the Author: Alyssa Ewing is an intern at Six Seconds, and a graduate of an elementary school that included Six Seconds’ social emotional learning program.
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