Where did the buzz about emotional intelligence come from? Is it just a gimmick or is there something more serious behind this topic? And why do you need to take better notice of what you're feeling at work?
Here's a little bit of background.
Psychologists, neuro-scientists and many other researchers have been examining how our brains work for a couple of hundred years - long before the phrase emotional intelligence existed - and in the early 1900's, Edward Lee Thorndike (an American psychologist) presented his intelligence theory[i].
Having realised that our brains are much more complex than previously believed, Thorndike suggested that we have three different types of intelligence namely abstract intelligence (the ability to put our thoughts into words, make calculations etc.,), mechanical intelligence (the ability to move, to breathe, to pick up objects), and social intelligence (the ability to interact with other human beings).
Clearly Thorndike had identified an important aspect of being human, because fast-forward to 1990 and two American researchers, Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer published their article with the title 'Emotional Intelligence'[ii] which they defined as "a set of skills hypothesized to contribute to the accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in oneself and in others, the effective regulation of emotion in self and others, and the use of feelings to motivate, plan, and achieve in one's life".
Emotional intelligence was a legitimate concept, although it was up to Daniel Goleman to bring it to the attention of the world when he published his book with the same title in 1995, and we haven’t looked back since.
It may or may not be coincidence that emotional intelligence grew in popularity at the same time that technology was having a huge impact on our work.
If you were already working during the 1990’s, I’m sure you remember your first desktop computer which gave you access to email and then to the internet. They were exciting times because this fabulous new technology was supposed to be the answer to all the woes of slow systems and communication.
In 1990 I was working at the UN in Vienna and was so proud to have been one of the first to be given a WANG computer (with a huge diskette) and shortly thereafter a more manageable piece of equipment courtesy of Bill Gates. And slowly but surely I stopped visiting my colleagues in their offices if I needed something, because all I had to do was to write an email. And when the internet came along I didn’t even need to pick up a satellite telephone to talk to our offices elsewhere in the world because I could email them as well.
Do you see where this is going?
Computers, email and the internet gave us the tools to work faster and be more efficient, but actually when you look at the big picture the price for our over-enthusiastic acceptance of technology is that we are forgetting how to communicate with each other face to face and to build healthy relationships.
One of the reasons for this is because every time you put your hands above a keyboard to start typing a report, or repeat actions on your ‘phone or tablet when playing a game, it’s your mechanical intelligence that kicks in. Your brain is more focused on getting your fingers to do things in the right order and your creativity and ability to manage your emotions are diminishing.
You learn through repetition – just as you did when you were a child learning to read and write, eat with a knife and fork, and tying your shoelaces.
But now imagine that you only typed on a computer and never used a pen to write. At some point it would feel very uncomfortable to hold a pen in your hand and when compared to typing, writing would just be too difficult.
Repetition is the mother of skill, and if you stop using your skill to talk to people face to face, that too will become awkward. If you continue to strengthen your mechanical intelligence in an effort to become faster, more efficient and appear more professional, at some point your emotional intelligence – your creativity, your ability to form strong working (and personal) relationships, and your capacity to deal with workplace challenges – will suffer.
Now clearly those are big statements and some may say over-simplified, but I want you to understand that you have incredible power at your finger tips in the form of you. If you’re one of those people who wishes that there were more hours in a day, that you could spend more time with your family and that you could remember your true purpose, you can. You just need to take off the mask you’ve been wearing and ‘step into you’.
I like to describe emotional intelligence as personal branding for the soul, to love, honour and respect yourself for who you are and who you want to be, and to allow others to love, honour and respect themselves too.
In part three of this series I’m going to be sharing with you how to better understand why you respond and react to situations and people in a certain way, and also how you can begin learning to regain absolute confidence in yourself.
Until then, stay safe and stay fabulous xx
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