Emotional Intelligence can be defined as, ‘Understanding own emotions and the emotions of others, and responding to the same in a healthy way”. As suggested in this definition the key issues around Emotional Intelligence (EI) would be the following:
- Understanding own emotions
- Managing own emotions
- Understanding the emotions of others
- Managing relationships with others
- Motivation for life and success
When a person understands his/her emotions and can manage them; understand the emotions of others and can manage relationships – we say that person has high Emotional Intelligence. On the other hand, when a person does not understand his/her own emotions nor can manage them, and does not understand the emotions of others nor can manage relationships – we say that person has low Emotional Intelligence. Ability to manage one’s emotions is a sign of high EI while being managed by own emotions is a sign of low EI.
To understand one’s emotions and those of others means understanding emotional reasoning. To deal with own emotions and relationships means managing the cognitive distortions which sometimes affect emotional reasoning; through analyzing thoughts for flawed, warped and twisted emotional reasoning. Failure to understand one’s emotions and those of others can lead to serious problems at a personal as well as societal levels. This can have significant ramifications of the chances of success in personal life, at work, at school, within the family and in society in general.
Let us try and look and some of the common cognitive distortions that comes from warped emotional reasoning that reflect low EI:
- A failure to acknowledge one’s mistakes
- A failure to acknowledge the good of others
- A failure to take responsibility for one’s actions
- Minimization of the achievement of others
- Overrating one’s self
- Underrating others
- Blaming others for one’s failures
- Blame shifting
- Victim mentality
- Attributional errors
- Faulty causal analysis etc.
The things listed above can lead to serious intrapersonal as well as interpersonal problems. That is why EI is a very important in leadership, management, supervision, training, and indeed in any position. The list above is like the bedrock for organizational conflict, interpersonal discord, and intrapersonal problems well as other social and mental health problems.
Cognitive distortions appear valid at face value but are irrational, and faulty emotional reasoning that is plain wrong and damaging to intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships. Try to imagine a leader who does not acknowledge the achievements of others! Imagine how demotivating the work environment gets to be with his/her staff! And should a client come and give commendation to his staff member, the leader’s ego gets hurt! Fragile egos! Even seeking revenge for the hurt ego! A study of history will show you that most wars were fought as revenge for the hurt egos of the kings and rulers of the land! Talk of the wounded pride of Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler. King Saul’s vendetta with David, his subject! I bet you can think of a thousand other examples relating to any one of the above listed cognitive distortions.
We can debunk cognitive distortions and faulty emotional reasoning through thought analysis. Thoughts influence emotions more than actual events so this kind of makes sense. For, ‘As a man thinks, so is he’. If we analyze our thoughts we may trace the thought pattern that influence our emotions in a particular direction. To start off this thought analysis let us identify some of the factors that influence our thoughts hence our emotions:
- Our beliefs
- How we evaluate events
- Our views on problems
- Our silent self-talk
We can put these factors into a series of questions this way:
What are my beliefs?
How do I see events as they happen around me and in my life?
How do I view problems?
What is the substance of my self-talk?
What is the nature of my emotional reasoning?
If we take the question, “How do I view problems?” we may find that we view problems as being caused by everybody else but us. Such a view to our problems leads to a victim mentality, avoidance of taking responsibility for the consequences of own actions, blame shifting and serious blind spots to own faults. A person in such a situation has problems at many levels. If you cannot correctly identify causes to your problems then you cannot solve them at all. You need an accurate diagnosis for you to proceed to a successful prognosis. So this kind of distortion arrests problem solving capabilities in individuals. At another level, blame shifting tendencies is alienating, thereby thwarting teamwork and capacity to work with others. The alienation will further create depression and other mental health problems in the individual. We can find many other problems that snowball around this low EI factor.
The above case is clearly a case for increasing EI as we can see that low EI factors like in the above scenario are very damaging at many levels. We can go back to the factors that affect emotional reasoning and subsequently EI and try to seek for ways to increase EI through shifts in our emotional reasoning, and through straightening out our cognitive distortions. Let us try to restate the factors that affect EI in a way that can begin to be helpful along this pathway.
In what ways do my beliefs affect the way I view issues of cause and effect? Do my beliefs create attributional errors and faulty causal ideas?
How do I ascribe causes of events around me and in my life?
How do I attribute causes to problems?
Is my self-talk negative or positive? Is my self-talk uplifting or depressing?
How do I arrive at causal relationships?
Do you share with me that thought analysis along above lines can start to debunk cognitive distortions in a manner that positively impacts Emotional Intelligence?